The Westwood all-media screening of John McTiernan and Joel Silver‘s Die Hard happened in early July of ’88, and I was there with bells on. It was thrilling and amusing, shamelessly manipulative, beautifully choreographed, bigger than life, a knockout. The crowd loved it. A week after it opened I went back to see it with then-wife Maggie and Jett, who was then about six weeks old. (Unlike the vast majority of parents who take their infant children to movies, I took Jett out to the lobby when he started crying.) Die Hard was a major-league gift — a well-engineered, big-concept actioner of the first order. If you didn’t love it there was something wrong with you.
But no act of pleasure goes unpunished, and for the sin of enjoying Die Hard 27 and 1/2 years ago, audiences have been subjected to sequel after diminishing sequel, four of them, each depressing or deflating in its own way and starring the ruggedly sassy Bruce Willis. There have also been six Die Hard video games. And now comes the latest corruption — a new franchise about the young John McClane called Die Hard: Year One. This, of course, is a standard changeover tactic — retiring the original actor and passing an iconic role to some younger fellow, which of course originated with the James Bond franchise.
Most of the reaction to Die Hard: Year One has been negative, of course — this is pathetic, let the franchise die, is there no limit to the greed?
But at least this idea accomplishes two things: (1) It frees the Die Hard franchise from the formulaic straightjacket of having McClane foil some new malevolent plot by some jaded super-villain to pull off a huge crime, and (2) it could theoretically put McLane back in the mid to late 1970s, as this is when the two graphic-novel compilations (volumes one and two of “Die Hard: Year One,” written by Howard Chaykin and published in 2009 and 2010) were set. This, at least, would be interesting from a cultural and production-design perspective.
Will Die Hard: Year One suck? Almost certainly. But at least it’ll be something else.