“Die Hard: Year One” Looks Like a Good Day to Try Harder
A plea to preserve one of Hollywood’s most iconic action heroes.
By Jacoby Bancroft, University of Nevada at Reno
I remember the first time I saw a Die Hard movie.
A few nights later, my Dad brought home a copy of Die Hard from Blockbuster (remember those?) with giddy enthusiasm. I didn’t understand it then, but now I see that showing your son Die Had for the first time is one of the greatest experiences a father can give to his child. I think the list goes: teaching your son to ride a bike, teaching him how to drive, showing him Die Hard. It’s the best action movie ever made and I challenge anyone to prove me wrong.
It’s the ultimate story of an underdog hero who was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. It inspired its own genre of action films (‘Oh, this movie is Die Hard on a Plane, Die Hard in the White House, Die Hard in a basket weaving class, the list goes on), and spawned one of the greatest action heroes of all time in John McClane.
That’s why the news this week about the next Die Hard movie being a prequel set in 1979 is so damn frustrating. Tentatively titled, Die Hard: Year One, the movie is described as a prequel that follows the young NYPD cop John McClane and shows how he became, and I quote this, “a die hard kind of guy.”
Hollywood is obviously on crazy pills, because they already made this movie. It was called Die Hard!
The first Die Hard showed how John McClane became a “die hard kind of guy.” To suggest McClane had some other crazy adventure before his fateful trip to Nakatomi Plaza in 1988 isn’t just the biggest insult to fans of the series, it doesn’t make sense.
Prequels should only be made when there is a legitimate need to explain an earlier part of the story, or if there’s an interesting way to tell how a character became who they are. You want to explore how The Wizard from The Wizard of Oz came to the land filled with Munchkins and limited roadway? Sure, do that. You want to show how our world got overrun by damn, dirty intelligent monkeys and became the Planet of the Apes? All the power to you. Heck, even showing how Mike and Sully met and became professional scarers in Monsters University was overall worthwhile. But don’t you dare touch Die Hard!
My biggest problem with this is how it just reeks of a cash grab more than anything else. John McClane is still a tremendously marketable character, as proven by the box office numbers of the last film in the series. Even though A Good Day to Die Hard was just awful and pushed McClane farther into superhuman action hero territory, it still made over $300 million worldwide on a $90 million budget. The prequel sounds like producers just want to keep the brand name alive and profitable.
It’s very sad because there were rumors of a sixth Die Hard movie in development for a while that legitimately sounded awesome. The screenwriter who was hired to write it went on record saying his film would bring McClane to Japan as the Nakatomi Corporation honors him on the 30th Anniversary of the events from the first film. Presumably, something bad would happen and McClane would once again have to save the day.
The screenwriter was adamant about bringing McClane back to his roots of as underdog instead of the unkillable superhero who jumps on fighter planes and disarms nuclear weapons in Chernobyl. It sounded like the perfect ending for a series that really didn’t need this many sequels to begin with, but here we are.
Apparently, that idea is now scrapped and this atrocious prequel is gaining momentum. Leading the charge for this new film is Len Wiseman, the director of the fourth movie, Live Free or Die Hard. That film was the most profitable in the series, but that’s because it was the only one with a PG-13 rating. The studio is currently looking for new screenwriters with Wiseman planning on stepping into the director’s chair. They’re hoping that they can craft a story that both features a present day Bruce Willis and the flashback prequel with Willis’s younger self. Again, they already made this movie. It was called Looper.
If you couldn’t tell, I’m against this idea wholeheartedly. This is so unlike me. I tend to always give films the benefit of the doubt until I actually see it, but I’m too big of a Die Hard fan to think otherwise right now.
I frowned when Microsoft Word wouldn’t recognize “McClane” or “Nakatomi” because I just assumed they were part of the everyday vocabulary.
This prequel is a bad idea and the main reason I’m writing this piece is because I hope it somehow gets passed along to studio executives who have the power to end this nightmare before it becomes a reality.
I’m optimistic that Hollywood will survey the largely negative reaction to this news and snap out of their brainwashed stupors. If they don’t, then I’m afraid this is the beginning of the end. If this somehow survives and makes its way into theaters, it’s going to make a boatload of money, which will prompt Hollywood to provide unnecessary prequels for other beloved properties. Prepare yourself for Indiana Jones and the High School Bully or Backer to the Future: Rise of Doc. If Die Hard: Year One succeeds, then we are all doomed.