If you asked people what their favorite action Christmas movie was, more likely than not, they’ll say it’s Die Hard. It’s probably the most reasonable response, after all the movie is perfect. Unfortunately, little to no one ever seems to bring up the sequel, Die Hard 2. Not only is it one of the few sequels that’s really great, dare I say… it’s almost as good as the original.
Bruce Willis is back as Officer John McClane. In the first movie, McClane was a New York police officer in LA. Here in Die Hard 2, he’s a lieutenant for the LAPD in Washington DC. Did everybody get that? Just in case there’s any confusion.
Die Hard 2 takes place two years after Die Hard. McClane is at Dulles Airport, waiting to pick up his wife Holly who is flying in. At the same time, a foreign military leader named General Ramon Esperanza is being extradited to the US on drug-related charges. While McClane is waiting for his wife’s plane, former Colonel William Stuart and his team of mercenaries are waiting for Esperanza’s plane.
The mercenaries under Stuart’s command are also ex-military. They strategically take control of the airport and essentially shut it down, leaving a number of airplanes holding in the sky and all the runway lights turned off in the middle of a raging blizzard.
Die Hard 2 follows some of the same beats as the first movie. For all intents and purposes, you could definitely make that argument. In its bones, Die Hard 2 is once again about McClane being stuck in the middle of a terrorist plot where people are being held hostage, and he has to save the day.
For me, it does feel different enough that it’s not like watching the same move again. Unlike the Back to the Future sequels or Home Alone 2.
The terrorists in both movies have a good plan, are very tactical, and seem to know what they’re doing. Terrorists in the first movie were staging a flat-out robbery. This time the mercenaries supported Esperanza’s actions that have landed him in trouble with the US.
Stuart is cold and seems a bit eccentric, after all, he’s introduced to us while naked practicing tai-chi. Not to mention the lengths the terrorists are willing to go to get what they want.
Like most sequels, Die Hard 2 is bigger. The stakes are much higher, there’s a lot more killing and the explosions are… well, they’re at least on par with the first movie. Even though the action is more intense, it still feels grounded in reality.
Everyone and their brother has pointed out how McClane in the most recent sequels has basically become a superhero. At least right now in Die Hard 2, he’s still the same guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Each Christmas I watch both moves back to back, either on the same day or over two days. I’ve never felt any fatigue from it. I guess that’s why I don’t mind the similarities the movies share.
Even side characters from the first movie that are brought back are done reasonably. Richard Thornburg, who Holly punched out in the first movie, is back and happens to be sharing the same plane as her. He’s just as much a sleazeball in this, although it does seem like for a moment he won’t be.
Reginald VelJohnson is back as Sergeant Al Powell, Twinkies and all, for a very short scene. They never felt shoehorned in, they felt useful.
Die Hard 2 gets a bad wrap sometimes. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there like me that love this movie, but not enough people mention it when talking about the best Christmas action movies.
Even here, I have talked too much about the all-conquering first movie. It is not surprising that the sequel did better than the original at the box office, after all, people wanted more Die Hard and they got it. Another reason why I can’t fault it for sharing similarities.
The story is well crafted, it hits its marks and the characters are still great, even with McClane seeming more improvised and with more one-liners under his belt. He still feels like his own person, unlike the phoned-in performances with the last two movies. Die Hard 2 has always lived in the shadow of its predecessor, but I recognize it and love it. When I’m asked my favorite Christmas action movies, I always mention both… and of course Lethal Weapon.