Sequel City — Die Hard 2 (feat. Lindsay Beaton)

Lindsay Beaton: Oh, the title—Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Dumbest title ever.
Steve Bogdaniec: Yes.
Lindsay Beaton: For crying out loud.
Steve Bogdaniec: F**k you, grammar!

Hello again, everyone! Sorry that Sequel City has been MIA for a bit, but we’re back covering the first sequel to one of the best movies ever made, 1988’s Die Hard. I’m not going to spend time explaining or defending that assertion, except to say that it is simply a pitch-perfect action movie that has all the qualities necessary to be ranked among the best films of all time. If you haven’t seen Die Hard, stop reading now and go rent/stream/download/steal/mainline it IMMEADIATELY. I’m serious—it’s that good.

But of course, Sequel City isn’t interested in the originals—we only examine their sequels.

Die Hard 2 came out in the summer of 1990, and paired up Bruce Willis with the role that made him a superstar, John McClane. It’s Christmas Eve, just like in Die Hard, and just like in the original, McClane’s wife, Holly, is in mortal danger. A group of bad guys has hatched a high-tech plan to take a group of airplanes hostage. The planes are all circling Washington’s Dulles Airport, and if the demands aren’t met, the planes will crash. It’s a very intricate plan, but the bad guys didn’t figure on having to deal with Bruce Willis and his iconic bloody and dirty wife-beater…

Fellow Pop Bunker contributor Lindsay Beaton and I chatted while watching Die Hard 2, and what follows is that conversation, lightly edited. For this special edition of Sequel City, I’m doing away the usual structure and instead giving you Lindsay’s and my take on the movie’s Entertaining Scenes. Enjoy!

Entertaining Scenes:

Die Hard 2 begins with its villain, William Sadler, alone in his hotel room. He’s doing Tai Chi…naked.

  • Steve Bogdaniec: Not sure that was necessary. Alan Richman didn’t have to do naked Tai Chi.
  • Lindsay Beaton: No, no he did not. Honestly, who does naked Tai Chi, anyway? Seriously, no one wants stuff flopping all over when they’re working out.
  • SB: Maybe if you’re that skinny and toned and…unfortunate…stuff doesn’t flop around.
  • LB: LOL. Steroids’ll clear that right up.

Not really a single scene, but definitely something that kept Lindsay and I entertained: spotting the marked differences between 1990 air travel (the year this came out) and 2011’s…upgrades.

  • LB: I can’t help but compare how things would go differently now. It’s so weird. No smoking in the airport! No leaving bags unattended! Get away from the gates without a ticket! What’s wrong with these people?
  • SB: Another impossibility today: the old lady has a tazer with her on the plane.
  • LB: So true. No tazers on the plane. God, everyone would use them. Get your kid’s knee out of my back…can you imagine teenagers today watching these movies? They probably have absolutely no idea what people are doing in airports in these movies.
  • SB: I know. And airport security hands Bruce his gun back after taking it away from him. Enjoy your loaded weapon in our airport, sir.
  • LB: No problem, man, this is an airport. We let people do whatever the hell they want—it’s the ‘90s.

Speaking of whom, Bruce Willis returns as hero John McClane, now a cop in the LAPD. Bruce gets involved in a gunfight in the baggage area of Dulles Airport, which results in a particularly gruesome kill.

  • SB: Ew.
  • LB: OMG! That’s it, I’m UPSing my baggage from now on.

“Just the fax, ma’am.”

  • SB: The airport lady likes Bruce.
  • LB: Who doesn’t? I have his autograph, you know.
  • SB: Oooooh.
  • LB: He’s my only celeb autograph. When he did Tears of the Sun, they filmed on a carrier my dad was on. So he got his autograph for me.

Bruce has a too-familiar shaft and ductwork experience…for me, anyway.

  • LB: “It’s okay. I’ve done this before.”
  • SB: Yeah. A little too self-referential.
  • LB: Classic. I like it.
  • SB: I have to disagree. Bruce actually just asked, “How can the same thing happen to the same guy twice?” He should just be doing it instead of reminding us of it and winking to the camera.
  • LB: Well, this did come out a few years since the original. And people like the inside references.
  • SB: I suppose.

