The Die Hard films get collected in a nice booklet style set that includes a bonus disc of new material that every fan of the franchise will love.
The bonus disc is the real reason to buy the set since the first two films don’t look as great as you would expect for a “25th Anniversary Collection” on Blu-ray’s high-def format and Live Free or Die Hard is only available in the PG-13 rated version.
The bonus disc, Decoding Die Hard, takes fans through the early stages of the first Die Hard (such as its ties to Frank Sinatra and Richard Gere) to how the franchise was reinvented for the cyber age. The features include looks at the action sequences of all the films and how they continued to get bigger with each new entry to a profile on the films’ villains and how they have to be more than just an average bad guy for John McClane to face.
The features include interviews with directors John McTiernan (Die Hard and Die Hard with a Vengeance), Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2: Die Harder) and Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard). There are also interviews with producer Joel Silver, Reginald VelJohnson, Alan Rickman, William Sadler, and Jeremy Irons.
Die Hard (1988) – Based on the 1979 Roderick Thorp novel Nothing Lasts Forever (a sequel to his 1966 novel The Detective which became a Frank Sintara film with the same name), Die Hard featured a claustrophobic feel and delivered tons of action. It also had a slick sense of humor thanks to a wise-cracking Bruce Willis, as New York City cop John McClane, and his interactions with Alan Rickman, as terrorist/exceptional thief Hans Gruber.
Set at Christmas in Los Angeles, the film sees McClane arriving at the Nakatomi Plaza with hopes of reconciling with his wife Holly (the great Bonnie Bedelia) and spending some time with his kids. Unfortunately, John got there right ahead of Hans and his band of robbers – who immediately take over the place and kill Nakatomi executive Joseph Takagi. Luckily, John (missing his shoes) was able to sneak out during the assault, and has just enough grit and stubbornness to be the fly in Hans’ ointment.
The movie is basically one incredible over-the-top action sequence after the next peppered with some great banter (“Yippie Kay Yay” you know the rest) between the hero and the villain. Director John McTiernan makes the most of the confined setting to give the film a claustrophobic feel (such as the scenes where McClane is crawling around the air condition ducts of the building). He also manages to give the film an epic scope despite the fact it all takes place in some business offices.
Another success for the film is the John McClane character. He is a hero, but he is also an “every man” that is just reacting to the situation around him. If there was someone else there that could save the day, John would be just fine with stepping back. He is not Superman, and comes across as extremely real – despite his ability to jump safely away from an explosion seconds before it detonates.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990) - Renny Harlin steps into the director position and opens up the scope of the franchise’s formula by letting McClane cause his style of havoc at the Washington Dulles International Airport while waiting on his wife’s plane to land.
Set two years after the events of the first film, McClane finds himself crawling around the air condition ducts again at Christmas time after rogue U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Stuart and his team hijack the airport so that they can free General Ramon Esperanza – who happens to be a drug kingpin/former Val Verde dictator and is being handed over to the U.S. government for criminal trial.
Harlin takes everything that worked in the first film and cranks it up for bigger explosions and action sequences. He also puts his own personal style into the film giving it that wide scope look that the veteran action director is known for. Harlin and the Die Hard franchise were made for each other and the film is one of those rare sequels that works just as well as the first outing. Its only failing is a villain who is not quite as great as Rickman was in the original film – although William Sadler is one hell of a bad guy.
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) – Director John McTiernan returns to the franchise and gives John McClane an entire city to play in. The film teams McClane up with another “every man” hero in Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson). McClane is faced with another great villain with a grand scheme thanks to Jeremy Irons scene chewing Simon Gruber – who has a personal axe to grind with McClane.
Set during the summer in New York City, a terrorist starts blowing up buildings and insist the police department lets him play a game of “Simon Says” with Detective John McClane. The problem is McClane is currently on suspension and is two steps away from being a full blown alcoholic (although McClane corrects the statement by saying he is only one step away).
Scattered throughout the city are other bombs and McClane and Carver are the only two people that Simon will give a chance to find them. Of course, the terrorist is actually just an exceptional thief like his brother Hans, and has a completely different plan in place.
Thanks to the action sequences being opened to a whole city, Die Hard with a Vengeance manages to get a fresh feel, but the characters have started to be a bit stale. McClane is given the chance to develop slightly from the first two films (as seen in the fact that his wife and kids have once again left him and it appears he has become a bit of a drunk), but the one-liners aren’t quite as funny. Still, the movie has continued to grow on me, and you have to love Irons going full hilt on the bad guy dialogue.
Live Free or Die Hard (2007) - Director Len Wiseman brings an aged and grizzled John McClane and his destructive style back to the big screen for a story that has a slick feel and action sequences that are so unbelievable (McClane kills a helicopter with a car and runs alongside the wing of a jet) they are a blast to watch.
The film kicks off with an older McClane having a moment with his college-aged daughter Lucy (who has taken the mother’s maiden name) before being dispatched to pick up computer hacker Matt Farrell (Justin Long) on a federal warrant and escort him to Washington D.C. Once there, McClane finds himself caught in the middle of a terrorist cyber-attack on the government by former agent Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) and his group of bad guys – including Mai Linh (Maggie Q) who proves she is just as tough as McClane.
To make matters worse, Gabriel goes and kidnaps Lucy (who has the same kind of stubbornness as her old man), and makes everything personal. Once Lucy is added to the mix, McClane is even more determined to stop the bad guys. Matt goes along for the ride so the audience can get lots of jokes about just how old McClane is now and how out of touch he is with the modern cyber world.
Still, Wiseman knows what the audience wants from a Die Hard story and fills the film with tons of action (you have to love how the bad guys reduce Matt’s apartment to rubble). Sadly, the PG-13 rating kept the film from delivering the franchise’s other trademark – liberal use of the “F-Bomb.”
When it was released to DVD and Blu-ray, an unrated version of the film put more violence and language back into the film, but it was not included in the set. While the PG-13 rating doesn’t kill the film, it does make it feel not quite like an actual Die Hard movie and makes the McClane character a little neutered in his witty one-liners.
Thanks to a bonus disc that treats fans to everything they could possibly want to know about the franchise they love and a retail price that isn’t too high, the Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection is worth buying for those who don’t already own the films in some other form.
It would have been nice to include the unrated version of Live Free or Die Hard and it the first two films could have been shown a little more love in their transfers to the Blu-ray format.
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