As we all know, the inspirational boffins at CERN have been colliding hadrons with the best of them over the last three years and inventing physics and discovering bosons and all sorts. But one of the best-known effects of the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland is that in 2060, it opened a portal in time and space allowing time travel. Today's post comes courtesy of the 80-year old me, who popped round this morning with his considered historical retrospective of all of the Die Hard film series.
For almost 100 years, Die Hard films have been entertaining the masses with their slick blend of violence, wit, thrills and vests. They have variously taught us never to trust the Germans and also that the best form of defence is to blindly attack without any fear or indeed knowledge of the likely consequences. A practice which Bruce Willis took into his unfortunate four-year US Presidential term with some disastrous results, most of them for Suriname.
I love Die Hard films. They make me feel alive. Or rather, they make me feel like whatever explodes near me, I will not die. Alas, the series itself, as all things must, came to an end in 2042. Still, it allows me to provide a considered retrospective of the whole set. Some people believe that it remains the high watermark of what human civilisation has produced. Others, don't.
Die Hard (1988)
The original and, some think, still the best. McClane arrives at the Nakatomi building in Los Angeles to spend Christmas with his estranged wife and family, only to have his plans interrupted by a German terrorist syndicate led by Hans Grüber. This film establishes the pattern for all of the future installments: our hero is, by a combination of accident and misfortune, left to battle all the forces of crime and evil single-handedly. Often in spite of the bumbling of uniformed paper pushers. The enemy are sharp, multinational and prepared for every eventuality. ALL BAR ONE.
Die Hard 2: Die Harder (1990)
As we all know, Die Hard 2 is the best Die Hard film. McClane has to thwart a cartel of ex-military men hell bent on rescuing a deposed South American military dictator, with a perky weather eye on his massive stash of cocaine. Their method: taking over Washington DC's Dulles Airport on Christmas Eve, without a care in the world for all the people in the skies above. Including, of course, McClane's wife, Mrs. McClane. This one is non-stop pulsating action, with some top Sherlock Holmes-style sleuthing from the nevertheless always-in-a-vest John McClane. On the way, he escapes certain death by using an ejector seat and explodes a jumbo jet with a trail of leaking fuel. The latter represents the action film equivalent of Scooby Doo floating down a corridor after the whiff of a sandwich.
Die Hard 3: Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)
The Grüber dynasty returns, with Hans' younger brother Simon engaging John McClane in a preposterous game of Simon Says across New York City to find a bomb planted in a school, all as a blind so that his terrorist cartel (many of whom are masters of disguise and ninjas) can rob all the gold out of the Central Reserve. Together with a shopkeeper from Harlem who hates whitey, McClane must foil Grüber before his accent slips and reveals that, like all Germans in Hollywood cinema, he's actually RADA-trained. Die Hard 3 has perhaps the most thrilling first half of any film in the series, but the pace slackens somewhat towards the end, which is a shame.
Die Hard 4.0: Live Free Or Die Hard (2007)
Cyber-terrorism brings the entire eastern seaboard of the United States to a complete standstill. McClane, once again in the wrong place at the wrong time, must protect a seasoned 12-year old computer hacker so that he can save the world whilst combining being a major Luddite and saving his, now teenaged and inevitably estranged, daughter Lucy. Some of the set pieces in this film are so preposterous as to be almost cartoonish - McClane's spell hanging off the wing of a fighter jet is a particular highlight. Die Hard 4.0 divides opinion as a result, but I think there's really no need - every Die Hard film is complete, wonderful lunacy and requires the suspension of disbelief and good faith on the part of the viewer.
Die Hard 5: Die Hard Left, Right, Then Left Again (2014)
John McClane - oddly still not a huge world celebrity and global hero - is sent on secondment to Ludlow, Shropshire to teach schoolchildren the Green Cross Code. Again in exactly the worst place on earth at the exact wrong time, a group of embittered biological scientists release a superplague in Bristol Zoo. Owing to Britain's stringent handgun laws, McClane must thwart their nefarious scheme with a purloined pea shooter until he meets an embittered but beautiful sheep farmer on the Welsh border who teaches him to love again and more importantly has a shed full of shotguns.
Die Hard 6: I'm Dying Hard (2020)
John McClane achieved some measure of fame as a result of saving the world in Die Hard 5 - doing so five times apparently gets you on the cover of Time Magazine. However, during an appearance on Rikki Lake discussing his ongoing treatment for lung cancer, the youngest of the Grüber brothers, Gus Grüber (Daniel Radcliffe) rears his ugly head. Holding the entire studio audience to ransom with a bomb made of pork that Rikki Lake had unwittingly eaten, the televised farrago distracts from his gang's overarching aim - stealing everything in the entire world.
Die Hard 7: King Tut or Die Hard Trying (2037)
A militant group of Egyptologists plan to change all of culture back to 3000 BC levels, including replacing modern alphabets with hieroglyphs and chucking the Rosetta Stone in the sea. Their paymasters, a major multinational phone company, are about to launch the only smartphone that can send texts in Runes and are looking to corner the market. McClane - who survived cancer by shooting it - is typically on a sightseeing cruise of the Nile when everything kicks off. A controversial film, finished digitally after the 81-year old Bruce Willis died of scorpions during the production.
Die Hard 8: Died Hard (2042)
The most controversial film yet, as a puppet John McClane discusses his life story in a retirement home in the Yukon Valley. Cobbled together with a selection of clips, outtakes and deleted scenes from the previous 7 films, Died Hard was criticised for lacking a solid narrative drive, although many critics raved over the content of some individual scenes which they believed to be among the strongest in the franchise. The scene where McClane rides an atomic brontosaurus through Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia posthumously won Willis an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.