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Face-Off: Die Hard Franchise vs. Lethal Weapon Franchise

02.14.2013by: Paul Huffman
Months ago, we put together an action filled match up in John McClane vs. Martin Riggs. In that match, John McClane took the verdict with the readers opinions being far more split than I had imagined. It left me curious, would a match between the series of films these characters inhabited produce the same results?

To continue Die Hard week here on the JoBlo, we've decided to pit one kick ass series of action films against another in a match between the Die Hard Series and the Lethal Weapon Series. The first two entries in both have maintained their spot as a couple of the best action films of all time, and while the sequels don't really hold that claim, they are still entertaining as all hell. What I've found while putting the idea for this article together is that the franchise as a whole is pretty much equal in terms of quality, but I have found that one quality that makes it stand out above the other, read on folks!
Die Hard/Lethal Weapon
The film that started it all. Die Hard is near perfection and there are many moments that make it what it is, but there is one scene that defines how amazing it is for me. That is the first confrontation between John McClane and Hans Gruber, the way they got a feel for each other and Hans thinking he's gotten the better of John and...oops! Then we have the great bromance that develops between John and Al, the strong woman in Holly, and the plethora of one liners. The film is very basic, straight up, and filled with everything that makes an action film great. These guys probably had no idea what they were starting.
Still my favorite buddy cop film of all time. You have to love two heroes with such contrasting personalities, and Mel Gibson's intensity here was out of this world. So many memorable scenes including that leap from the building, the following 'are you really crazy' scene, and how about that final fight between Gibson and Busey? Speaking of Busey, the guy did what he did best and portrayed a total nutcase that was a great foil for our heroes. The character and relationship developments were the best thing about this first installment, and as it turns out...they were nowhere near too old for this shit.
Die Hard 2/Lethal Weapon 2
Die Harder was such an appropriate sub title for this sequel, everything was bigger here, and I think in a good way. The villains weren't as memorable, but Bruce as John McClane was in top form for the second outing of the series. Great use of returning characters like Holly and William Atherton as that sh*thead reporter, putting the former in a situation that gives us the emotional investment we needed. One entertaining aspect of the stakes being raised was the all out kick ass action sequences, they really upped their game here and I dug it. I missed Rickman and the baddie he provided, but this is Willis' show and he reminded us why in this film.
Lethal Weapon 2 was just as great as the first, but in a different way. We get the comedy via the evolution of the Riggs' character and the introduction of Joe Pesci into the series, and eventually a glimpse back into his dark roots when Riggs has a very bad day and learns a disturbing truth connected to his wifes death. Another aspect here that I loved was that I absolutely detested the villains in this film, especially the main weasel in Mr. Rudd who hides behind his diplomatic status for most of the film. Great conflict, great humor, great action, and more Riggs and Murtaugh give Lethal Weapon 2 the edge here I must say.
Die Hard WAV/Lethal Weapon 3
How does a film that is essentially a wild goose chase for most if its duration manage to stay so damn entertaining? Several reasons, one being a great pairing in Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson with his turn as Zeus, and genuinely disturbing scenarios that are very real fears and enough to make a city indeed panic. Some wanted more action out of this film, but other elements that make these films so great were present so I was invested nonetheless. Jeremy Irons is no Alan Rickman, but his voice alone is enough to make you sh*t your pants and he did a credible job. More John McClane back on his home turf was all I wanted, and that's what I got. A worthy entry.
Lethal Weapon 3 is a tough nut to crack. The films fatal flaw in my opinion is the lack of a formidable villain. But what it did have is a return to the chemistry between the characters we grew to love, and a serious theme to explore that I could get behind. The guns being put in the hands of young people was a very real situation especially around the time this came out, and I loved that the film explored the emotional ramifications of a great police officer like Murtaugh having to deal with an issue like this. Rene Russo was also a great new addition as a strong woman who you could see Riggs falling for. Like Die Hard 3, this film nowhere near captures the magic of the first...but they were by no means bad films.
Live Free or Die Hard/Lethal Weapon 4
Opinions on Live Free or Die Hard have remained mixed since its release. Personally, I dig it more and more with every viewing. People were up in arms over the theatrical PG-13 rating the film received...the "unrated" version has improved upon that travesty. But what about the film as a whole? Justin Long is not Sam Jackson, but he managed not to be completely annoying, again Timothy Olyphant is no Rickman but there is no denying his charisma (I just wish his final confrontation with McClane was handled better), and Mary Elizabeth Winstead was a perfect rendition of what John McClane's daughter would grow up to be. Great over the top action and Bruce seemed to have fun stepping back into John McClane's shoes. It's one of those films you just have to have fun with.
We got to see Jet Li's kick ass baddie in action 3 times throughout the film...two of which lasted about a second, now the final battle was the films shining moment which is one thing this film has over Live Free or Die Hard. That said, it felt like something was missing. The humor was there, the action was great when it was featured (maybe I could have used more), the emotion they managed to bring to the first three in one way or the other was pretty much absent...and its a theme I really dug in the others. It seemed more like a comedy than anything else, with the actors trying to out-funny each other. Were they too old for this shit? Not quite, the film was entertaining...but not on par with the rest of the series.
Tie Breaker
Bruce Willis has been carrying this franchise on his back throughout the years and he has deserved all the hype. He know what makes John McClane tick, he knows his appeal to the audience and he has brought it every single time. They've never quite captured the magic of the first but some form of magic has been sprinkled on every single installment. The series has had great supporting characters for John to contend with and you need that to compliment a main hero. Bruce could believable keep these going for a few more years and based on the memory of the previous four, I will be there opening day for each of them. Yippie-kay-yay motherfuckers!
Buddy films have come before Lethal Weapon and after Lethal Weapon, but few if any have done it like Riggs and Murtaugh. It seems the more and more I talk about the Die Hard series and this series benefit from many of the same virtues and a few of the same flaws. The quality hasn't been consistent, but its there. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover a treat to see together so much so I wouldn't mind a fifth installment to see it again. At their peak, the action scenes in these films were just as great as that of Die Hards, the supporting characters just as memorable, the humor just as...well...humorous.
Die Hard
There you have it folks, both of these franchises are legendary...but there is just something about that damn John McClane, cracking wise and being a badass. Both series of films have entries that I enjoyed more than the other and it's in that fact that I believe made the team of Riggs and Murtaugh a formidable match for McClane's solo act. My fut instinct tells me you lot will agree, so let me know where you stand.

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

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