What Went Wrong With… The Die Hard Franchise?

Die Hard Franchise Poster with text "Free John McTiernan And Save The Die Hard Franchise". Each alternate letter of the title DIE HARD has been made darker so to reveal the word DEAD

Making money seems to be the most important factor for Hollywood Studios when it comes to the continuation of a movie franchise. During planning and pre-production, they are quick to sign any Writer, Director, and even Actor regardless of their track record, and during this process seem strangely oblivious to how much they are destroying the memory of a cinematic gem. One of the greatest examples of this is the Die Hard franchise. What began as arguably one of the greatest Action movies of all time, has slowly been chipped away until only a hollow carcass remains. Fox who are planning a sixth instalment currently titled “Die Hardest” seem to be in some sort of secret mission to completely obliterate the life and soul of this once great Action trilogy.

Back when the fourth movie was in pre-production, fans were progressively dismayed by each additional idea or treatment. Ideas of Nazi gold, hi-jacked planes, and even Justin Timberlake as McClane Jr. were thrust into the pot of shit plots, and as each ingredient was added, fans were forced to endure a slow yet unavoidable destruction of the series. The end result of Len Wiseman as Director, Justin Long as sidekick, Timothy Olyphant as the bad guy, and a plot concerning computer hacking; was one of the weirdest combinations that a Studio could have chosen. But without any fan feedback or consultation; they went ahead and green-lit what was to be one of the shittiest and most disappointing sequels ever made.

Live Free Or Die Hard, also known as Die Hard 4.0 in the UK (God only knows why they made a corny title even corner) was NOT a Die Hard movie. Without John McTiernan’s Direction, without Michael Kamen’s Score, without Holly Ginero, and without even John McClane’s hair, the movie did not possess even one iota of resemblance to the movies which it purported to follow on from. The completely unbelievable cast including Olyphant as a computer genius and Maggie Q as a Martial Arts lackey, made Die Hard 4.0 one of the most woeful and unconnected sequels in Hollywood history, but anybody who was in tears as the end credits rolled, were not prepared for the utter shitfest that was to come.

If the combination of a McClane’s offspring, dire script, and hack Director had not hit its pinnacle in the fourth movie, fans would witness the epitome of Die Hard devastation with the fifth. Whilst in pre-production, a quick check of IMDb left every fan in dismay once more. Slowly, Twentieth Century Fox began adding a list of names which even at that stage left alarm bells ringing. Skip Woods, who aside from the opening scene in Swordfish; seems to churn out shit of the utmost shitiness just to keep up with his mortgage payments, and John “Max Payne” Moore has never made anything worth mentioning, if it weren’t for the fact that I have just mentioned that he was not worth mentioning. The plot which first hinted at another Gruber sibling and the possibility of Patrick Stewart; left glimmers of hope in an otherwise list of bad ideas, but these small rumours turned out to be just that, mere rumours. And as the movie began filming, the inclusions of Jai “Who The Fuck?” Courtney, and a vacation to Russia were sadly set in stone. The end result was surprisingly worse than the fourth movie; A Good Day was a slap in the face of the Die Hard franchise. The lack of chemistry between characters, and the absence of a believable or intelligent antagonist, left the whole movie strangely devoid of atmosphere in a made-for-TV kind of way. The end result left the audience in sheer disbelief at what Fox had done. After the 4.0 debacle, A Good Day To Die Hard made John McClane look even less like John McClane, and made the movie look even less like a Die Hard movie. They couldn’t have made a shittier film if they tried.

After the success of the first Die Hard, it was inevitable that a sequel or two would be made. Die Harder was for all intents and purposes, a stereotypical sequel with essentially the same plot as the first, albeit unfolding on a bigger scale. Regardless of its failings however, the second movie was aware of its place and adjusted its tone accordingly, and with the line “how can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?” it was even aware of the unbelievable storyline that was taking place. Die Hard With A Vengeance, though not set in a confined space, had all the ingredients of a Die Hard movie, with McTiernan’s masterful direction making the whole of New York feel like a giant puzzle. Jeremy Irons felt like an intelligent and somewhat superior adversary, and Kamen’s classic score kept the mood tense and thrilling. The third instalment also had one of the greatest opening scenes of all time with a bomb interrupting The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City”.

