Is Die Hard a Christmas movie with action in it, or is it an action movie featuring Christmas? It hits that Hollywood sweet spot of visceral action and emotional resolutions. It’s a formula studios have been attempting to replicate for years. Like most of the entries this Flixmas, Die Hard is just one of those movies you watch because, well, you have to.
I don’t normally watch Die Hard every holiday season (crazy, huh?) because I just like to watch it whenever I feel like, but I figured I’d be missing out this year if I didn’t cover it here. With its most recent sequel bombing in the box office and Bruce Willis’ slow descent into curmudgeonhood, why not revisit the film that started it all?
[Nick’s Flixmas is a 25 day celebration of films Nick watches every Christmas! Nick will do some analysis, review, and just generally walk down memory lane. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the ride. Merry Flixmas!]
John McClane was the first non-Sylvester Stallone portrayed Everyman I remember rooting for. And that’s pretty much what you want from an Everyman. McClane is personable, somewhat of a dick, but most importantly, he’s just an average guy who’s fallen on some bad luck. And moreso than your Van Dammes and Schwarzeneggers of the world, Willis wasn’t built like a brickhouse. When he had to fight like 13 dudes, there’s a perfectly teased shred of doubt that McClane would win out at the end. And you know, maybe that’s why the later sequels have failed. They forget why we liked McClane in the first place. We weren’t drawn in by just explosions and wisecracks, we liked the guy. But now, not so much.
But as much as I want to talk about the movie, there’s a better Die Hard product available. Remember that kickass arcade game Capcom made back when they were still cool? It was decidedly awful, but had a quaint charm. I was always bad at videogames, so I’d hastily lose but it was amazing to just mash buttons to blow stuff up and hit dudes with grandfather clocks and stuff. There was a cabinet tucked in the corner of an old dollar theater I used to frequent as a kid, and it was the most expensive machine in the bunch. Even with the quarter sucking Revolution X and Crusin’, Die Hard gave you the least bang for your quarter. That’s why I eventually just starting playing fighting games and not much else.
What was I saying? Oh right, Die Hard is definitely a movie that exists. So the more I watch it, the more the Christmas setting feels tacked on as a way of artificially raising the stakes. That’s not to say it doesn’t work (it works wonders), but the movie could take place at any time or place. But then again if it did, it probably wouldn’t be as effective as a movie. At least not in the 80s where every action movie needed full on cheese power.
But this isn’t about what ifs. What is here is an Action/Christmas flick that really isn’t about the holiday at all until you have to be reminded of it. But at least it’s still worth watching. That’s more than you can say for three of the franchise sequels.
That’s it folks. Tomorrow I’ll be watching a flick that’s explicitly about Christmas, A Christmas Story. And as for the rest of the films in the line up, I’ll give you a hint. They all have “Christmas” in the title. There’s still some big ones out there, so I hope you get your favorites!