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Posts Tagged ‘John McClane’

Shortly after posting an article about a future James Bond I downloaded the latest episode of Film Don’t Hurt where Kai and Dylan talk about the Bond franchise. The thing I took away from the episode, other than a good laugh at Kai and Dylan’s lamentable knowledge of the subject, was the question “who is the American Bond?” The simple answer I don’t think there is one. Here are the possible contenders:

The Contenders:

Derek Flint: Appearing in two films; Our Man Flint (1966) and In Like Flint (1967) played by James Coburn. Flint was as much a parody of Bond as an attempt to make an American version of him. According to the audio commentary on the DVD (according to the trivia page on IMDB), Fox wanted to do another Flint movie but James Coburn turned them down. A clip from the second movie appears in the opening credits to The Fall Guy TV show (1981–1986).Derek Flint

Jason Bourne: First appearing in a TV movie, The Bourne Identity (1988) Played by Richard Chamberlain, Bourne is one of the few real contenders to be an American Bond. Loosely based on the Robert Ludlum novels of the same name and starring Matt Damon: The Bourne Identity (2002), The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) helped reinvent the genre and had a real influence on the rebooted Bond series. The Bourne Legacy (2012) tried to continue the series beyond Bourne introducing the character Aaron Cross played by Jeremy Renner, it didn’t really work. Its hard to say if the franchise has a future. Bourne’s story has been told, I would be happy if they leave the character alone.Film Title: The Bourne Ultimatum

Jack Ryan: The first screen incarnation of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was played by Alec Baldwin in The Hunt for Red October (1990). He made two further appearances in quick succession in Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994) played by Harrison Ford in both. A decade later the character was rebooted in The Sum of All Fears (2002) Played by Ben Affleck. Later this year Chris Pine will take over the part in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013). What does this prove? The character can be played by many actors just like Bond or they have never got it quite right since the first movie? With Kenneth Branagh directing and Branagh and Kevin Costner in the supporting cast tit looks like a series attempt to reboot the series.jack ryan

Ethan Hunt: Concentrating on the action side of the genre, Based on a 60’s TV show and spawning four movies to date: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible II (2000), Mission: Impossible III (2006) and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011) with a fifth on the way. The only problem, does Ethan Hunt have life beyond Tom Cruise? William Brandt played by Jeremy Renner has been suggested as a future replacement for Hunt. Hopefully this will work out better for him than Aaron Cross.Ethan Hunt

xXx: The first xXx Xander Cage appeared in xXx (2002) played by Vin Diesel. A movie that openly mocked Bond with the death of a dinner jacket wearing Bond like agent. Xander Cage was to be the secret agent of the new millennium. The character was quickly killed of and replaced with the next xXx Darius Stone played by Ice Cube in xXx: State of the Union (2005). This is more Bond like isn’t it? Well no. the films may be fun, but they are rubbish. Vin Diesel is rumoured to be reprising the role in xXx: The Return of Xander Cage some time in the next few years.Xander Cage

Jack Bauer: do we have to look to TV for an American Bond? Jack Bauer played by Kiefer Sutherland appeared in the TV show 24 between 2001 and 2010 and is set for a new show next year. How much of the appeal of the show is the format, how much is the character and how much the actor? I’m not sure the character will ever be rebooted or continue without Sutherland.Jack Bauer

The One Hit Wonders:

Mallory Kane: Haywire (2011) was a love it or hate it movie, I love it. Steven Soderbergh wrote the character for former cage fighter Gina Carano. I don’t expect there to be any more Mallory Kane movies and wouldn’t want there to be without Soderbergh . Reboot or recasting opertuinies are limited as Gina Carano really is irreplaceable.Mallory Kane

Harry Tasker: Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle True Lies (1994) was a remake of 1991 French film La Totale! It works largely because of its blend of action and comedy working in both genres. A sequel or a TV spin-off has often been suggested but never got off the ground. A TV spin-off with Eliza Dushku reprising her role as Dana Tasker could be fun, once commissioned, it would give fox the chance to do what they do best, cancel a promising show prematurely! Cynical, me?Harry Tasker

Remo Williams: Clearly intended as a franchise Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) starring Fred Ward in the title role didn’t get beyond the first movie.Remo Williams

The Ineligible:

John McClane, Indiana Jones and Harry Callahan are both too far from the spy world and to much associated with one actor to be realistically considered.

Conclusion:

The notable thing about the longevity of the character is how it survived some ropy movies in the 70’s and 80’s and the death of the British film industry. Is the character that strong, or do we just not have anything else to fall back on? Probably a bit of both, we don’t have supper hero’s like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man. So who is the American Bond? There isn’t one. Some characters already have complete story arcs, others are too tied to one actor, and some are just dead in the water. But give them a chance, Bond has been with us on screen for half a centaury and in print for a decade longer than that. Give it another twenty or thirty years and we could be talking about Ryan, Bourne or Hunt in the same sentence as Bond. But maybe we are asking the wrong question, what we should be asking, “who is the British Batman/Superman/Spider-Man?” answer: James Bond.Daniel Craig

