"It revels in reminding you of the confined space you're in."
December 23, 2014 8:19 PM   Subscribe

"[Director John] Moore is taking on what is, from a creative perspective, an awfully daunting task. What makes the Die Hard franchise practically tragic is that it's become so stupefyingly ordinary after bowing in 1988 as a remarkably taut, funny, exquisitely crafted action film that — but for the appearance of late-'80s computer and phone technology — has not aged a day. As explosively entertaining as it was the first time I saw it on the big screen 23 years ago, it was just as good two weeks ago..." MetaFilter's own Linda Holmes analyzes the original Die Hard movie, and the failure of a film franchise, on NPR's pop-culture and entertainment blog, Monkey See: Take THIS Under Advisement: Hey, 'Die Hard 5,' Don't Drag Down A Classic.

Die Hard is considered the best Christmas movie by Empire Magazine, as voted by their readers. It's a Christmas miracle. (Start of gallery list.)

See also FanFare: Die Hard, Pop Culture Happy Hour

Previously: #1: 1, #2: 3, #3: 2, #4: 4, #5: 5
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome (39 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
For comparison purposes, the show 24 begins somewhere around Die Hard 2 and seems to end somewhere around Batman Forever
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:28 PM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


So how can Die Hard 5 have any chance of competing with such an utterly out of style original?

Easy. Sharks, instead of terrorists.
posted by thelonius at 8:40 PM on December 23, 2014 [3 favorites]


obligatory
posted by das_2099 at 8:45 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


Also I forgot to mention that Die Hard is a completely amazing movie, mostly because it is a valid point to bring up at basically every available opportunity.
posted by DoctorFedora at 8:51 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


It's also a Christmas movie!
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:53 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Just watched Die Hard again tonight!

Holy shit what a good movie! Some of the most perfectly economical storytelling at literally every moment, clearly directed, visceral action which is understood at all times (which is apparently harder than you'd think, since nobody can manage it anymore)! Multiple and varied roles for minorities at a time when nobody was demanding that!

God I love it so much. Now I'm beaming. Ho-ho-ho.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:03 PM on December 23, 2014 [6 favorites]


And Die Hard 3 is also an amazing movie for pretty much opposite reasons.
posted by Huck500 at 9:21 PM on December 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


Die Hard really is great. But watching it recently, I noted some things that really reflected some 1980s American cultural anxieties. For example:

1. The Japanese economy will some day take over the American economy. Because the Japanese are harder working than Americans and also more honorable than contemporary Americans. This will happen first on the West Coast because the Puritan work ethic is not as ingrained there as on the East Coast. So of course, Die Hard required a hard-ass East Coaster, McClane, to save the day.

2. A professional working woman can raise a family on her own. And she can do it on the West Coast. But despite her professional success, she is still unhappy and unfulfilled.

3. Yuppies are useless cowards. The West Coast yuppie tries to fix things--even after his Japanese boss honorably dies to protect the company (remember, the Japanese are more honorable than contemporary Americans). But the goddamn yuppie fucks things up even worse. Just another example of how degraded American values hurt everyone.

Die Hard is great. That's the only reason why I bothered to think about this. The movie is pretty much perfect in its pacing and execution. But it's also a bubbling cauldron of 1980s American male anxieties.
posted by mcmile at 9:49 PM on December 23, 2014 [30 favorites]


I found it interesting, however, and still do that McClane takes a relatively quick liking to two West Coast dudes who happen to be African-American, Argyle (who our hero initially finds annoying, but soon warms up to) and Sgt. Powell. It's the white L.A. guys who are painted as clueless and douchey, in the office and on the force.
posted by raysmj at 10:03 PM on December 23, 2014 [7 favorites]


How tall are the Uber offices?
posted by Artw at 10:11 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


God love them they're showing it at the Laurelhurst here in Portland.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:20 PM on December 23, 2014 [2 favorites]


wikipedia:
Die Hard is based on Nothing Lasts Forever, the [1979] sequel to [Roderick] Thorp's 1966 novel The Detective, which itself had been adapted into a 1968 film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra. Fox was contractually obliged to offer Sinatra the lead role in Die Hard, but he turned it down and the film was instead pitched as a sequel to the 1985 action film Commando starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When Schwarzenegger also turned it down, the film was pitched to, and rejected by, a host of the era's action stars before Willis was chosen. The studio did not have faith in Willis' action star appeal, as at the time he was known for his comedic role on television.
*transports to parallel universe in which Die Hard starred a 73-year-old Frank Sinatra*
posted by Sys Rq at 10:26 PM on December 23, 2014 [31 favorites]


Film Fact: Sinatra divorced Mia Farrow when she wouldn't leave Rosemary's Baby to hang out on the Detective set with him.
posted by Artw at 10:39 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it was probably a lot less blow-things-uppy before the story was tweaked for an Arnold retread. Of course, much of the genius is that it ends up with as un-Arnold an action star as was needed at that moment in time.

