Friday, December 9, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 14

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. Two full weeks in to this and things are really moving along now. What does the stocking have for me this time?

Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)

          So, I am sensing a trend in the stocking's picks. It really seems to like to have me watch sequels before the films that led to them. That is fine with me. It actually worked out pretty well last time. I am aware that this film may seem like a cheat as it is an action movie first and foremost, but it takes place on Christmas Eve and there are Christmas decorations in the background frequently. That's good enough for me, and it is my list. Released in 1990 Die Hard 2 obviously is the follow up to Die Hard. I have seen the film before; I received it on DVD as a Christmas gift from my brother. However, it has been around eight or so years since I watched it last. I remember Die Hard 2 to be largely a repeat of the first film. But, unlike Home Alone 2, I do remember it being fun, if slightly ridiculous. Will that still be my opinion or will a follow up viewing shift my feelings towards it. A slight note, the movie itself doesn't refer to itself with the Die Harder subtitle but a lot of video releases do, including my DVD. I love how ridiculously bad that subtitle is, hence that is how I will be referring to this film from here on out.


           Die Harder opens with John McClane having his car impounded at Dulles Airport on Christmas Eve. While waiting for his wife's flight to arrive he sees two suspicious men making their way into a restricted area of the airport. Shorty after McClane investigates, he has his first kill of the movie. McClane is sure that there was more to the actions of the men, but the airport security is confident that they were just luggage thieves and are unwilling to close the area to investigate due to the volume of holiday travel. McClane is right, of course, and soon terrorists led by disgraced U.S. special forces Colonel William Stuart have taken command of the control tower systems remotely and are holding the planes in the air hostage to secure the release of a South American dictator/drug kingpin, General Ramon Esperanza, currently in the process of extradition to the United States.

Death by luggage roller, the first of many violent deaths meted out by John McClane

           A game of cat and mouse is played with the stakes escalating to the point where the terrorists cause a plane to come in for a landing but give it the wrong telemetry so that they think they are higher than they are and they crash on the tarmac. Despite McClane's efforts Stuart and his men are able to secure Esperanza. This brings in the special forces to take Stuart down. Eventually, Stuart's base of operations is located in a nearby church and an assault is launched. The fire fight is intense but the special forces are unable to prevent Stuart's escape. McClane sets off in pursuit and discovers that the machine guns being used by both the special forces and Stuart's men were shooting blanks. Both sides are part of the same plot. The special forces join up with Stuart and start to make their final escape on a cargo conversion 747. McClane gets a news helicopter to pull up along side the jet as it is taxiing up the runway. McClane jumps aboard the wing. Although he is unsuccessful in stopping the plane and gets thrown off of it, he does manage to activate the fuel dump. McClane delivers his catch phrase and lights the fuel trail on fire. The plane explodes and Stuart, his men, and Esperanza are all dead. The planes circling above that by this point are very low on fuel use the light from the fire to land safely. Roll credits and play Let it Snow.

"Yippee Ki-yay, Mr. Falcon!" - John McClane's catch phrase according to the TBS broadcast version.

Final Thoughts

           Die Harder is enjoyable as long as you accept it for what it is. I only have a couple of real complaints. First this movie makes John McClane in to some kind of Schwarzenegger-esque super human. This is far different than his portrayal in the first film. Further, this film commits one of what I consider to be the cardinal sins of sequels. It needlessly brings back way too many of the characters from the first film. I like William Atherton. He plays a great weaselly antagonist (see Ghostbusters). However, his character from the first film really didn't need to be brought back. To make it even worse, he fills the same role in the film. In an attempt to score a great scope, he disregards the delicacy of the situation at hand and makes life harder for McClane.

William Atherton may have the most punchable face of all time.

           There are enough interesting things going on in Die Harder that it is on the cusp of being a legitimately great sequel. However it also takes more than a few turns to absolute action schlock. You won't be blown away by it but you probably won't be disappointed by it either. As for watching it as part of your holiday movie rotation, it might not be for everyone but it can be a fun change of pace. For me, with thirty films and specials to watch it is good to have a couple of unorthodox ones to break the monotony. That is all for me today. Join me tomorrow to see if we are back to something more traditional or if we continue with odd picks.

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