Dear 20th Century Fox,
I'm writing to request from your offices a reimbursement of funds totaling $11.00, which I believe were obtained from me under false pretenses. As a regular consumer of your products, I rely heavily on the advertising you produce to inform me when I make choices about which films to see and which to avoid, and my reliance on said advertising constitutes a bond of good will between you, the movie studio, and me, the audience member. I believe that bond has been broken in the case of Live Free or Die Hard, a new film that purports to be the continuing adventures of beloved movie character John McClane, but is in reality a film revolving around an entirely new character, who I shall henceforth refer to in this letter as Indestructible Fathead. Before I go on, let me stipulate that I was, in fact, offered a chance by you to see this film for free before its general release, and had I taken you up on that offer, my monetary damages might be lessened. The psychological damages would, I'm afraid, remain.
Like all Die Hard films (or films representing themselves as such) there is a terrorist plot at the center, but despite watching with close attention, I honestly couldn't tell you what it's supposed to be about. We're introduced to a team of cyber-terrorists, led by Timothy Olyphant and Maggie Q, who are attempting to pull off a 'Fire Sale,' which I gather means executing a rapid, simultaneous shutdown of our nation's regional power grids. The simultaneous part is apparently the key, since it has the desired effect of short-circuiting any backup plans and therefore crashes America's infrastructure. Anything run by computer will no longer work. Financial records gone, utilities gone, and so on. In other words, they declare total war on America, from the back of a moving truck. There are so many plot holes here that I won't insult your intelligence by pointing them out. Watching this plot unfold, I was reminded of what Roger Ebert said about Jaws: The Revenge -- that some executive at the studio should have been put in charge of making sure it was at least "a passable thriller."
Live Free or Die Hard constantly reminds us that John McClane is an analog man in a digital world. So am I in a way, I guess, since I expect to be told a story that makes sense when I go to the movies. I expect to be told, for example, how this team of computer terrorists managed to rig up the computers of a number of hackers with C4 without alerting any of them. Don't expert hackers tend to notice things like people weighing down their gear with explosives? I'd also ask the following: since the main terrorist, Thomas Gabriel (Timothy Olyphant) is known to the competing hackers he eliminates at the beginning of the movie and, it turns out, well known to the FBI, how could he possibly avoid detection after pulling a stunt like this? His 'mobile command center' is a large rig that stays on the go for most of the film -- are you trying to tell me that the Army wouldn't track him down in less time than it takes to watch an episode of Deadwood?
I can see that I'm imposing on your time, so I'll come to my main grievance: you have an obligation to maintain a baseline of consistency with a franchise character, and I'm not talking about f-words here. How about the fact that Indestructible Fathead has no New York accent? How about that he's hardly human, with the ability to shrug off point-blank gunshot wounds and outmaneuver a Harrier? How about that he's prone to misty-eyed monologues about what it means to be a hero? John McClane would want to throw this guy out of a window. Al Powell would want to blow him away like that rotten kid he shot. Holly would want to give him a kick in the nuts. Did you even consider, after completing this film, that you had erred in caving into Bruce Willis's demands for a hack director and hack writers who could be cajoled into serving his increasingly bizarre need to see himself as a real-life hero who does a traveling movie road show as a thinly-disguised version of himself?
I've noticed other reviewers struggling to accentuate the positives, which I understand, and I'm happy to do that as well. Yes, there's some nice parkour in your film, which is always fun. Yes, the second unit is pretty tight and the action isn't poorly-staged -- the money is up on the screen. Also, you made some wise casting choices -- Tim Olyphant and Mary Elizabeth Winstead clearly came to play. But they arrived one movie too late. The Die Hard trilogy, as it will now be forever known, passed them by. If the title of this film was Tears of the Sun 2, or some other completely innocuous title, I would have been a lot more flexible and not seized by the feeling that I was being ripped off from start to finish. But I came to the theater to see a Die Hard film; one that followed the tone, rules and spirit laid down in three previous films that I really love, by people who really cared about their work. I didn't see that. I want my money back.