There comes a time in every man’s life when he can no longer call himself a child and becomes a grown man. It happens to everyone, sooner or later, but inevitably we all go through this important transition into adulthood. What triggers that metamorphosis is usually very personal and unique to all of us. Most often we can’t pinpoint the exact moment in our lives where this fine line lies, but what we can do – by looking back – is to make sure on which side we were at a given point in time.
This is what I had hoped would happen to me upon watching the newest installment of the franchise that has my adolescence written all over it. What I’m referring to is “A Good Day to Die Hard” or simply “Die Hard 5”. I had hoped for a travel back in time.
I don’t really have to reiterate that even though I was born in the eighties (in the Orwellian year, to be exact), the 80’s action cinema had a profound influence on how I perceive the days of my youth. Yes, I remember referring to Steven Seagal as ‘Nico’ while discussing movies with my peers. I remember Robocop being the ultimate crime-fighter as well as I remember trying to master his cow-boyish manner of holstering the gun (with a toy gun, of course). I remember tying a bandana across my forehead and pretending to be John Rambo while playing with my friends outside. I remember Van Damme, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger being my childhood role models (with the latter still having his special spot in my heart). And how could I not remember John McClane – the badass who didn’t want to be a badass.
Oh my, if I could tell you how many times I watched the original “Die Hard” before I turned 18… If I throw “Die Harder” and “Die Hard with a Vengeance” to the pile, we’d easily be in three-digit numbers here. I remember being so in love with this (at that time rather fresh) idea of a man like you or me, with problems, vices, addictions and all that, being put up against professional scumbags with little chance of survival, let alone victory. That concept swept me off my feet. I recall that discomfort of not having a protagonist who is proficient in aikido, a former marine, a super-cop, or Arnie. John McClane was just a wrong guy in a wrong place at a wrong time. He bled (and everyone knows ‘that if it bleeds, we can kill it’), swore horribly, kept running out of ammo or kept finding himself in deeper trouble that he had possibly anticipated. I loved him in the original, I loved him in the sequel, I loved him in the third one… Hell, I even liked him in the fourth one, but for a whole another reason.
This was what I expected this morning before the opening credits to “A good day to die hard” rolled in the cinema. This was what I wanted. And I couldn’t be more disappointed. Seriously: what the <bleep> was all that?
The whole idea behind Die Hard and John McClane was his relatability (is that even a word?). The fact that it could be anybody was the key factor to get a Die Hard right. It’s a regular cop stranded with terrorists in a skyscraper. It’s a regular cop that happened to be at an airport when poop hit the fan. Well, in the third one it was a bit different because it was Sam L. Jackson who became the every-man there. But still, McClane was an alcoholic cliché of a cop with no special skills or anything. Even in the fourth one – for crying out loud – he just happened to be that cop who was sent to pick a guy up for questioning. Why would you go, break the cycle and show me a John McClane who specifically went to Russia to stir some trouble? Why? It’s against all that’s good and holy in this world!
What I got was old, hard-boiled John McClane who miraculously got his hands on a Russian arrest report pertaining to his son (don’t worry about the spoilers – it’s all in the trailer) – he didn’t have problems reading in Russian by the way – and decided he needed to take a plane to a country that he had never visited before in order to help him. And, of course, he had no problem whatsoever stealing cars, wreaking havoc and committing all sorts of crime in a foreign country. Whilst he was doing all that he kept reminding himself out loud that he was on vacation and didn’t need all that, which was obviously a lie, because he deliberately chose to be there in the first place. So the whole notion of what Die Hard is all about got ruined within the first 10 minutes. Super…
I don’t really want to pick on the realism of this movie, because after all it’s an actioner and things are not supposed to make sense at times, but there are things in Die Hard 5 that are difficult to swallow even with the absurd threshold put really high. I’d say, it’s rather unlikely for the US Intelligence to deploy a drone to fly over Moscow without causing a major international conflict. I’d also say, it’s rather unlikely for the main character to go on a 1000 km long road trip at dusk and get to the destination before dawn – especially on Russian roads. I don’t even want to get into the technicalities of neutralizing radiation and such, therefore I shall stuff it under the collective umbrella of poetic licence, but there’s far too much absurd in “Die Hard 5” for me to swallow without choking.
There’s nothing in the newest Die Hard that was done right. What I think bothers me the most is the baddie. In the history of the franchise, it was the villains that stood out. The idea of an every-man McClane taking on a professional scumbag, who exuded confidence, emanated cold and was always one step ahead, was the soul of Die Hard. From Alan Rickman, through Jeremy Irons even to Tim Olyphant, the Die Hard bad guys were the ones with super powers. Moreover, those characters were so charismatic that I physically hated them. I just wanted McClane to do something about them. Here – not so much. I was given a baddie who’s not even there half the time. Even with the twist (yes, there’s a twist) nothing really changed. I couldn’t give a rat’s furry behind about it. The villain was just ‘meh’.
To sum up, there’s too many instances I’d have to turn my blind eye on things in the film, the baddie is flat and couldn’t even shine Alan Rickman’s shoes, McClane is a super hero now and he seems like he’s on some sort of medication but he hasn’t got the dosage right. None of what he says makes sense and even the witty remarks McClane was known for sound stale and inappropriate. Two-word review: just terrible.
What “A good day to die hard” proved to me today is that the genre I knew and loved has all but disappeared. I can’t really count on Die Hard any more to live up to what it used to be back in the day. I know it might be my pink-tinted-glasses-wearing nostalgia-ridden memories that are partially responsible for how horribly I was disappointed today, but now I don’t even want to know what the sixth installment would bring (and there’s going to be one). It seems to me that John McClane I loved is dead. The only thing he lacks now is a spandex uniform. Wearing underwear over the uniform wouldn’t hurt him either.
I really understand the need to do something new with the franchise, because it’s impossible to make five films about John McClane without being repetitive. The character needs to develop as he goes along and the first three parts showed some sort of progression in that regard. For the record, I actually liked the direction that the fourth Die Hard took. I loved the concept of showing old and grumpy McClane who doesn’t fit modern criteria for an action hero. However, even then he already started to be too powerful for my liking Sadly, it only escalated from there to completely overwhelm the character in the newest Die Hard.
Is it the abundance of comic book actioners in the modern cinema that’s responsible for the sad state of Die Hard? Is it really necessary for the action movie to have an invincible superhero as the main character? Can’t we preserve some of the sanctity of the 80’s? If we can’t, maybe there shouldn’t be any more Die Hard movies. Maybe certain things belong in the past…
I’m a bit worried for the younger generations, that cannot possibly remember Bruce Willis in his prime. What they’ll know is the John McClane that cannot be shot, will always cushion his landing one way or another, will happily bring a large city to a standstill and walk away unscathed and he will never show us that he is, after all, a human being. I fear that if I showed the original Die Hard to modern 16-year-olds, they would prefer the new one. Modern action films need to be flashy and overwhelming; otherwise the young audiences will lose focus and go somewhere else to be entertained. I find this realization quite frightening as it would seem that every aspect of action film needs to be dumbed down and cut to size in order to please the facebook generation. So go ahead and make more Iron Man movies, go and make the next Avengers. You can even dig up Batman, even though his corpse is still warm and try to breathe life into him. People will take it. But maybe we shouldn’t take the icons of the past and tarnish them with modern colors Maybe some things need to be left alone.
Should I call the time of death yet?