Saturday, June 30, 2007

Die Hard 4: Live Free and Die Hard (2007)

The Die Hard series is probably my second favorite series of movies. My favorite series is Terminator -- yes, including the third one.

That's a different discussion for another time, but these revelations may confuse people out there who know my favorite film of all time is Raiders of the Lost Ark. They'll wonder, "Why isn't the Indiana Jones series his favorite?" Very simple: Temple of Doom is shit. Absolute unwatchable shit. That was the movie where Spielberg first really started making crap movies. He didn't get back to reasonable form until 8 years later, when he made Jurassic Park.

In any case, Die Hard is awesome for two reasons. First reason is because it is the quintessential action movie: the bad guys get shot once and drop off screen, the good guys never die. There are lots of explosions and the bad guys are after money, not political gain. Die Hard 2, the weakest in the series so far, was weak because it strayed a bit from these two basic premises. In that film, they killed a bunch of innocent people in a jetliner, and I think the guys in it were trying to free some political prisoner dude. Die Hard works when the guys don't care anything about that, they just care about the money.

The second reason Die Hard movies kick ass is very simple: Willis. Has he ever been in a bad movie? The John McClane character is perfect for him -- a wise-ass cop who thinks everyone's an asshole and gets stuck in the wrong place at the wrong time -- and the only action character that can make these kinds of sequels work.

Die Hard 4, also known as the much weaker title of Live Free and Die Hard, again manages to trip on the mistake of being politically motivated. It tries to have a post-9/11 message of some sort, and it's just kinda weak as a result.

The movie is too long, of course. Some of the overlong scenes that are simply agonizing because they're obvious setups for later. It's like a screenwriter decided they needed to insert another page back at the beginning or else the end wouldn't make sense. The very first time we see Willis in the movie, it's because he is stalking his college aged daughter while she's on a date. This whole scene was cliche and forced, just to introduce us to this daughter... and I'm sure you see where that goes in an action movie with bad guys.

This is again another mistake they made that's similar to the second movie: McClane doesn't need his family involved to care. Why force the issue?

Second problem of Die Hard 4 is that it's a buddy film where the buddy is annoying naive guy. Die Hard 1 and 3 both had buddies that worked: the LA cop in 1 and Samuel Jackson in 3. Die Hard 2 didn't really have a single buddy, but there were some decent supporting buddy like characters. This movie has the Mac guy as McClane's buddy. He runs around with a laptop and hacks stuff into shape, but otherwise is just a tool while McClane saves the day.

Which brings me to my third point... the hacking around with a laptop. Yes, this is another mainstream movie that tries to use tech in its plot. This makes it very, very hard to watch for anyone who knows the first thing about technology:
  • Cell phones do not use satellites. It's 2007 and people still get that wrong? Unreal.
  • I like when they are "downloading" 500 TB of data remotely to their semi truck full of computers and the first 20% of that is done within minutes. That amount of data, downloaded over the fastest wireless link available today (2.1 mbs EV-DO), would take 80 years to transfer.
And many more.

The action scenes in the movie are ridiculous, much more so than the other Die Hard movies except for 2. McTiernan, who directed Die Hards 1 and 3, always kept some semblance of
reality in the action for the most part, then had one over the top action sequence at the end of the movie. Die Hard 4 has about ten over the top action sequences. Not that they aren't entertaining, but at one point, one of the audience members mock-clapped after a big explosion and everyone laughed. That pretty much sums up the movie overall. It has some good laughs, good action, and you leave feeling pretty good rather than depressed... but I think the spirit of the Die Hard series is probably lost again. Bring back McTiernan to direct the 5th one!

JSS Rating: Good/Good. It's supposed to be a good movie and it is. Clearly, being an action film, seeing on the big screen with an audience is fun. The audience I saw it with wasn't that into it. HD HBO will probably suffice if you're on the fence.

1 comment:

b said...

2 points: I completely agree with you regarding the satellite cell phones. The first time I was thinking "Oh maybe the FBI is supposed to use sat phones". Then I realized that every cell phone was on a satellite. And a PDA could be reprogrammed to use some satellite network that hackers use! You'd think one of the writers or producers or directors has complained to the city council about a cell tower going up. This kind of mistake makes you wonder if everyone in Hollywood really does live in an insulated fantasy world.

In regards to their 50 TB download - why would they be limited by the fastest wireless link? Didn't they have control of all of the satellites? Couldn't they just redirect all the data through whatever enormous satellite channels they wanted? Couldn't they open up 50,000 EV-DO links if they wanted? Remember, this is a movie where a touch of a button can redirect a bunch of natural gas pipelines.