I don’t think I ever saw a teal deer movie cover/poster before this. Why is it so terrible?

Any fan of Brooklyn 99 knows about Jake Peralta’s obsession with Die Hard. I had never watched Die Hard going into B99, but with Jake’s continual references, I was starting to think I should. Looking through a description of the movie, however, I got the impression of a brainless action flick and decided to give it a pass. I did watch CinemaSins’ Everything wrong with Die Hard in 7 Minutes or Less, but not only did that fail to improve my impression of the movie, it also failed to provide anything to give me a better understanding of it. Plus CinemaSins’ videos are mostly very forgettable.

So, having never watched Die Hard and having forgotten just about everything from the only ‘version’ of it I’d ever seen, I continued to scratch my head at references to it in Brooklyn 99.

Except then I started dreaming about Die Hard.

I’m not sure when this began. It was, at the very latest, over a year ago. And you remember how I used to dream about Disneyland once or twice a week, and could never quite figure out, for all I love Disneyland, why it was so often? These dreams didn’t occur quite so frequently, but, the subject being something I had no emotional attachment to and in fact had never experienced, were just as unaccountable.

In many of the dreams, I was simply sitting down to watch Die Hard for the first time. This would usually be complicated by the company I was in, since I have several family members (particularly my mom) who would strongly disapprove of every moment of the movie (even not having seen it I knew that much about it). On a few occasions, I was sitting down to watch Die Hard as an old favorite I had often watched before.

In some dreams, I was living through Die Hard. A skyscraper and guns were always involved, but the story and characters varied wildly. Sometimes I was a side-character not perpetuating the main action; sometimes I was a superhero getting involved halfway through; rarely I was the main action hero. Sometimes the bad guys were nondescript men with guns; sometimes there was something supernatural about them; sometimes they had a 20’s gangster slant to them; sometimes they were Batman villains.

This last is an important point, because gradually, over the course of 2020, my Die Hard dreams came to always involve Batman and his rogues’ gallery, until eventually, my dream Die Hard simply starred Batman as if it always had, and it had been long since I was thoroughly convinced that I needed to watch the movie in real life in order to set the record straight (but just hadn’t gotten around to it yet).

About a week and a half ago, I had yet another of these Batman-stars-in-Die-Hard dreams, and I mentioned it to Zombie Girl the next day, as well as my growing need to watch the real thing sooner or later. She gave her opinion that, though, yes, it is a brainless action flick, it’s cute and fun at the same time. So, with my resolve heightened, I convinced brother that we needed to watch the movie. And we did! That same night after I talked to ZG about it.

And you know what? I loved it.

To start out with, it’s an offensive and distressing movie in many respects, and I still haven’t decided how I feel about its portrayal of police violence (or of lethal force in general). The sexism made me sigh, and the racism/veiled Murrica sentiment kinda poisoned my delight in having multiple Black characters (even somewhat in the background) with different personalities, moralities, and levels of effectiveness.

With that out of the way, it really is, as ZG said, cute and fun. The humor is consistently strong, and the cleverness of the plot elements help to mitigate the fact that it still is, to a certain extent, a brainless action flick. But the biggest draw for me was the humanness of the characters. John’s constant panic and uncertainty, and his sinking into despair as he became more badly wounded, made him 100% more relatable and believable than literally any other action hero I’ve ever seen. He wasn’t an armored tank that went rolling along crushing everything in his path with no problem and taking no significant damage. Much as it weirded me out to see a young Bruce Willis with hair, I enjoyed his character in this movie better than most of his more modern stuff.

And Hans! Damn, Alan Rickman was a champion! I loved his entire character, and his ridiculous genius plot, and I loved the relationship that built up between him and John. His “American” accent made me want to die, and I loved that too. I didn’t even mind the nonsense of some of the plot convolutions, because it came together in such a fun way. The opening of the vault scene was every bit as satisfying for me as for the team.

Remember Panic Room with Jodie Foster? I’ve always been impressed with that movie because, despite knowing every detail of both sides of the situation, despite having no unknown factors to build suspense, the movie is still wonderfully tense and suspenseful. I felt like that applied here as well: we got to watch the moves and steps of both John and of Hans’s team (as well as the police and FBI and even the fugitives), but this never lessened the tension and suspense. And I believe the reason is that we were led to be on Hans’s side almost as much as on John’s due to his excellent characterization and Alan Rickman’s fantastic portrayal — as well as by the infuriating behavior of most of the police and of the FBI.

While I appreciated that Holly was slightly less of a MacGuffin than usual for a woman in her position (i.e., in a movie), she still disappointed me. Part of it was her actor, who was really annoying, but most of it was how her storyline played out. The overt misogyny was really only to be expected, but it could so easily have been excised. And there we’ve come full circle.

Oh, but you know what I did like? The music. The score was perfect. I might even have to get the soundtrack.

So the big question now is: will I ever watch the sequels? From everything I’ve seen online, they just get worse and worse; I can’t imagine any of them being as funny and clever as the first one. Admittedly, I couldn’t have imagined, for a long time, the first one being as funny and clever as it was. So who knows? But at least now I can rewatch Brooklyn 99 and understand many of the references. If I ever feel like rewatching Brooklyn 99, which I may or may not do because, much as I love it, it’s the type of show I feel pretty satisfied with only watching once.

So this has been an AEL in a new style for a new era. It would be optimal if I could write out thoughts on every single art I experience, but precedent indicates that just isn’t possible. The new style aims at being more selective and therefore more likely to succeed. Wish me luck!

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