Die Hard or Die Trying
Unlicensed is a blog where I develop real pitches for fictional licensed projects based on suggestions from readers. This week…
And yeah, so what if I went all over social media begging people to ask me to write a Die Hard licensed comic so I could hack my own blog format just three entries in? John McClane has saved enough people that now… it’s his turn to be saved.
Why does John McClane need to be saved?
The people making Die Hard movies got mixed up about what movie franchise they were writing. It’s understandable! They started mixing and matching rejected scripts for other franchises in things got confusing. But somewhere along the line, they thought they were making The Terminator. I’m not just talking about his ability to dodge machine gunfire while jumping out of the top floor of a hotel and land without a scratch. He’s become just a dude who loves killing. In A Good Day To Die Hard, he directly causes the death of hundreds of innocent people simply for being in his way during a traffic jam. He later tells his son “this is what we do.” I had to pause the movie and take that in. What? Serial murder? I had no idea this was what John McClane did! I thought John McClane solved problems, even problems he was woefully unprepared for, no matter what the personal cost. And that, to me, is FAR more bad ass than just killing.
So how do you fix it?
What the sequels have done are something that cannot easily be repaired. How could we believably go back to a John McClane who has a serious, dramatic moment dealing with broken glass on the floor after we’ve seen him launch a car into a helicopter?
Boom’s previous John McClane comic, Die Hard: Year One solved this by being a prequel. But you can’t lean on that route too much because if you make his backstory a never ending parade of Die Hard situations, it takes away from his resourcefulness in the original movie.
So my suggestion is… in order to rebuild John McClane, you have to destroy him.
And destroy him, I would. So, say Boom wanted to continue their John McClane line and asked me to pitch another 4 issue arc. I would start off with the man John McClane has become, but find a way to make him vulnerable again… more vulnerable than he has ever been before. I would introduce a reason for John to resort to stealth, and a dramatic action-packed chess game where he is unable to just blow everything up. All so that he can kick ass once again in another enclosed-space action-thriller with human-level stakes.
I would pitch…
Die Hard or Die Trying
A Boom! comic series, 4 issues
The plot: After an inexplicably physics-defying climactic action setpiece, John McClane ends up in a hospital with so many shattered bones doctors tell him he may never walk again. And if he isn’t careful during recovery, he could shatter his spine. But when a bank robber getting bullets removed at the same hospital decides he’s not going down without a fight, he take hostages… including John’s family. Now a battered, bruised and broken John McClane must find a way to take back the hospital, knowing that every stunt could be his last.
And also Al is there because I miss Al.
I know it seems that an action movie with a paralyzed lead seems counter-intuitive. But all four issues will have a huge action beat, and all of them earned.
Issue one will kick things off with the type of ridiculous nonsensical stunt we’ve come to expect as McClane slams a vintage bomber into a villain’s private jet above an air show with a cocky Yippee-ki-yay, and plummets to the earth without a parachute. And moves right into him in a hospital bed, being cocky with the doctor, who’s telling him he could sever his spine if he so much as sits up. But it doesn’t hit him how serious it is until he can’t even reach his glass of water. When the villains enter his room and discuss their plan on the other side of the curtain, there’s nothing John can do. When he sees a silhouette of them killing the man in bed next to him, there’s nothing he can do but pretend to be unconscious when they open the curttain. But he knows that somehow, he has a hospital full of defenseless people to save.
He has to roll out of bed, and crawl through the pain. The whole world is now an air duct to him. He plays a stealth game of cat and mouse, build an arsenal, find ways to get around, and to use his disabilities to his advantage. Every step forward toward his goal takes him ten steps back in his ability to continue. But when he plays all the right chess moves, and gets everything where he wants it, he gets just as action-packed as ever.
My main goal would simply be to see this guy again. I’ve missed him.