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20th Century Fox presents
Grant: "You're the wrong person in the wrong place at the wrong time!"
DVD ReviewIf the original Die Hard was the father of the modern age of Hollywood, action blockbusters (which I think it was), surely Die Hard 2: Die Harder is the offspring. Or, at the very least , a close cousin that visits all the time. Once audiences were blown to the back of the theatre with the slam-bang punch of the first film, its massive success ensured a sequel. We all knew it, and in 1990, the sequel was delivered by the hands of Finnish director Renny Harlin, for whom this was his first project of immense scale. Although Die Hard 2 stands as possibly one of the most brainless movies of the age, it certainly was among the more entertaining.
Bruce Willis takes the role of police officer John McClane again, except this time he's stuck in a Washington, D.C. airport awaiting his wife (Bonnie Bedelia) to arrive so that they can spend Christmas with their family. Of course, these plans go totally awry when McClane unwittingly gets involved in foiling the complex plots of a strange group of terrorists led by one Colonel Stewart (William Sadler). As it turns out, a prominent drug smuggler and former South American military man is being delivered to the Justice Department, and Stewart intends to engineer a rescue of the criminal by taking the airport hostage, completely taking away their ability to communicate with incoming planes. So, McClane, being the tough, edgy cop that he is, decides to single-handedly take down the villains to save his wife's plane, along with all the rest of the people held hostage. This will require, of course, a great deal of head-to-head battling with various terrorists.
Back in 1990, no one really cared that this plot was simplistic and that the whole idea for a Die Hard sequel was stupid. We all kind of accepted it, ignored the ridiculous irony of McClane battling terrorists at Xmas, and just wanted to see lots of action, explosions, and bad guys getting creamed. Die Hard 2 delivered all this with extra room to spare, and managed to deliver great spills and thrills, despite such a high 'cheese factor.' There really isn't much art here, and the acting is nothing particularly special (although I do love William Sadler as the antagonist). Of course, instead of looking for such qualities in a film of this type , we want a roller-coaster of bullets and fists, and maybe even a few surprises. Renny Harlin admirably managed to handle the task, although he lacked some of the stylish, clever edge that John McTiernan gave the original. Although the film has been bested by more modern day, higher-tech work, it still stands a grand example of epic-sized actioneers in an age before computers began doing most of the dirty work.
Unfortunately, the cracks show rather badly, especially since it's now 10 years old. The biggest flaw is the incredibly weak way that the script tries to make connections with the first film. We have fairly pointless roles by both William Atherton and Reginald Veljohnson, both of whom were obviously just inserted to create that "team spirit" of having people back from the first Die Hard. Also, the self-mocking tone gets old after the fifth time there's a "Hey, this is like the first film" joke. Another thing that bothered me (and this goes back to having seen the film in the theater) was the sheer amount of musical score totally ripped from the original film, and simply recycled. Die Hard 2 has more explosions and a higher body count (staggeringly, well over 200), and even though it's a fun ride, it can't quite hold a candle to the clever first installment, which was different than the average action film. So, although I like number 2, John McTiernan's work in 1 and 3 (Die Hard With A Vengeance) is far superior.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B-
Image Transfer Review: 20th Century Fox deserves praise for upgrading a formerly mediocre DVD (the original, 1998 release) into a very impressive piece of work, beginning with the pristine, amazingly deep transfer. Die Hard 2 has a lot of varying photography, from dark with many colors, from harsh and wintery, then all the way to warm and cozy. It must have taken a bit of work to handle all of these schemes without issue, since each requires totally different approaches to compression and visual quality. Everything is very sharp and rendered with an incredible amount of detail; no signs of edge-enhancement seem to interfere. There's some amazing color work that doesn't bleed or cause mixture problems at all (especially the neon-colors of the scenes in the air-traffic tower). On the flip side, black level is very accurate and provides sharp, defined edges and great looking night-scenes. The source print is very clean, with only a few minor speckles, nothing worth noting. Overall, the quality never wavers;in fact, it's such a marked improvement over the original DVD that it stands as a fantastic example of the medium: jaw dropping. This is becoming a welcome habit in Fox's DVD work.
