DIE HARD 2: DIE HARDER (SE)
Reviewed July 29th, 2001 by David Nusair
After the phenomenal success of Die Hard, a sequel was inevitable. But how do you create a sequel that both pleases the original audience with astounding action and keep it fresh enough to stand on its own? It had to be a daunting task, but Renny Harlin easily proved he was up to it.
It's a year after the events in the first Die Hard, and John McClane (played by, of course, Bruce Willis) is at the airport awaiting the arrival of his wife (Bonnie Bedelia, also back). Meanwhile, a gang of ruthless terrorists - led by William Sadler - is preparing to secure the release of a General - by any means necessary. Will McClane get involved? Well, duh.
Die Hard 2 is indeed that rare breed that manages to equal its predecessor. Most sequels simply rehash the original upon which they are based, and hope that works (Speed 2 being the most notable - and horrible - example), but Harlin takes the Die Hard franchise in a completely new direction - while retaining the copious amounts of action that fans expected. Harlin, who has since become a great action director in his own right, infuses the flick with amazing fight sequences and gory deaths (which is, really, what makes the Die Hard series so great - where else would you see a bad guy dispatched with an icicle to the eye?).
The performances are all top notch - Willis, in particular, seems incredibly comfortable in this role - and the script is tense, exciting and even funny. This truly is a worthy successor to a pivotal action flick.
Audio: Die Hard 2 is presented with both a DD 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtrack (in addition to a fairly useless 2.0 surround track). Finally, this movie sounds the way it should! On both tracks, bullets will fly by you and explosions will sound as though they're two feet away. The DTS track is, of course, a little bit more dynamic, but it's very hard to differentiate. Both tracks are incredible. Have your friends over and cue up the scene where McClane is fighting two bad guys on the wing of an airplane. It'll knock their socks off.
Video: The original DVD release of Die Hard 2 - which was presented non-anamorphically - was actually pretty good. But this one simply blows that one out of the water. Finally available in an anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer, Die Hard 2 has never looked better. The detail is so crisp and sharp, you'll swear you can make out individual snowflakes. And since a majority of the action sequences take place in the dark, shimmering was a very real possibility. But even in dimly lit scenes, this transfer is simply gorgeous. No complaints here. This certainly can be classified as reference quality.
Extras: While not a part of Fox's “Five Star” banner (as the first one is), Die Hard 2 still offers an astounding number of extras sure to delight any fan of this film. First off, there's a newly recorded commentary with Renny Harlin. And if you've ever listened to any of his commentaries in the past, you should know what to expect. He talks. A lot. In fact, he rarely stops even to take a breath. This is an incredibly detailed track. You'll learn everything from how they achieved most of their special effects in the pre-computers era, to actual errors in the film (a telephone seen early in the film belongs to a West coast company, when the film actually takes place in Washington). This is a great track, although it does tend to get quite technical in areas. But it's a must for any fan of the film. Also on disc one is the THX optimode feature. This will allow you to calibrate your system so that you can watch the film the way the director intended. This feature, available on various other Fox discs, is great and far cheaper than some stand-alone discs that provide essentially the same service. Moving on to disc two, there is a 23 minute making-of video that was produced for Fox affiliates to promote the movie. And, as expected, it's pretty much a fluff piece. But it was interesting to see some of the stuff that Harlin mentioned in his commentary track (the various methods of creating fake snow was particularly interesting). There's also a 4 minute EPK, but it's essentially just a shortened version of that 23 minute video. Next, there are a whopping four trailers - all anamorphically enhanced (you even get that cheesy “how can the same thing happen to the same guy twice” teaser), and there's even one TV commercial. Next up are two deleted scenes (one featuring a choir singing Christmas carols, the other containing footage of a very young Robert Patrick shooting two painters in the head) and two scene extensions (both dealing with Marvin the janitor). These are all interesting - though, strangely enough, not anamorphic - but it's easy to see why they were cut. Up next is an interview with Renny Harlin - intercut with lots of footage from the movie - and this is fairly useless. He's just talking about stuff that he mentioned either in the commentary or the previously mentioned 23 minute video. In this same section is a short interview with head villain Bill Sadler. Here he mentions various tidbits about the movie (how he and Bruce kept their distance, so their on-screen rivalry would appear authentic and a humorous story about how his naked scene came about). Next up are two short behind-the-scenes vignettes (one detailing the snowmobile chase, while the other demonstrates how the stunts for the conveyor belt sequence were accomplished - there is also a storyboard/final cut comparison for this scene). Finally, in the last section, there is a look at how the filmmakers made it appear as though Willis was ejected out of an exploding helicopter (which was actually quite interesting, given how famous this sequence has become). Next is a look at the matte paintings that were created for the final shot of the movie, which contains an airplane and several emergency trucks on scene. On the next page, you'll find side-by-side comparisons of special effects vs. the final cut of the helicopter landing on the wing of the plane, the various airplane shots and the wing fight between Willis and two bad guys. Whew.
Conclusion: If you're a fan of this movie, you really couldn't ask for a better package. It'll take you several hours to get through all the supplements and you'll come away feeling as though you actually worked on the flick!
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