But really, if it had been done as a thinking-man's action film with Ol' Blue Eyes, who is no small actor in those sorts of roles, it could have been its own marvelous thing. (I really like him in The Manchurian Candidate, for instance, and he exhibits some of the same everyman-in-a-pickle mien as Willis's McClane.)

Anyway, I agree with most of this analysis -- I made four comments overlapping her points in the prior thread -- and in particular how utterly plot-efficient it is. So many tiny points, like Holly's nameplate or the family photo, and yes, offhand and seemingly throwaway dialog, ends up having gravitas later on. So many small payoffs are tiny delights of recognition for the alert audience member, which reduces some of the need for spectacle, though for 1985 it had plenty.

McClane takes a relatively quick liking to two West Coast dudes who happen to be African-American,

Cynically, alas, Hollywood had recognized that there was a big "urban" [term of art here] audience for action films. Beverly Hills Cop was 1984, and Eddie Murphy was the first black actor to really open a big movie like this, so they knew they needed to build in appeal to that audience. On the other hand, it was done in a really savvy way that doesn't come off as pandering. Argyle and Sarge both get real character arcs -- and, of course, manage to figure in the conclusion of the plot as well.

I also think it has to be taken as one of the all-time great examples of making the best use of an available practical location.

But yes, the pacing is soooo good.
posted by dhartung at 10:46 PM on December 23, 2014 [4 favorites]


Best Christmas movie ever.
posted by linux at 11:20 PM on December 23, 2014 [1 favorite]


I never got it. I somehow didn't see it until a few years ago and... it's a terrible movie. Literally (literally literally) nothing happens for any reason at all. Writing seemed nonexistent. I didn't understand the reverence at the time, and I've never seen a coherent defense, including now. Everybody had their own left-field theories about why it's remotely coherent.

It's totally the kind of movie I'd love on paper though... Maybe I should try again.
posted by cmoj at 12:35 AM on December 24, 2014


I never got it. I somehow didn't see it until a few years ago and... it's a terrible movie. Literally (literally literally) nothing happens for any reason at all. Writing seemed nonexistent. I didn't understand the reverence at the time, and I've never seen a coherent defense, including now. Everybody had their own left-field theories about why it's remotely coherent.

Are you sure you didn't accidentally watch Hudson Hawk?
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 1:02 AM on December 24, 2014 [25 favorites]


I saw the other day that sequel where Bruce Willis has a son in Russia and it was hilariously bad; it had nothing to do with the pacing of the original or its sense of space.
posted by ersatz at 1:02 AM on December 24, 2014


cmoj: "Literally (literally literally) nothing happens for any reason at all. Writing seemed nonexistent. I didn't understand the reverence at the time, and I've never seen a coherent defense, including now. "

There's no coherent defense against that criticism, because it's an incoherent criticism. The statement "Literally (literally literally) nothing happens for any reason at all" makes no sense. Surely there must be things that happen for reasons in the movie. The glass breaks because people shoot at it. McClane has explosives and can blow up shit because he stole a bag of explosives earlier. Gruber falls because McClane releases the watch. Those are things that happen in the movie, and reasons for them.

So, with that kind of nonsensical, incredibly broad criticism, I'm unsurprised that anyone has bothered to try to defend the movie to you. You seem to not have watched it, or you're willfully misrepresenting it (especially since you very clearly specify that literally nothing happens for any reason at all).

If you were to instead outline what parts of the action you find hard to believe, or illogical, I'm sure you'd have a better response.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:06 AM on December 24, 2014 [11 favorites]


Ray Walston, Luck Dragon: "Are you sure you didn't accidentally watch Hudson Hawk?"

