Way too many things in this world feel like approximations of authenticity, and this one’s no exception.
It’s remarkable how often mimicry and repetition stand in for faithfulness these days, with fewer and fewer of us even bothering to learn the subtle skills it takes to know the difference (maybe ignorance is bliss?). The original Die Hard movie is an example of how much things have changed: its creators were enormously faithful to the novel on which it was based—late author Roderick Thorp’s Nothing Lasts Forever.
But four films later, what do the makers of A Good Day to Die Hard have to be faithful to? Apparently, only the franchise. Where once the Die Hard series drove pop cultural references, the current film’s creators seem content to simply regurgitate and impersonate the franchise’s signature words and deeds.
The first film was praised for its nuance and was generally seen as genre-defying and intelligent. It was more credible than competing action movie fare. Die Hard wasn’t a dumb movie after all, despite its body count, explosions, and shootouts.
By rehashing those signatures and catchphrases, however, by replacing nuance with inhuman plots and bigger, louder bombs and super-trucks, A Good Day to Die Hard replaces authenticity and faithfulness with corporate obedience—ironically something John McLane used to mock (it’s one of the reasons we liked him). What’s he mocking now, the Russians? Lame! Unlike every other 80s action flick, one of the original’s charms was its avoidance of Russians-as-bad guys. The era’s forgettable antagonists compelled us to embrace Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber character to begin with.
So yes, I am saying we’ve managed to dumb down even our dumb movies. But I’m also asking why. Why do we accept the excuse of, “Who cares what the critics say?” as we watch something we knew to be genuine, innovative, and defiant get pissed on for more and more money? What’s next, the Die Hard series takes a cue from the airlines and merges with The Fast and the Furious franchise?
How much longer will we be able to tell the difference between something that genuinely represents quality, and something that impersonates it? And how long before that distinction disappears completely?