At a recent press day for their film, A Good Day to Die Hard, director John Moore and his stars discussed bringing ’80s hero John McClane back in a fish out of water, father-son hybrid story that promises one big action extravaganza.
While discussing the setting of the film (Moscow), Moore (Max Payne, The Omen) hit on a few points that cut to the nerve of why John McClane and even McClane’s doppelganger, Bruce Willis, have stood the test of time with audiences.
“…because McClane is essentially abrilliantly iconic Reaganistic character. And to put that John McClanein the heart of the old Soviet system and have him realize, “Shit man,they’ve got more iPad stores here than we do,” all that stuff was fun…”
McClane and Willis rose to stardom in the ’80s when audiences craved flawed, patriotic heroes rising to the task while government sat around with its fingers up its you know what. It was an attitude that resonated with audiences because of a president that championed individual liberty and smaller government, Ronald Reagan.
When John McClane saved Nakatomi Plaza in 1988’s Die Hard, he was simply the right guy in the right situation doing what needed to be done not for any greater good, but because well, dammit, there just ain’t no one else to do it. The tradition carried on in two sequels. And then McClane did something funny. He entered the 21st Century, and audiences still cared.
In Live Free or Die Hard, McClane is the same guy. He’s still preaching his macho ideology, listening to Creedence Clearwater Revival and trying to revive a little something called family values. And he did it all rather un-ironically. Audiences ate it up because there were few other heroes like McClane around. There were no macho guys standing up for the middle man and championing machismo, individualism and America.
Movies had moved on, and the country mostly had, too. But Moore scored a direct hit with his comments. These films tap into a generation clamoring for the days of old when men did what had to be done, heroes fought through their daddy issues and bad guys got a nice old whuppin’.
In the ’80s McClane worked against bureaucracy to save the day and win back his wife, and he’s still doing the same some 20 years later. He doesn’t change because certain attitudes shouldn’t change. He’s a conservative hero for the Tea Party generation.
Willis isn’t much different. He appeals to the Everyman by going against Hollywood as he casually defends the Second Amendment and lower taxes. He’s low key and humble and seems to stand for exactly what his hero does.
Moore understands the appeal of McClane and his star. He’s “Reaganistic.” Always has been, always will, and audiences like that because they crave those values and artistic aspects which have long become almost extinct. The franchise clearly doesn’t forget things like the Cold War and John Wayne, and it plays with these concepts for the pleasure of the audience.
Hats off to a franchise that refuses to die or let the cynicism and liberal fads of today change its character’s essential truths about authority and heroism.
This Valentine’s Day is most definitely A Good Day to Die Hard.