Man, I loved Hudson Hawk when I was like 14.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:07 AM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


3. Yuppies are useless cowards. The West Coast yuppie tries to fix things--even after his Japanese boss honorably dies to protect the company (remember, the Japanese are more honorable than contemporary Americans). But the goddamn yuppie fucks things up even worse. Just another example of how degraded American values hurt everyone.

I think you're overlooking the role that cocaine plays in that particular character's story arc, and how the false confidence and gregariousness conferred by that particular chemical is actually what puts him in the mindset that he, of all people, is the one who can resolve the situation.
posted by hippybear at 1:12 AM on December 24, 2014 [19 favorites]


You know, sucky as all the post-Die Hard Die Hard movies are, I think they do deserve recognition for their titles and taglines. That sheer dad joke awfulness is in the Christmas spirit if nothing else.
posted by No-sword at 1:34 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Given the caution expressed towards a followup to Die Hard 4, I can only imagine this poor reviewer killed herself upon its actual release; Say what you will about 'Live Free Or Die Hard", it was both a rollicking joyride and loving tribute to the franchise in comparison to what 'Die Hard 5: Russian Contract Obligation' turned out to be.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 1:38 AM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


I will defend to my last breath Die Hard with a Vengence as a legitimately okay movie!
posted by cthuljew at 1:48 AM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


I want to travel to the universe where Die Hard With A Vengence is a Lethal Weapon movie, speaking of movie franchises that descended into self-parody.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 3:08 AM on December 24, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hippybear is right about the insufferable coke guy. I mean, who hasn't hung out at a party with a guy like that before (and also thought about shooting him in the head)?
posted by ryanrs at 3:32 AM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Man, I loved Hudson Hawk when I was like 14.

I still do! "Hey mister, are you gonna die?"

Anyone that adores Die Hard and hasn't seen Apartment Zero should see it, just to see Insufferable Coke Guy be completely smooth and mysterious. And don't even read IMDB's summary for it--the less you know about the story, the better.
posted by heatvision at 4:45 AM on December 24, 2014 [2 favorites]


I like DH fine but it's not a Christmas movie *swings out the window on a firehose*
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:18 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


*drops a Christmas tree 40 stories onto your windshield*
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:38 AM on December 24, 2014 [6 favorites]


Man, I loved Hudson Hawk when I was like 14.

I still do. That film doesn't deserve all the derision that it gets. I've managed to bring a few people around to appreciating it as just a fun, silly movie that's not trying to be something it isn't, and framing it as a movie that should be thought of as sort of the adopted nephew of the Flint movies, which the presence of James Coburn and other references, such as a slightly altered version of the unique telephone ring from the Flint films used for the electronic handcuffs, clearly reaffirms.

For those who haven't seen it and know it by its reputation alone, or only vaguely remember it, it really is worth giving it a second chance.
posted by chambers at 7:43 AM on December 24, 2014 [4 favorites]


You'll shoot your eye out!
posted by Navelgazer at 9:26 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Die Hard rules. Here's an old blog post I wrote about how the villains (not just Gruber, the whole team) are a big part of the reason why.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:39 AM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


You're alright, Argyle.
posted by michaelh at 10:47 AM on December 24, 2014


Aw, thanks. Merry Christmas.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:03 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Years ago, there were two identical orange cats roaming our neighborhood. I nicknamed them Johnson and Johnson. My two young sons found this hilarious.
posted by ogooglebar at 8:31 PM on December 24, 2014 [1 favorite]


Is this how you be that guy who has to say he's never seen it?
posted by juiceCake at 8:45 PM on December 24, 2014


chambers: "adopted nephew of the Flint movies, which the presence of James Coburn and other references, such as a slightly altered version of the unique telephone ring from the Flint films used for the electronic handcuffs, clearly reaffirms. "

I just looked up "Our Man Flint" and discovered there's a character in that named Hans Gruber. HOW DEEP DOES THE RABBIT HOLE GO?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 10:58 PM on December 24, 2014 [5 favorites]


Our Man Flint and In Like Flint are amazing and you should watch them.
posted by Elementary Penguin at 5:45 AM on December 25, 2014


There's a whole series of In Like Flint style comedies staring Dean Martin as Matt Helm based on the books of Donald Hamilton, who appears to have been writing "serious" potboilers thrillers - much like the one Die Hard was based on.
posted by Artw at 7:23 AM on December 25, 2014


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