The airport’s new people mover turns deadly.

  • LB: Lots of shooting. Always with the shooting.
  • SB: Well, you don’t often stab people in a Die Hard movie. (Took about 20 minutes of screen time to be proven wrong on that score!)
  • LB: Overall though, this movie is a lot more violent than the first one. Bruce’s body count is way higher in this one, I think. Bodies everywhere. And in the first movie, he cares, you know? In this movie he’s just a killing machine.
  • SB: Yeah, I agree. In the original, he wasn’t The Terminator, he was a police detective.
  • LB: He’d be losing his badge big time for killing all these people. Dude’s not special forces, he’s just a cop.

As a result of the above scene, the villain crashes a plane to prove he means business. It was unsettling for me to watch in 1990, but on this side of 9/11, it was nearly unwatchable.

  • LB: This is so unnecessary.
  • SB: It should have been quicker and less graphic. Oh God, Bruce finds a baby doll in the wreckage?
  • LB: I KNOW. It’s a horrible scene.
  • SB: Alan Richman didn’t waste innocent people without reason…he actually brought out a couch for that pregnant lady.
  • LB: He did kill that stupid dude in his office.
  • SB: Yes, but he was an arrogant cokehead with an unfortunate beard.

The airport personnel, of whom there are too many to have to deal with in a two-hour action movie, figure out a way to communicate with the planes.

  • SB: They can talk to the planes using the outer marker!
  • LB: Outer marker, is that real?
  • SB: I know actors and movies, not outer markers.
  • LB: If the runways went down like this now, they’d divert everyone immediately. Wouldn’t be any of this circling nonsense. Also, I bet this wouldn’t happen.
  • SB: Do you mean this whole movie?
  • LB: Yeah. I wonder if it’s even possible to take out the whole system now, you know?
  • SB: Hope not.

If you only know one scene from this movie, it’s probably this one: Bruce escapes from a plane, Die Hard style.

  • SB: Time to go! Cool scene.

Special Forces (and Bruce) vs. the Bad Guys. A snowmobile (!) chase ensues, but not before a dude gets stabbed in the eye. With an icicle.

  • SB: I forgot about the snowmobiles. What if it didn’t snow that day?
  • LB: All the planes would land. In fact, it’s a good thing it snowed, or this whole movie would never have happened.

Bruce figures out the movie’s twist, and proceeds to demonstrate it to one of movie’s a-holes, Dennis Franz.

  • SB: The twist kind of saves the movie for me.
  • LB: Yeah. Still dig the first one better, though.
  • SB: Oh, completely.
  • LB: Just better plot. More plot. And more intricate action. I like my explosions with finesse.
  • SB: Better tension, characters, better setting…and the best movie villain ever.
  • LB: YES.

Sometimes, not having the right lighter just means you can’t light your cigarette. Other times, it can get you your throat slit.

  • LB: (Expletive deleted—but rest assured, it was there.) Can we stop that already?
  • SB: Actually, this whole movie is very throat-slitty.
  • LB: I don’t like the throat slitting.
  • SB: Die Hard 2 is not as skillful with the tension as the original, and nothing’s left to the imagination. Less Hitchcock and more Saw franchise.

The other a-hole—returning William Atherton, as the obnoxious reporter—gets his.

  • LB: Awesome. Love how he gets it!

Great climax on-board the getaway plane. Out of deference to possible spoilers, I won’t describe it further, but I will it give it the highest praise I can—the climax is worthy of the original.

  • LB: Here comes “The Line!”

The ending: satisfying.

  • SB: Does Dulles Airport really only have one janitor?
  • LB: Yes. One guy for the entire airport. He gets paid a crap-ton of money.

Ok, that about wraps it up for now. Sequel City will return in November with…another sequel. Not sure what yet! Write in with any comments, complainants, compliments, and/or suggestions for future columns. Check out my past columns here, and follow me on Twitter, if you’re so inclined.

And don’t forget to give it up for Special Guest Co-host Lindsay Beaton!

By the way, in case you need any further proof that nobody’s perfect, consider this: in his original review, Roger Ebert said he PREFERRED Die Hard 2 to Die Hard. Yeesh!

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