Plenty of franchises seem so bonded to their star that it might seem impossible for a remake, reboot or continuation of the series without that actor. Imagine Rocky or Rambo without Sylvester Stallone, for example. But there’s really no reason to think these are safe properties. The former could easily pass its torch to Rocky’s son, a common concept for rebooting without starting completely over, and the latter could be redone with an Iraq War veteran. We’ve seen The Terminator without Arnold Schwarzenegger, Indiana Jones without Harrison Ford, Alien without Sigourney Weaver, Home Alone without Macauley Culkin and Smokey and the Bandit without Burt Reynolds. One day we could see Beverly Hills Cop without Eddie Murphy, ‘Crocodile’ Dundee without Paul Hogan and even Madea without Tyler Perry under the wig.
But there’s absolutely no way for Hollywood to redo Die Hard, especially after A Good Day to Die Hard. Parts of the new movie even seem to be making a case for why there’s no possibility of the series existing without Bruce Willis. Perhaps the actor is actually intentionally sabotaging the property, running it into the ground with a portrayal unrecognizable from the original and a plot that is so bland and outside of what the first film stood for that fans won’t even care about the brand name by the end — unfortunately for anyone truly scheming, as we see with Star Wars, fans can come back from anything, and also this sequel is on track to do at least as well as previous installments. Still, as illogical as the movie business is, rebooting Die Hard would almost make as little sense as rebooting Chaplin’s Tramp character without Chaplin.
Bruce Willis is “Die Hard”
Bruce Willis isn’t just the star of Die Hard. He is Die Hard. That might as well be the character’s superhero identity. But superheroes are easily recast. “Die Hard” is more like Willis’s superhero identity. It’s certainly enough of an alter ego that we’ve looked at other movies he’s starred in and thought of them as secret Die Hard movies. Just recently, Brian argued a case for Unbreakable being a meta Die Hard movie. And days ago, when I polled the Internet about where the next installment should be set, the majority said “space,” in spite of mostly agreeing that this would just be Armageddon. And The Fifth Element was also very much John McClane in space and in the future. In a slideshow list this week, What Culture’s Shaun Munro named nine more Bruce Willis vehicles “that were basically Die Hard sequels,” including Hostage, 16 Blocks, Striking Distance, The Last Boy Scout and Cop Out.
Die Hard Without Willis is Just a Genre
It’s been a bit of a joke for more than 20 years, but calling other movies “Die Hard in a _____” wound up so common that basically it’s a genre all its own. Or at least a trope. TVTropes.org even claims there’s a true story told around Hollywood about a guy who ignorantly pitched a movie as “Die Hard in an office building.” The same site also points out that the Die Hard genre existed before Die Hard, such as with 1975’s Bullet Train. But the brand has stuck to the convention, and we’ve linked it to tag lines for Under Siege (Die Hard on a boat), Speed (Die Hard on a bus), and Phone Booth (Die Hard in a phone booth). And there are apparently two upcoming movies labeled “Die Hard in the White House” (Olympus Has Fallen and White House Down). And, well, a remake could be a remake by going straight back to the building premise, but without Willis it could just as well be a redo of The Raid, Dredd or the Anna Nicole Smith-starrer, Skyscraper. The best (only good?) moment in A Good Day is probably early on when Willis is just standing around waiting to find out what his new “Die Hard” situation will be.
Die Hard Has Stopped Fitting the “Die Hard” Model
Ironically, in spite of the last point and further allowing for the first point, there are now more Die Hard movies that aren’t of the “Die Hard in a ____” genre than are. Following Die Hard 2‘s premise of “Die Hard in an airport,” it’s just not been the same calling the sequels “Die Hard in New York” or “Die Hard in the Mid-Atlantic States” or now “Die Hard in Russia.” This is all the more reason to believe a Die Hard reboot would just be such in name only. Nobody should put it past Fox to take the name “Die Hard” and stamp it onto just anything, though. That’s already been part of the series tradition anyway, given that the original was based on a novel titled “Nothing Lasts Forever” and intended to be a sequel to Commando, Die Hard 2 was based on a novel titled “58 Minutes to Live,” Die Hard With a Vengeance was reworked from a script meant for Lethal Weapon 3, Live Free or Die Hard was adapted from a Wired article titled “A Farewell to Arms” and A Good Day to Die Hard seems to have been originally the scribblings of a two year old.
John McClane, Jr., is no John McClane
The last reason is specifically against the possibility of the Die Hard franchise continuing onward with Jai Courtney in the lead as John McClane, Jr. Spinning off and passing the torch has been a popular idea in recent years. Series introducing offspring as possible inheritors of a franchise include Indiana Jones, Tron, The Pink Panther and, technically, Alien (Ripley’s clone counts, right?), possibly looking to The Godfather for evidence of success. And we may still see it happen with Vacation and (on TV) Beverly Hills Cop. But that won’t be the case with Die Hard. In fact, as McClane, Sr., Willis seems to be making subtle jokes in A Good Day about how his son will never be as good as him. The elder McClane is competitive throughout, he pretty much dismisses his son’s CIA career as being beneath the trade of a blue collar police officer while also sort of winking at the difference between today’s fancy spy action films versus those of the 1980s, and never once are we given an impression that John Jr. (aka Jack) is cut out for nor given a blessing to take over his dad’s business.
Bruce Willis Will Just Keep Doing Them Himself
Willis has already expressed interest in Die Hard 6. After that, he’ll do Die Hard 7. His character isn’t the sort that will ever retire, and neither is the actor. And it’s probably in his will that he’d like to keep doing Die Hard movies from beyond the grave. Maybe he’s even made hints at this in his role choices. Might he have a serum a la the one in Planet Terror that turns him into a zombie so that he can continue the role? Has he built a remote control version of himself a la Surrogates? Could he transfer his mind and voice into a new baby a la Look Who’s Talking (go back and watch it right after watching Being John Malkovich)? It’s probably much simpler than that. Like the kid in The Sixth Sense, eventually we’ll all be seeing dead people. The vanity of Hollywood is just too great not to believe many of them are scanning themselves into computers so that they may live on virtually after death. The technology will definitely be perfected by the time he’s gone.
Of course, Willis has always expressed a preference for practical effects and stunts over CGI, but then he also said he preferred to do Die Hard movies in America. Also, A Good Day looks like it has a whole lot of computer-generated bits. So, I’m making the prediction right now that we will be seeing Bruce Willis in and as “Die Hard” for as long as his legacy file can survive.