Eppler: You are wrong about "Die Hard 2"
It was 28 years ago this week that the sequel to an action movie classic arrived in theaters. History has not been kind to "Die Hard 2: Die Harder," - and for no good reason. James Eppler offers a defense.
It's the summer movie season where a big budget sequel arrives almost every weekend. It was 28 years ago this week that the sequel to an action movie classic arrived in theaters. History has not been kind to "Die Hard 2: Die Harder," - and for no good reason.
Here are a few reasons the movie has been misunderstood and deserves more love:
It's a true sequel
Sequels are rarely as good as the original, and "Die Hard 2" is no exception. "Die Hard" is a bonafide classic - changing the action genre forever with an instantly iconic performance from Bruce Willis. A sequel could never improve on that. Why would we expect it to? But "Die Hard 2" did what should be expected of any sequel in using the same formula in an effective way: a lone hero in a confined space; ignorant authority figures; loved ones in danger. And on top of all that, it's another Christmas movie. None of the others are. It's "Die Hard" in an airport - abiding by many of the same rules as the original, as opposed to what most consider the better "Die Hard" sequel, which brings me to my next point:
"Die Hard With a Vengeance" isn't a "Die Hard" movie
It just isn't. In fact, the movie was originally called "Simon Says," but it was retooled to be a "Die Hard" movie with Bruce Willis and director John McTiernan on board. I like the movie very much - don't get me wrong - but the rewrites are glaringly obvious (Jeremy Irons is Alan Rickman's brother!) and it's a departure from the hallmark elements of the first two movies. "Vengeance" lacks the two key elements that defined "Die Hard" - a lone hero and a confined space. "Vengeance" is a buddy movie with Willis teamed up with Samuel L. Jackson with all of New York as their playground - a formula that would define the series going forward and lead to the series decent into cartoonish crap ("A Good Day to Die Hard" is an insult).
When "Die Hard 2" is bad, it's in a good way
There are some miscalculations by director Renny Harlin in "Die Hard 2" that turned out to be strokes of campy genius. My favorite is the decision to introduce William Sadler's otherwise forgettable villain in an unforgettable way: inexplicably doing naked martial arts exercises in front of the TV. What is this supposed to tell us about this character? And why am I not starting my mornings naked in front of the TV?
"Die Hard 2" was the last violent movie in the series
I know there are serious conversations to be had about how violence is depicted in movies. That's for another blog. If we're being honest, moviegoers then and now go to a shoot-em-up action movie because that's the appeal. "Die Hard 2" has the highest body count of the "Die Hard" series and features some pretty creative ways for McCLane to dispatch of the bad guys (my favorite involving an icicle). "Die Hard With a Vengeance" has one truly violent scene in an elevator, but the deaths mostly occur off-screen. "Die Hard 2" delivers the grisly goods.
I've enjoyed "Die Hard 2" since I first saw it on network television when I was 10 years old ("Yippee ki-ya, Mister Falcon!"). While I understand people who say "Vengeance" is the better movie (it is on a technical level), I think "Die Hard 2" deserves another look if it's been a while since you've seen it.