Yesterday, it was announced that Bruce Willis will be returning for what is expected to be the final installment in the Die Hard franchise. The movie will reportedly be both a sequel and a prequel to the previous five Die Hard films, showing McClane in the present day while also having flashbacks to his early days as a New York cop in the ’70s. Willis will obviously play modern-day McClane and a currently unannounced actor will fill the shoes (bare feet?) of young McClane. This announcement might make some Die Hard fans happy, but, unfortunately, all signs point to this movie being a burning pile of garbage.
There are a lot of reasons to believe this movie will be a disaster. There’s the fact that Len Wiseman, the film’s rumored director, is largely responsible for the underwhelming Underworld franchise which, much like its characters, won’t seem to die. Then there’s the fact that the film’s prequel/sequel sounds a lot more like a cheap plot device to give Willis less screentime than an innovative storytelling tool. But the primary reason to be concerned is that all the Die Hard movies besides the original are just terrible.
Die Hard, for my money (and a lot of other people’s), is the greatest action movie of all time. But each subsequent installment in the franchise has only made it more clear that the world would be better off if we had left John McClane alone after the first movie. Die Hard 2 is a mess. Die Hard With a Vengeance is decent only because of Samuel L. Jackson’s presence. The less that is said about Live Free or Die Hard and A Good Day to Die Hard, the better.
The primary appeal of the original Die Hard is that McClane was an ordinary cop and husband, forced to rise to the occasion after he’s accidentally thrown into extraordinary circumstances. After the first movie, that entire mythos is gone. Since we already know he’s the guy who will crack wise and walk barefoot on glass to save the day, the stakes in the sequels were forced to get higher. And before you know it, McClane is basically a superhero, taking down a helicopter with his car in Live Free or Die Hard. Yes, over-the-top action sequences can be fun as hell in the right context, but the original Die Hard is a grounded movie that doesn’t feel like it exists in a heightened universe. The nature of sequels automatically undercuts McClane’s entire persona.
Perhaps we will get some sort of Logan-esque send-off for McClane, where the beaten down cop returns to his roots, reconnects with who he really is, and leaves audiences clamoring for more. Perhaps they find the perfect young actor to replace Willis and reinvigorate the franchise. But, based on what we know, the forthcoming film seems like just another detour that McClane must take before he is allowed to ride off into the sunset and enjoy his retirement.