Granted, it seemed like a pretty iffy proposition from the get-go: the "Die Hard" franchise, while occasionally quite brilliant, is something that is aired repeatedly on cable television, and a marathon of all the films might not be the type of thing someone would, say, take off work to attend. So, as I went up to the box office, I asked the attendant whether anyone else had bought tickets to this thing. "Oh, quite a few people," she assured me. She was lying.
There were maybe a dozen people in the theater, and that is being charitable. Most were white males in their mid-twenties, in small clusters. A group of four sat towards the back of the theater and yelled out things like, "Tell 'em Bruce!"
Then there were two guys I spoke to, Joe and Mike, who were there because the Milford, Connecticut school system was still suspended following last week's killer snowstorm. Joe told me that he loved "Die Hard" because it was "the ultimate man movie," while Mike said that, compared to the "Star Wars" franchise, he liked "Die Hard" better. Bold words, young padawan.
However, there was clearly an outlier in this theater: a middle-aged woman sitting alone behind me, who looked seemingly well-adjusted. When I finally got to talk to her, she was just as down to earth as I imagined. "What else are you going to do on a cold winter day?" she asked. Her name was Chris. She tried to get various members of her family to join her but they all declined, so she decided to do it herself. Chris told me she was a big fan of both the "Die Hard" franchise and Bruce Willis, "because he hasn't had a lot of plastic surgery ... If you pull one stick out of Sylvester Stallone's face, the whole thing will come undone." When I asked her what other marathon she would be willing to waste a day of her life on, she shot back with: "A marathon of the Coen Brothers movies. Just run it from 'Blood Simple' on; that'd be great."
Surprisingly, there were a few couples in the audience, as well. One, Holly and Jacob, said they had hatched the plot to watch the marathon together. They both had the day off, too, which worked out well. I asked them what they were doing for Valentine's Day, since whatever they had planned would undoubtedly be a step down from witnessing a full day of bone-shattering violence. "This is our Valentine's Day," Holly told me. "We both have to work tomorrow." I hope I get invited to their wedding -- and they seat me next to Alan Rickman.
Watching all of the movies again on the big screen proved to be pretty fun, particularly with the first "Die Hard." The audience response to the original movie was lively. It's a great film, even on the one-billionth viewing. I also found myself noticing things I hadn't before. For instance, there are a couple of moments when director John McTiernan implies that Bruce Willis's John McClane might be struggling with infidelity.
Throughout the day, people, alerted by my Instagram and Facebook updates, would send me their own "Die Hard" stories. A friend in Los Angeles, who was also at a marathon, inquired as to how many "Die Heads" were in the audience. Another, in Brooklyn, sent me a photo of a painting her boyfriend, artist Kelly Beam, had commissioned -- a portrait of Alan Rickman's villainous Hans Gruber, from the first "Die Hard."
When the second movie rolled around, with McClane (now an LA cop) dealing with terrorists at a Washington, D.C. airport, the mood in the theater had noticeably dampened. The film is too grim and violent, and although there were only twelve people in the audience, you could tell they weren't feeling it.
Which is why the third movie, "Die Hard with a Vengeance", was a much-needed shot of adrenaline -- about half the people I spoke to in the theater cited as their favorite in the franchise. The film's entertaining plot and frenetic pace was especially helpful before watching the fourth entry, "Live Free or Die Hard," a supposed action movie about people typing on keyboards (cyber-terrorism!)
Unfortunately, the fourth sequel was just as poorly organized and implemented as the entire marathon. There wasn't an itinerary, so you never really knew when the next movie was set to start. There wasn't that much time in between films, either, so I couldn't sneak down to the mall food court and actually, you know, eat. At one point, I got halfway through a corndog before realizing that I had to be back for more well-choreographed mayhem.
The fifth film, the one we were all ostensibly here to see, might have been even more aggressively dull than the fourth; it is a humorless bore. When it ended, the four guys who had been so enthusiastically vocal earlier looked visibly depressed. One of them looked at me and said, "You know what you should write about? How much that one sucked!"
I cornered Chris on the way out of the theater and asked her what she thought of the latest chapter. "It was okay," she said. "But it would have been better if the Coen Brothers had directed it."