Rebooting “Die Hard”? Why not just do a direct spin-off?

While I’ve already kvetched about the prequel reboot of the Die Hard franchise, also having been contacted by an actor who wants to take up the role of Mr. Officer John McClane or the New York City Police Department (I miss you, Alan Rickman,) there’s a thought in my head that’s fitting for the franchise. It’s fitting with many film franchises as long as it’s not a forced undertaking..

Don’t reboot Die Hard, spin it off to another lead character.

Look, Bruce Willis is John McClane. okay? John McClane is not secret agent James Bond (and Willis and Fox sort of proved that with the character aging and having life events around him). Willis had a memorable portrayal in a film that set a new bar in action-adventure.

Is it so challenging to spin it to another character? Not if you go with nostalgia and make that new lead character someone indirectly relevant to the franchise.


“Die Hard” had weight not just because of McClane and Hans Gruber but by way of character weight in the story. Oh, sure, there were henchmen and office-worker extras, but Holly Gennero McClane? Ellis? Special Agent Johnson (boh)? Richard Thornberg*? They all had key roles in the story…And especially Sergeant Al Powell, LAPD. That’s where a spin-orf starts, but it isn’t Reginald Vel Johnson (who played Al) nor his character who I think should take up the Die Hard mantle.

We’re introduced to Powell at the convenience store, buying up Twinkies. Why? It led to the convenience store quip/confrontation that made Al look like a soft character who ate a different kind of junk food that countered what cops are famous for. The rest of the film showed us Al Powell is quality beat-PD:


Powell: “It’s for my wife.”
Clerk: “Yeah.”
Powell “She’s pregnant.”
Clerk: “Yeah…”

His first child, a fact he talked to John about during the original film, is now 31 or so. Just the right age to fall into the group of typical action-adventure heroes, isn’t it?

Could you imagine a film where McClane is back in LA to visit Powell (or Holly) with himself, Powell and others were taken hostage while being put into extreme conditions? Powell’s child, be it a son or daughter, ends up being the character that has to do the rescue while placed into the proverbial Die Hard on a… circumstances (fixed location).
No Gruber this time though, sorry.

While that last line is said in jest, it’s part of the truth — that nostalgia can/should be used (with “Nakatomi Tower” — known in reality as the Fox Plaza — revealed as renamed into the J.Y. Takagi Tower or something; an homage to Joesp Yoshibu Takagi who was executed in Die Hard). Nostalgia or not, you have to move forward, and that’s the biggest challenge that can be had. What type of character is Powell’s child? What issues do they have (I’m talking his/her life-drama here)? What about the bad guy? Do they have a direct issue with John or is McClane just there by chance a-la the original film? Where and how does this play out in LA? It can’t be at the tower — while 20th/21st Century Fox are now owned by Disney, Fox News is not and neither is the Fox Plazar.

In the end though, in simplicity, reboots are bullshit and sequels are overdone to build and then milk a franchise brand until it runs dry. “Die Hard” is a brand that is set and to play it forward is not to redo the story of McClane so you know more about the character’s past (and you get a new actor trying to repeat McClane’s sardonic humor band bravado). What you want, and it’s an intimidating quest when you’re trying it with a built-brand, is to have a new character take up the mantle without the expectations of McClane tied to them.

All this is moot, though. I don’t expect agreement from fans or to interest anyone at Disney, let alone members of the Die Hard franchise. It’s an idea, though… And it’s more healthy an idea than a prequel and reboot of the brand.

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