Thursday, June 28, 2007

Random Thoughts on "Live Free or Die Hard"

Caught the first show of Live Free or Die Hard today. Not because I was so amped that I had to see the sequel on it's first showing. That's just how it worked out. You know. No big whoop.

Here are some random thoughts in regards to this film.
  • Live Free or Die Hard? COME ON! THIRTEEN HUNDRED DOLLAR SUIT! The original working title was Die Hard 4.0 and that's also what the film (far more appropriately) is being called internationally. I watched this movie intently and I still don't understand what Live Free or Die Hard means. Is there a choice to be made? If I had to choose, I would prefer to die hard.
  • On a similar note, what is Die Hard in reference to? Is it about John McClane, who is extremely difficult to kill? If so, why not call the original film Hard to Kill (besides the fact that the title clearly belongs in front of a movie starring Jean Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal)? Or does Die Hard refer to the other side of the coin? If you fuck with John McClane, you are going to die. You are going to die SO HARD. I prefer this interpretation, although both have their demerits. EDITED TO ADD: Hard to Kill really is a Seagal movie.
  • " Yippee Ki Yay Motherfucker." We all know it's coming. The first five syllables were featured prominently in every trailer, commercial, and poster published by Twentieth Century Fox in the last year. It filled me with dread--was the new Die Hard going to unspool in to an abyss of self-referential quotes and in-jokes? Actually, that's about it. Almost nothing outside of this Die Hard has anything to do with the prior films, with the exception of a handful of McClane family references. In fact, John McClane doesn't even seem like the John McClane that we know and love from the first three films. McClane has always been the Dante Hicks of the NYPD. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time--never supposed to be here today. Live Free sees a more mature McClane--still a bit ornery, but resigned to his work as a police detective. He wants to save the day. It's his job. In fact, McClane is more than willing to sacrifice himself for the things he believes in, and proves it multiple times. I could easily see this film functioning as any other run-of-the-mill Bruce Willis actioner--see 16 Blocks as a recent example, in which Willis plays another aging New York policeman who gets roped into a crappy situation against his will.
  • It is through this previous distinction that, damn them to hell, the writers of Live Free or Die Hard completely earn the use of "Yipee Ki Yay Motherfucker." Well played, sirs.
  • What we actually get with Live Free or Die Hard is the perfect 24: The Movie, just a few years earlier than Twentieth Century Fox intended. A cop that often goes against authority--just getting off of a long shift--is roped into a situation that requires him to stay awake and alert for long periods of time and take severe beatings. Said police-cop is aided by his fair share of snippy and humorous computer techies, who will gladly open up a socket for him. Eventually, after all kinds of awesome stuff, there will be an underwhelming final confrontation with a mundane and underdeveloped villain.
  • This might be the first time since September 11 that I've seen a major United States landmark blown up on film. The effect is infinitely more wrenching now than it was in Independence Day or Godzilla, and it's done with enough of a twist on the event that it actually becomes grave and resonant as opposed to spectacular.
  • I am aware that a nuclear weapon is set off in a major metropolitan area in 2002's The Sum of All Fears, and yes, that was frightening and well-done too.
All in all, I thought that Live Free or Die Hard was a damn fine waste of an afternoon. If you want explosions and swear-words and completely silly jet-chases, this movie is the one for you (at least until next week's Transformers).

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