7/6/2007

Die Hard 4 Not Very Good

Posted in Reviews at 3:00 am by Stephen

Imagine that somebody made a video game featuring the characters from the Die Hard series. Now imagine that they took this video game and turned it into a movie, and hired the dude from the Apple commercials (”I’m a Mac!”) to play a hip computer hacker, Kevin Smith (”I made Clerks!”) to play a less-hip computer hacker, and Len Wiseman (”I made Underworld AND Underworld Part 2!”) to direct it. Now imagine that they neutered the violence and language to get a PG-13 rating.

If you’re thinking to yourself, “That doesn’t sound like the Die Hard movies I love!” then you are completely correct. Folks, the new millennium is a terrifying place where action movies contain extended scenes where Bruce Willis stands around — not saying the f-word — watching people type. I never thought it would be possible, but I’m actually starting to miss straight-forward slambang ’80s action movies.

I’m not sure that anyone involved with this film except Willis has even seen a Die Hard movie. If so, why is Ode to Joy not featured? Why is the villain’s plan so incomprehensible? Why is there so much freaking computer hacking? WHY DOES DET. JOHN MCCLANE NEVER SAY HIS FREAKING TAGLINE??

I know that as a review, this review probably sucks. I haven’t even told you what the movie’s about. But then again, the movie never bothered to make that clear either. Some bad dudes totally hack the planet and have total control over the nation’s infrastructure and use it to… uh… I guess they’re stealing money. But they already had control of every bank computer in the world. So they’re stealing more money?

Also I think the movie is trying to be political. But I couldn’t really follow it. Maybe it was saying the American government was bad, or at least inept, and that our real enemies aren’t terrorists but computer hackers. Except for the good hackers, like Kevin Smith and Mac guy. Or maybe the whole point is that the modern world is so incomprehensible with all of its magical computers that there’s no way to understand anything, unless you’re Kevin Smith, so the movie is also incomprehensible.

Don’t even get me started on the computers in the movie. It’s the sort of movie where you see a screen with a progress bar that’s labeled “Uploading Virus” and the virus sets off some explosives as soon as the user presses delete. Only the guy doesn’t press delete, so the dudes who planted the explosives and uploaded the virus have to go into his house and shoot him. But if they uploaded the virus, why can’t they just have it detonate the explosives instantly, without waiting for the user to press delete? A friend of mine offered a possible answer, more likely than anything in the film: Those evil dudes must just really like irony.

Ugh. This movie is such a mess. There are some actually cool action bits, but everything connecting them is pure terror. For some reason, the screenwriters decided to give McClane an annoying sidekick as comic relief (by the way, why do screenwriters think that annoying is the same as funny?), but this misses the fact that McClane is his own comic relief. Go watch the original Die Hard again: McClane is hilarious just talking to himself and making wisecracks. Some of that comes through here, but there’s too much extra junk. This is a bloated, mess of a film.

7 Comments »

  1. nate42 (10) said,

    July 6, 2007 at 4:04 am

    I agree and disagree with some of the things that you say about this film. I love the original Die Hard movies a lot. I do think that it was watered down a little bit for a PG-13 rating, but why is that so bad. What? he doesn’t say the f-word. The same comments are all over the internet about that, and it is stupid. Bad language doesn’t make something awesome. Neither does gore. Now, I do agree that the story was jumbled and it was weird for Bruce Willis to have a sidekick, and you are right about all of the hacking and making it not seem so much like the original Die Hard movie, but my wife and I had a great time at the theater with this one. I liked it a lot better than Transformers.

  2. Stephen (221) said,

    July 6, 2007 at 8:07 am

    Here’s my problem with it being watered down: John McClane swears. A lot. We’ve already established this through three films. It’s completely and totally appropriate for his character. It’d be like if you made a sequel to Pulp Fiction and had Samuel L. Jackson’s character not use any harsh language — it would be completely wrong for the character.

  3. K.T. Slager (55) said,

    July 6, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    [T]he new millennium is a terrifying place where action movies contain extended scenes where Bruce Willis stands around — not saying the f-word — watching people type.

    That sentence made my day. Anyway, I finally saw the original Die Hard (I know, where have I been these past so-and-so years) and I’m glad I did. I can imagine how strange the movie would be by cutting out all the intense stuff.

