Franchise Evolution: Lethal Weapon vs. Die Hard (part 1 of 2)

As you might have surmised from my past writings, and if you visit my blog, I’m a huge fan of action movies. I’m pretty sure that the gateway film for most people of my generation was either Lethal Weapon or Die Hard. Both franchises are legendary in the genre, and prime examples of what’s great about action films.

Like my Arnold vs. Sly article from last year, this will be more of a comparison piece than anything else. An evolutionary chart, if you will. I don’t want to get too deep into plot details (these films have been around long enough that you should have seen most of them at least once, anyway), but for those of you new to the party:

Lethal Weapon: Cops vs. Vietnam vet drug smugglers.

Lethal Weapon 2: Cops vs. South African diplomat drug smugglers.

Lethal Weapon 3: Cops vs. an ex-cop into weapons smuggling.

Lethal Weapon 4: Cops vs. Triad smugglers. Mainly people and other stuff… I think. Hell, I don’t know.

Die Hard: The prototype—Bruce Willis vs. terrorists in an office building on Christmas Eve.

Die Hard 2: Die Harder: Bruce Willis vs. terrorists in an airport, also around Christmastime.

Die Hard With a Vengeance: Bruce Willis vs. terrorists in New York. Looks to be summer, based on the weather.

Live Free or Die Hard: Bruce Willis vs. terrorists in Washington D.C and the surrounding area. I’m guessing it takes place in the summer, since there’s no rain or snow, and there’s nobody shivering and saying, “Shit, is it cold!”

With that out of the way, let’s begin.

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Ed Harris

A fan of less than great cinema since childhood, Ed divides his time between writing scripts, working an actual paying job and subjecting himself willingly to some of the worst films society has produced.

Multi-Part Article: Franchise Evolution: Lethal Weapon vs. Die Hard

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  • Monterey Jack

    My rankings:

    LW: B+
    LW2: A-
    LW3: B
    LW4: C+ (it’s been a long while since I’ve seen it, though)

    DH: A+
    DH2: A (a tremendously underrated sequel)
    DH3: C+ (a tremendously OVERrated sequel)
    DH4: B+ (underrated again)

  • Michael J. Schwarz

    Honestly, when I first watched Die Hard 4, all I could think of was Swordfish shoved in a blender with 24 and left to rot.

    EDIT: It’s a sad state of affairs when Swordfish is a more watchable and enjoyable film.

    • Cristiona

      Really? Really? Swordfish was utterly unwatchable, while Die Hard 4 was quite fun, even if it was somewhat lukewarm and hindered by its PG13 rating.

      • Monterey Jack

        Live Free…was quite a bit of fun, and MUCH better-directed than the shakey-cam nonsense of …With A Vengeance. I agree the PG-13 rating was bullsh[GUNSHOT], but it wasn’t a deal-breaker. LW4 was still rated R, and it was lousy.

        • Ricardo Cantoral

          I didn’t see much shakey cam in With a Vengeance.

      • Michael J. Schwarz

        I don’t know, someplace between John Travolta literally calling the film “shit” in the first scene, and going off his meds about 25 minutes in. There’s a lot of gleeful stupidity to recommend it.

        Make no mistake, it’s a BAD movie, but it is (in my opinion) more watchable, or at least more visually entertaining than DH4 (and no, that isn’t some subtle allusion to Halley Berry’s boobs).

        Some of this may be the badly executed “Hollywood hacking” combined with a generally vapid plot, but when I was watching DH4 for the first time, I really found myself wishing I was watching Swordfish instead, and yes, that is a very sad comparison.

        The biggest thing though is, 10 years later I still remember Swordfish, if it wasn’t a Die Hard film, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t remember DH4 now. :

  • sillstaw

    I liked this, though I wish it was a bit longer. Can’t wait for “The Punisher,” though!

    • Ed

      Thanks. This is probably going to be the average length of each article I do as I’m going for something a little more pacy with this series.

    • This was an enjoyable read, I agree.

  • Monoceros4

    A heretical comment: [i]Die Hard[/i] isn’t as good as it’s made out. Nearly all the action sequences are top-notch but any scene involving anyone else other than John McClane is uniformly terrible because all those scenes require the non-McClane persons–emergency dispatchers, LAPD cops, G-men, whoever–to be cartoonishly incompetent to the point of unrealism. I think the worst instance of this is when the cops continue to insist that McClane is spoiling their chance to negotiate with the terrorists [i]even after they’ve killed several cops[/i] with that rocket-launcher stunt. Would any real police chief even consider treating terrorists nicely after losing a few of his men? But, no, the script requires everyone not McClane to be a pusillanimous, pettifogging idiot.

    And, by the way, just what did McClane think he was doing in that odd scene leading up to Ellis’s murder?

    • Ricardo Cantoral

      I agree that the law enforcement in Die Hard actually out-retard the ones from all the Dirty Harry films and this was thankfully reduced to just one idiot in DH 2. However, that flaw doesn’t deter my enjoyment of Die Hard; I found that Sgt. Powell muffles much of the noise of the idiot cops and FBI.

  • Ricardo Cantoral

    I think your ranking is very accurate though I’d put Leathal Weapon 3 over 4 but not by a wide margin.

    In general, I think Die Hard numero uno beats all the aforementioned movies. The film moves like a swiss watch with action that is never too excessive, great dialogue, and very memorable characters.

  • Just curious, but didn’t Silver Pictures co-produce all of these films, Swordfish, and The Matrix Trilogy?

  • Not only have I seen all eight of these movies, I own them all on DVD.

  • Also, I particularly like one of the subplots in “LW 4”, where Roger is throwing a lot of money around, and his fellow officers think he’s on the take. He’s not, of course, but it’s pretty amusing to learn where all that money is coming from.
    Your rankings are pretty much where I’d put them. One of the reasons I rank “Die Hard With A Vengeance” second, after the original, is because it was shot on my home turf of New York City.

  • EDem

    I’ve read that the script for “Die Hard 3” was in fact an unused (at the time) script for a “lethal weapon 3” that could not happen! That might explain why it’s so different from the first two movies, and why Mcclane partners with an african-american caracter.

    • edharris1178

       Yep, that’s the reason.