Image Transfer Grade: A+
Audio Transfer Review: The two primary audio mixes on the disc are Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 tracks. I watched the entire film in DTS, then made comparisons in many key, 'busy' sequences to the DD 5.1. There is very little difference between them and the Dolby Digital track is very good. The central difference between both soundtracks (other than the natural loudness of DTS) seems to be some hightened clarity in the surround channels that DTS has, where low/high end is slightly more audible and the split surround effects are more pronounced. In any case, both tracks are extremely dynamic and theatrical in their nature. The front soundstage carries the majority of the film, but the surround channels are used to a very heavy extent, much more than you might expect. Almost every scene uses surrounds for either ambient effects or specific sound effects (like when a gunman is "behind" you). The balance between all the speakers is very well handled, without gaps in movement from front to rear. During the action sequences, your TV room is turned into a war-zone, and in the slower scenes the dialogue is perfectly balanced with the rest of the atmosphere. This is truly an appropriate soundtrack for such an active and rowdy film.
Also provided are English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround tracks. As usual, I would have preferred these tracks been left off to give the DD/DTS some more room to breathe, but they both sound excellent, given the format. Surround activity is not quite as major or well done, but the front soundstage carries everything else in an impressive manner.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasAnimated menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
4 Original Trailer(s)
1 TV Spots/Teasers
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Renny Harlin
Layers Switch: 00h:49m:54s
The second disc contains a collection of various supplemental material, mostly promotional. There are two making-of features, a documentary at 23 minutes (originally aired on television) and a featurette at 4 minutes. The longer piece is not so much a forensic examination of the project, but more an extended trailer designed solely for advertising, really. The 4-minute featurette is, literally, just the longer piece edited down to 4 minutes for a Fox press kit. Neither of these shows are terribly informative, but they do works as an interesting time capsule. Defer to the commentary if you're looking for more detailed information.
There are 4 deleted scenes, two of which are merely minor differences in pre-existing scenes. The other two, however, are very interesting in that they significantly expand the role of Marvin (Tom Bower), the airport janitor. The fourth scene contains all of the footage that we got to see in the trailers, but never surfaced in the final cut.
There is a short (but, yet again, promotional) interview with director Renny Harlin which is interesting, but packed with way too much footage from the film. In the same token, there's a promotional interview with William Sadler, about how sinister he's supposed to be compared to the villains in the first film.
Two additional featurettes highlight some work done on two specific sequences, the snowmobile scene and the conveyor belt fight. They are decent behind-the-scenes pieces, but tend to often veer into promotional format utilizing lots of film footage. This is accompanied by a storyboard-to-film comparison reel where we see direct A-B comparisons between the designs and the actual finished product of one of the action sequences.
The visual effect breakdowns are five short looks at the making of some stunt material, and how it was accomplished with bluescreen photography and composite work. Original storyboards are also presented. Although there is no alternate angle feature, this is the best stuff on the disc, in my opinion.
Everything is rounded off with four original trailers (in very good condition with excellent Dolby Surround audio) and a TV spot, along with THX Optimode calibrations tests. It should also be mentioned that the suppliments all have extremely high quality video, probably due to the very high bitrate at which the whole disc runs. Both discs feature superb animated menus that are very cool without being too slow or annoying. While a lot of the supplements are very "commercial," it's still a pretty solid package.
Extras Grade: A-
Final CommentsI wisely held off purchasing any of the original Die Hard DVDs because I found them, frankly, really disappointing. I don't hold a grudge, though, and figure we'd eventually see the discs revisited, and I'm glad I was right. Judging from this disc, this trilogy is getting an impressive re-birth. Die Hard 2 is pretty wild and furious action film, and the disc delivers the goods. Get ready to blow up your living room.
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