How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice?”
With these words John McClane acknowledges a truth we hold to be self-evident – that Die Hard 2 knows its greatest strength is its predecessor. This argument isn’t one to suggest that Die Hard 2 is a better movie than Die Hard, but that it’s a better Christmas movie. Hell, it’s the ultimate Christmas movie.
When we consider the yuletide season with rose-tinted nostalgia and rose-tinted noses, we tend to focus on the good: camaraderie, relaxation and the gifts we receive. And yet, when we’re knee-deep in the festivity frontline, it’s really all about the indulgence, the studiously enforced togetherness and the gifts we give. Die Hard 2 knows this. So often overlooked in favour of its elder brother (or its snappier relation, Die Hard With a Vengeance) it is Die Hard 2 that plays to the reality of the season, via international terrorism.
We open on Detective John McClane having his car towed outside Washington Dulles International Airport where he’s waiting to pick up his wife. He’s pissed off; he’s been staying with the in-laws and he’s in the midst of hundreds of people who are feeling the same way he does. Already, we’ve been hit with the triple whammy of last-minute preparation, compulsory sociability and the sacrifices we make for family. Plus there’s snow, so that’s another +1 for Christmas imagery.
From here we switch to footage of William Sadler doing some naked Tai-Chi. Admittedly this isn’t especially Christmas-like unless you’ve made the mistake of inviting weird Cousin Eric over again, but this here is the villain of the piece—the ex-Special Forces commander, Colonel William Stuart. Stuart, along with a dozen mercenaries, is ready to seize the airport and free Santa’s Latin-American non-union equivalent—the ousted despot, General Ramon Esperanza—at this moment being flown into Washington Dulles to face charges of being a dick.
Throughout the next two hours we’re treated to two plane crashes, a church explosion, Dennis Franz shouting a lot, a snowmobile chase, an ejector seat, and John McClane doing his thing. Really, it’s obvious why Die Hard 2 was given the tagline ‘‘Die Harder’’. Everything is geared towards Christmas’ primary motivator: excess.
Where Die Hard was lean, mean, with a vest that changed from white to green. Die Hard 2 packs adds “incredibly keen” to its rhyming dictionary. Every possible trimming is served up; we‘ve got the familiar sprouts (authorities dismiss McClane’s suspicions) and peas (shady higher-ups are brought onboard) but we’re also offered the non-traditional accoutrements like cauliflower and cranberry-flavoured bourbon (that special forces group aren’t what they seem!).
And, like the best Christmas meals, there’s indulgence aplenty. Why have one plane explode in a movie when you can have two? What’s the point of being surrounded by aircraft if you can’t use an ejector seat? When McClane needs to demonstrate that a cartridge is full of blanks he doesn’t use words, he fires it wildly at the person he’s trying to convince and then use very loud words.
Die Hard 2 knows Christmas is about excess. You can feel bad about it in the morning, but for now why not submerse yourself in Mulled Gravy? It’s Christmas. And yet, just as we sacrifice our bodies for that Christmas Eve shopping scramble, so too must John sacrifice his for his wife and several hundred less important airline patrons. Just as we grudgingly sit through holiday photos of Lanzarote ’06 to spare our relative’s feelings, so too is John willing to awkwardly work together with frequent adversary Airport Police Captain Carmine Lorenzo. John McClane is us.
To that end we know he’ll emerge victorious, not simply because of the execrable sequels foisted upon us, but because we too find a way to survive each year. John does it for family and for honour, we just do it for the excuse to start drinking at eight in the morning. No film better captures the essence of modern Christmas than Die Hard 2, and that’s pretty impressive for a film that came out in 1990…in July. Yippe Ki Yay Mr Falcon.
-Originally posted on OneRoomWithAView.com