A reaction to the basic premise of “Die Hard: Year One”

The mused about title is Die Hard: Year One and already the sixth movie of the Die Hard franchise is a failure. Yes, Bruce Willis is set to return to the franchise as John McClane, but with this in a prequel/back-story action movie, it counters the entire premise of the original film.

Officer John McClane of the New York City Police Department is just a cop. He was married but his relationship was on the rocks. His wife left him for a job opportunity in Century City, a suburb of Los Aneeles, taking the couple’s two kids with her. McClane going to LA to see his wife (without the general movie) could be summarized as what Die Hard was summarized as: A man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why? If you’ve seen Die Hard and know it, you know John mused about the estranged situation with his wife, Holly, during his drive over to Nakatomi Plaza with his limo driver, Argyle. John and Holly got into a shouting match not long after his arrival at the Plaza. It’s also noteworthy John puts the blame on himself after Holly leaves the room for a speech. A NY cop who hasn’t done much or gone far is in the west coast world that is so different from the City that Never Sleeps… He’s in a foreign land that doesn’t feel right in a relationship that isn’t going right.

That shows John as a regular Joe. The event that is the film is the basis of what’s to come in the first half of the franchise. Die Hard – In the wrong place, at the wrong time; an out-of-place cop gets subjected to the extremes and survives. Die Hard 2: Die Harder – Wrong place, wrong time redo with experience putting a capability flavor on the encounter. Die Hard: With a Vengeance – Blame it on Die Hard and the Gruber family’s love (sic) of Mister Officer John McClane; A tortured revenge attempt against  John is foiled by another ordinary Joe (Zeus) and that is the gateway to partaking in countering Peter Simon Kreig (aka Simon Peter Gruber, Hans Gruber’s younger brother). The “Wrong place, wrong time” isn’t there, but normal-under-extremes is back. The fourth film simply an action movie with two characters from previous movies (John and his daughter, Lucy, who was now a young adult). The fifth flick is the same thing, John and his son Jack (CIA operative!) in a Russia caper. Insert eye-rolling here.

To further speak of the sequels: Die Hard 2 gets props for bringing back so many from the first film while With a Vengeance made the events of the original film come back to haunt McClane. Two of those first three films held sway in action films for years (“Die Hard on a…”; an action movie set to a fixed location). Die Hard 4.0 and A Good Day to Die Hard got vastly away from it, along with getting away from the wrong-place, wrong-time motif that established Die Hard.

So, Die Hard: Year One is going to adhere to the premise of what “Year One” stories tend to be: it’ll be a prequel/sequel hybrid event that touches on what made McClane the character he is.  Seeing Bruce Willis is set to return, his role as McClane-now won’t necessarily lead him to that much face-time. Someone else will likely get to play the younger John McClane or the film will be a passing-of-the-torch type function where some other character (in current or the younger-John actor) takes on the franchise helm. Again, insert eye-roll here.

Look, I loved what John McClane he character did and what he went through in films 1 through 3 and the dynamic of a character with baggage made him further look normal because, hey! We all have our baggage from life experiences. But trying to jam it all into one movie as a set up for what happened to the make a man what he is? Oh, lordy…

Oh, there is a prequel premise out there that could work with John McClane – a cop drama and limited movie that’s on the day-to-day scale and more comparable to a flick like Training Day than a Lethal Weapon movie. It would be a story where corruption and standard challenges of life are confronted by a young, McClane who meets or is involved with Holly Genaro (who he’d late wed). Of course this would bore the shit out of the movie fans who expect the action bravado that’s been associated with McClane since 1988. Then again, a film that’s done right from the writing and direction angles would make up for lost boom-boom-ka-bloooie! action scenes. Seeing Wiseman has already disclosed this is supposed to be a New Years Eve event, I’m guessing the booms, bangs and ka-blooie! is still happening – and not solely from fireworks.

I’ve said in other posts that I’m a fan of “then what happened?” and under that premise, it might seem fitting to be curious about what made a character the way they are.  That doesn’t work for me, not in the slightest. The Star Wars prequels are a great example of how that doesn’t work. The Christopher Nolan Batman films are in their own dimension, so I can’t fault them in the same way (yet could you imagine how bad they would have been if they had been tied elaborately to the Tim Burton-universe films?). Defining John McClane is done well enough in what we’ve seen and know. Being told he got there from another elaborate event on a holiday or near a holiday is just going to lead to a letdown for those who have known the man since that faithful Christmas Eve at Nakatomi Plaza.

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