A Good Day to Watch Die Hard: A Marathon Preview

An intrepid reporter will be among the thousands of fans sitting through nearly 12 hours of Die Hard movies

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Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

Bruce Willis attends the dedication and unveiling of a new soundstage mural celebrating 25 years of "Die Hard" at Fox Studio Lot on January 3.

Last Friday morning, I woke up to an email from Regal Cinemas with the subject line “Die Hard Marathon” (and a bunch of other words I didn’t bother reading). Die. Hard. Marathon. If those three words don’t excite your innermost “yippee-ki-yay”-yelling parts of your soul, well, then I really can’t help you.

If there’s any quintilogy deserving of its own in-theater marathon, it’s the Die Hard saga (or the soon-to-be sextilogy, Fast and Furious). Since the original film was released in the summer of 1988, Die Hard has grown from its roots as the perfect ’80s action movie into an enduring staple of the entire genre. And the legend of the film’s protagonist, Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) has grown in equal measure, establishing him as the quintessential modern American cowboy. But before sitting down to watch all five films, I thought it might be a good idea to take stock of my Die Hard fandom, which I’d classify as enthusiastic, stopping just short of fanatical.

I’ve seen the first film more times than I can count, but have only seen the second and third ones (Die Hard 2 and Die Hard with a Vengeance) a few times each, and can’t remember re-watching the most recent iteration (Live Free or Die Hard) since it made the rounds on cable in the 18 months after it was released in 2007. If pressed to rank all four, I’d put the original first (naturally), then the sequel (swap out Nakatomi Plaza for D.C.’s Dulles International Airport), followed closely by Live Free (hamstrung by its PG-13 rating, the only one in the series’ history), with Vengeance (salvaged by the always-welcome presence of Samuel L. Jackson) bringing up the rear.

The fifth and latest installment, A Good Day to Die Hard, hits theaters tomorrow. And for the first time, places our hero on foreign soil (Russia, if that matters).  He’ll have the help of his son, Jack (Jai Courtney), who hasn’t been seen since he was a young kid in the first film.  At 97 minutes, the movie is the shortest in franchise history, roughly half-an-hour shorter than any of the others. Good Day does, however, mark a welcome return to the R-rating bestowed upon the first three films. Plus, the trailer has more than the requisite number of explosions—most always a good sign. The looming question: how it will stack up against its predecessors?

And that’s is far from the only question heading into the day’s marathon, which is expected to clock in at just under 12 hours. Here a few others:

  • How will viewing the films back-to-back-t0-back-to-back-to-back change my opinion of each one—and the franchise as a whole?
  • Will I be able to notice the subtle differences in the directing techniques of John McTiernan (Die Hard, Die Hard with a Vengeance), Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), Len Wiseman (Live Free or Die Hard) and John Moore (A Good Day to Die Hard)?
  • How many other people will take the day off to endure the entire marathon?  And, more importantly, how many will be in costume?
  • Will my body be able to adjust to the drastic climate changes that take place between films (Christmas in Los Angeles, winter in Washington D.C., late spring/early summer in the mid-Atlantic and Russia)?
  • How long will I last before losing all semblance of sanity and beginning to believe I am John McClane (or, even more terrifying, one of the supporting characters)?

Answers to these questions and many more in tomorrow’s running diary of the marathon. I’ll also be attempting—contingent on various local factors— to live-tweet (@doddsef) random thoughts and mental-health updates throughout the day, starting at 12 PM EST. Yippee Ki-Yay, McClane fans.