With the undoing of the franchise caused by the fourth and fifth films, is it really possible to rescue Die Hard from an embittered and embarrassing death? Movies like Mission Impossible managed to take control of the helm and steer that particular franchise away from two terrible sequels, so maybe there is some hope for Die Hard? With John McTiernan’s release from jail in 2014, hopefully Fox can take this time to find a talented screenwriter to pen a worthy script, hell they could sit Steven E. de Souza, Jeb Stuart, and Jonathan Hensleigh in a room to see what they can come up with. Currently, it seems Fox are toying with ideas of maybe some kind of Nakatomi reunion in Japan or maybe another Gruber descendent. If the past is anything to go by however, these are just pencilled ideas which I’m sure will be rubbed out when Fox decides to trample on our emotions once more.

Twentieth Century Fox needs to realize that in order to gain respect and create another memorable classic; they need to return to what made Die Hard a great movie in the first place. Instead of idly sitting in Fox Plaza headquarters (ironically the exact building used for Nakatomi Plaza in the first movie) can the fans please see John McTiernan back as Director, Jan De Bont back as Cinematographer, the return of an intelligent bad guy, some realistic and believable action set against a tense and believable plot, some inept FBI agents, some baffled Police, a claustrophobic enclosed space, cool yet believable foreign thieves masquerading as Terrorists, and possibly a Christmas setting with “Let It Snow” playing as the end credits roll?

If not…


6 replies »

  1. Another great article. I believe you could make the same argument for many action films that turned into a series and became a cash in joke that could never end. The Terminator films are a first one that comes to mind, and especially Planet of the Apes (which I love the old one).

    Bruce Willis in general seems to be reliving the John McClane role over and over late in his career with so many action movies that look similar to his glory days.

    • Thanks. Yes I agree, most Action films have become a cash cow for their respective studios. The Terminator franchise makes the Die Hard series look like Godfather, and when you watch the full Director’s Cut of T2; these sequels couldn’t even have taken place (I assume that’s why the studio wanted the original ending removed).

      I agree with what you said about Bruce Willis. From watching the last two films in the Die Hard series, I’d rather have seen something like Hostage or 16 Blocks reworked as a Die Hard sequel rather than the “Live Free” & “Good Day” travesties.

      Personally, I thought Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was okay, but the next one looks a bit shit. Either way, “Rise” was better than what Tim Burton & Mark Wahlberg did to the series; but again they could have just left the Charlton Heston version alone.

    • Anything is better than Mark Wahlberg, ugh I cannot stand him as an actor.

      LOL that’s what is so funny about Terminator. It IS the ultimate cash in cause like you said how do the sequels take place if they fixed everything in the second one? I do have to say I think James Cameron is overrated as hell as a director. Look at Terminator and T2 and they are near from perfect, but they work. I didn’t like Titanic, how did that movie win so many awards? You know how the story is going to end without even watching it. The whole love story was cliched and predictable. Avatar was incredibly overrated too (dances with wolves with blue people) he would be someone you could EASILY write an article about. He’s not the worst director ever, but he certainly has developed this huge ego where he thinks everything he touches is Gold when it isn’t.

      Rise of Planet of the Apes isn’t a terrible movie, I just threw it out there cause it seems ever since the Tim Burton one they’ve been dying to make more and more and it’s already turned into a joke. I love the Heston version. It’s more about the theory of man trying to be God, and gives a good angle to it, rather than just being a Sci Fi movie. That’s where Tim Burton went wrong, and that’s where most of the idea on Planet of the Apes goes the wrong direction.

  2. There is officially going to be another Die Hard movie in 2017, which will be a prequel of some sorts. Guess who will be the director? Len “Hack” Wiseman, the guy responsible for the atrocity that is Die Hard 4.0. He already fucked up at making a Die Hard movie, so why give him another chance? With Wiseman onboard, this prequel is going to be another X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Twentieth Century Fox probably should leave the franchise alone. Bruce Willis is now too old and tired. I think another way is to reboot the franchise. I know reboots are not a sure thing, but it worked for the James Bond franchise and Dredd.

    • For fuck’s sake, can’t Hollywood just let a film be?

      Len Wiseman is one of the worst Directors working today, why would you let one of the men who ruined the franchise to direct a prequel? It makes no sense.

      If they’re hell-bent on making another movie why not hire John McTiernan again since he’s out of Prison and needs the money? Either that or use decent Action Directors like Shane Black or Gareth Evans. Hell, Shane Black could write and direct the thing since he has exponentially more talent than Wiseman.

      Also, whether it’s a good script or not, won’t Die Hard Year One (as a prequel) also ruin the first Die Hard? They’ve ruined the franchise’s end and now they want to ruin the beginning too? Twentieth Century Fox has no fucking clue whatsoever.

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