    At least… it still has a good title?

  4. wintermute (157) said,

    July 9, 2007 at 12:55 pm

    I was excited about this movie back in 1954, or whenever production began, and John “Die Hard 1 & 3″ McTeirnan was scheduled to direct, but I guess he actually wanted to make a Die Hard movie, or something, so they kicked him off.

    The impression I got from the trailers was that this might be a decent action movie, but it wasn’t going to be a Die Hard movie by any stretch*. Mclaine is an everyman character who spends half the film trying not to get shot, and would be very happy if someone else would take over the hero work so that he can spend some quality time with his family - In the original, he spends a lot of time trying to get the police to take over; can you imagine Steven Segal or Arnie, or Van Damme ever doing that? Villains in a Die Hard movie are very clever; clever enough to know that an overly complex plan is doomed to failure, and clever enough to know that the police have specific protocols which can be exploited.

    The trailers gave me no idea about what the villains were like, but they certainly showed that the Mclaine character is completely unlike his previous incarnations. I mean, playing chicken against a helicopter?

    * I’m not sure Die Hard 2 was a Die Hard movie, either, though. So these comments are only really relevant to 1 and 3.

  5. wintermute (157) said,

    July 9, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    KT: In Britain, it’s being marketed as Die Hard 4.0. Probably because most people don’t know that New Hampshire even has a motto, and wouldn’t get the pun.

    But I agree that it’s an excellent title, and they should continue the franchise with Die Hard 5: Manly Deeds, Womanly Words, Die Hard 6: With Mclaine, All Things are Possible, and so on, before finally dying with an ill-fated attempt to resurrect the franchise with Die Hard 19: Sic Semper Tyrannosaurus.

  6. Sam (405) said,

    July 9, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Die Hard 2 might as well have been a straight remake of the original Die Hard, transplanted to an airport, so I don’t know why Die Hard 2 doesn’t qualify as “a Die Hard” movie. I actually think it fits the formula better than 3 does, but don’t read a qualitative judgment into that statement.

    What’s weird about the Die Hard trilogy is that there seem to be two kinds of people: those who like 1 and 2 and don’t like 3, and those who like 1 and 3 and don’t like 2. I’m actually the only person I know that found 2 and 3 to be roughly equally middling.

    You make a good observation about John McLaine’s character in the first three movies versus the fourth, and while I haven’t seen Live Free Or Die Hard yet, it does certainly seem like the filmmakers didn’t understand what made the first three movies appealing.

    But in its defense, how can a character go through the events of the first three movies and not have changed? I can easily imagine a character developing a sharp, cynical edge after going through all that and going a little crazy and doing weird suicidal stuff like playing chicken with a helicopter, even though he never would have done that way back in the first movie. I’m not saying I credit the filmmakers with developing his character, but I think they misunderstood it in a way that arguably provides the character with a more sensible arc to it than if he simply remained the eternal everyman from one near-fatal incident to another.

    Anyway, I’m looking forward to:

    Die Hard: We Dare Defend Our Rights
    Die Hard: Friendship
    Die Hard: By and By
    Die Hard: He Flies With His Own Wings” (an A-Team tie-in, perhaps)
    Die Hard: If You Seek a Pleasant Peninsula, Look About You

    …and the startlingly appropriate:

    Die Hard: It Is Perpetual

  7. wintermute (157) said,

    July 9, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    Die Hard 2 might as well have been a straight remake of the original Die Hard, transplanted to an airport, so I don’t know why Die Hard 2 doesn’t qualify as “a Die Hard” movie. I actually think it fits the formula better than 3 does, but don’t read a qualitative judgment into that statement.

    I think my main problem with Die Hard 2 is that the villains are morons and their plan was completely unworkable unless the weather just happens to co-operate on the specific day they need an almost-zero-visibility storm that doesn’t quite shut the airport down, and the authorities made some incredibly bone-headed errors (like not shifting the air traffic to other nearby airports, or the pilot of a plane not seeing a problem in his altimeter disagreeing with ground control’s instructions). In short they relied on too many elements that were unlikely and out of their control, which is something the Grübers never did.

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