This class is about the science in Hollywood-films. We have been focusing mainly on science-fiction movies and disaster movies. Lately I’ve given some thoughts to a couple of pure, rock-hard, bullet-flying, roundhouse-kicking, fist-through-a-concrete-wall kind of action movies. In particular, I’ve been thinking about what might be the best movie of all time, “Die Hard” (1988) and its three sequels, also very properly named “Die Hard 2: Die Harder” (1990), “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (1995), and “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007).
Like I said, “Die Hard” might arguably be the best movie ever. It has Bruce Willis, in his bare feet, completely owning a bunch of German terrorists in a skyscraper in L.A. What is more, not many movie quotes can beat his character John McClane’s infamous line “Yippie-kay-yay mf”.
In spite of the overall greatness of especially the first two movies in the series, there are certain things that can’t really escape your mind when watching movies of this kind. Of course, how realistic is it that he, a lone, off-duty police officer, wounded and without shoes, can defeat a a group of well-trained, heavily-armed terrorists in the enclosed spaces of an office building? He runs around with broken glass in his feet, climbing through elevator shafts and rolling down stairs, taking them out one by one, and eventually comes out, with a slight pulse and a couple of scratches, having saved his wife and a whole bunch of hostages by himself. Now, here’s the geniality of the first two movies; in “Die Hard” and “Die Hard 2”, the director doesn’t do any of the completely unrealistic, crazy stunts and action scenes that you often see in bad action movies of the late 20th century. Sure, it might be unrealistic that he is able to beat all the terrorists and escape death a couple of times, but it actually could happen, with some skill and a whole lot of luck. If you think about it, he doesn’t do anything extreme in the first movie, he just fights bad guys in a traditional, hard-core, man-to-man way. The third movie deviates somewhat from the concept of the first two, but it keeps those extreme scenes and that completely unrealistic stuff out, and it is actually a really good movie.
It is the fourth and most recent, and most technologically advanced, movie that some super-extraordinary actions come in that honestly just does not seem to ever be possible without breaking the laws of physics. “Live Free or Die Hard” was actually surprisingly good. The makers of the movie managed really well to put an older John McClane in a significantly more modern and technological setting, where the plot involved a very contemporary type of cyber-crime. They put it all together really well, but in some parts of the movie, they went over the line with spectacular actions and special effects. There is one scene in particular that struck me and actually degraded the movie in my mind a little bit.
In the scene, John McClane has been chased around in his car in a tunnel, and is facing a helicopter with some sort of rocket at the opening of the tunnel. In a regular police car, he steps on the gas and starts driving full-speed towards a railing that is sloping upwards and leads out of the tunnel. Jumping out through the door in the last second, he sends the car up on the railing, catapulting it into the air and straight into the helicopter that explodes in the air. Danger averted. To me, this is just a little too much. It is by no means, at all, possible. First, I seriously doubt the car can get so much speed that it is able to fly right up into the air and take down that helicopter. Second, how did he even do that? Just before jumping out, he must have let go of the gas, put the shift out of gear (assuming the car was a stick-shift, otherwise it just seems even more impossible), and somehow managed to keep the wheel straight enough for the car to hit the railing perfectly and then stay on course for the helicopter. Really, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, see it. It’s still very worth it, and the overall quality is actually really high.