I got me a “What If…?”

Did you ever browse around in a comic book store as a kid and find the Marvel “What If…?” comic books? Books that were about renown comic book characters but “What if…?” something about them was different: Part of their backstory, part of their powers, or results of one thing or another that has happened in their comic books…

I won’t go into the geekdom of the what-if concept and the different stories that were based on this. Let’s just say it as a venerable butterfly effect — the flapping of wings on a different continent were part of the reason why a typhoon formed in the Pacific Ocean. One small happening causes a huge domino effect and results in something seemingly indirect and different to happen. That kind of thing.

Today I came across (by way of Dave Lowe) a joke observation from the Back To The Future saga and the original movie. It was composed as a (profane) letter from Doc Brown to Marty McFly regarding one of Marty’s choices on the eve of November 12th, 1955. It’s funny as hell but it leaves you wondering just how different the story would have turned out if Marty McFly had done things differently?

So I got me a “What if…?” like this regarding a movie that I love. It’s (the film’s) basis is pretty simple and was the framework for plenty of different action movies from the late 1980’s through the 1990’s.

The movie in this case is Die Hard.

What if…? What if…?

What if Lt. John McClane of the New York Police Department… had shoes on while dealing with the terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza?

Of course there is no definite answer to this with the HOW or WHY. I thought that is part of the magic of the “What If…?” Does John make sure to keep his shoes on instead of doing the stupid fists-with-your-toes thing? Does he grab his shoes when he hears gunshots and ducks out of the room? Shit, does John slip back onto the 30th floor, grab his shoes and socks and slip back out?

How does this change things? Would he employ different tactics, or is the only notable difference in the scene where John is pinned down on the computer floor and the henchman Karl shoots the glass around the office to smithereens?

What if…?

It’s so simple, it’s so stupid but it opens up a huge can of worms. Nothing might change and everything might change in just one minor action. Maybe McClane gets blown away because he has more confidence and takes on the terrorists head-on? That’s the most cynical thought I have regarding this every time I think about it — we don’t get John McClane from the first three Die Hard films, we get the Ah-nuld wanna-be from Die Hard 4 and see him suffer (and die) in the fashion that we saw him proved mortal in the first Die Hard film.

Maybe events fall a certain way so that Ellis doesn’t die — all because John McClane was wearing his shoes instead of making fists with his toes! Maybe Al Powell doesn’t buy Twinkies at the gas station but opts for Ho-Hos instead? Holly doesn’t opt to restrain Joseph Takagi during Hans Gruber’s monologue — resulting in… Takagi giving up the password for the vault and living for another hour or more?

Humor me. What if John McClane tried to save the Nakatomi Hostages while he had shoes on? And would it have been worthy of a feature film?

Happy trails, Hans.

One Comment to I got me a “What If…?”

  1. John says:

    Should add this edit to the post but I’d rather list it as a comment:

    It’s so simple, it’s so stupid but it opens up a huge can of worms.

    …which was a small part of what made Die Hard such a hit. That one small complication opened up a huge can of worms. It was just another vulnerability but a monumental vulnerability at that.