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A few thoughts on A Good Day To Die Hard: Die Hard 4.0 (2007) aka “Live Free or Die Hard had its problems but it also had its charms. The wisecracking Justin Long fulfilled the roll taken by Samuel L. Jackson in the superior Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995). While Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing John McClane’s daughter performs a similar role to McClane’s wife, Bonnie Bedelia in the classic original Die Hard (1988). These two elements combined with a half decent antagonist played by Timothy Olyphant and a few good action set pieces to make the movie watcahble if inferior to its predecessors. A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) tries to combine the two archetypes into John (aka Jack) McClane Jr. (Jai Courtney) but this is the least of the movies problems.A-Good-Day-to-Die-Hard

There is a scene in the movie where the McClane’s drive from Moscow to Chernobyl in little more time than the villains fly there in a helicopter. As we walked out of the movie last night, the friend I had watched it with mentioned that Chernobyl is six or seven hundred miles from Moscow across the border in The Ukraine. Ten to twelve hours drive. As I said at the time, if the movie was any good he wouldn’t have noticed or at least wouldn’t care. But how did our heroes end up at Chernobyl? To put it simply it was the conclusion of a thin but convoluted plot that borders on xenophobia.A_Good_Day_To_Die_Hard_poster

Filled with big action scenes but lacking any fun or excitement. A car chase puts the protagonist in peril or perceived danger, this creates excitement, by taking that danger out of the movie removes the viewers involvement and interest. While we know that John Mclane isn’t going to get badly hurt in a Die Hard movie, we still need a glimmer of realism and a sense of danger to keep us on the edge of our seat and keep us interested. In this new Die Hard movie Bruce Willis’ character crashes spectacularly twice before changing vehicle and carrying on unharmed, and all this is within the first act. How far have we come from our hero running, barefoot over broken glass in the Nakatomi Plaza. An there begins the start of the success of the original Die Hard, the Nakatomi Plaza, and what the confines of one building brinks to the story. No one gets in, no one gets out, one man against a group of bad guys. With limitations comes creativity and that’s what we got in Die Hard, that and one of cinemas greatest ever villains, Hans Gruber played to perfection by Alan Rickman. It is also worth remembering the way Die Hard rewrote the rulebook of the action movie by casting the “everyman” Bruce Willis who at the time was best known for the TV show Moonlighting. After the success of their previous movie Predator (1987), it would have been easy for director John McTiernan and producer Joel Silver to cast Arnold Schwarzenegger or someone like him in the role, they very nearly did. It was reported that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson and Frank Sinatra (long story) all turned the part down. Robert De Niro, Don Johnson and Richard Dean Anderson were also considered.Stirb langsam

In the ultimate copout of the genre/franchise the distributors cut the movie to achieve a 12a certificate. This is the kind of cynical filmmaking where the bottom line comes before the artistry of the movie. Many of the problems can’t be blamed solely on the director, John Moore, but the poor pace and lack of vigour certainly can be. Not nominally one for character assassination, however Moore doesn’t exactly have a strong track record: Behind Enemy Lines (shameless rip-off of Bat*21), Flight of the Phoenix (crappy remake), The Omen (crappy remake) and Max Payne (terrible video game adaptation). At a time when the Bond franchise is hiring Sam Mendes and Star Trek has been taken over by J.J. Abrams, it shows a lack of ambition at best.

Where can the franchise go from here? It could be that its time to call it a day, alternatively like the character in an action film the producers may look for redemption. If they are going to have another stab at it, they need a great and hopefully original concept, a good script and a talented director. In short they need to do what John McTiernan did twenty-five years ago.

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In 1997 Mike Myers gave us Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, a movie that made a mockery of James Bond. How could Bond continue after this?The simple answer, in the Pierce Brosnan era Bond became as silly as the spoof. Then in 2002 around the time Brosnan was making his last appearance as Bond in Die Another Day the game really changed with The Bourne Identity. Bond took a four year break and returned as a younger rougher Bond in Casino Royale played by Daniel Craig. Despite the reboot, there is still a sense that Bond belongs in the 50’s and 60’s and not in the present day.

Powers Bond Bourne Reacher

As good as the Jason Bourne trilogy was, it was always just that a trilogy. The critical, financial and artistic failure of the Bourne Legacy proved that. Largely plot driven it couldn’t adapt and evolve the way Bond has, but then no other film series has. Bruce Willis is John McClane, and there couldn’t be a Die Hard movie without him. The same goes for Riggs and Murtaugh/Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon and Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry. Next year, Chris Pine will be the fourth actor in five films to play Jack Ryan but they have always felt like separate films and not a coherent series. Mission: Impossible has the scope to be rebooted and is set up in such a way that other characters can be introduced without the need to recast existing ones. There has been a suggestion that William Brandt (Jeremy Renner) introduced in the latest film Ghost Protocol has been suggested as a replacement for Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) but is it the new Bond? Probably not but it does lead on nicely to Jack Reacher, a film franchise that could be the James Bond for a new generation. I am not talking about a replacement for Bond.

Dirty Harry Jack Ryan John McClane Riggs and Murtaugh

Bond as a character is showing no sign of going anywhere but that doesn’t mean there isn’t space for a new action hero franchise. The screen incarnation of Bond has been with us for fifty years, longer than most people who read this article have been alive. It has always updated itself in an effort to stay relevant but is at its best when it has one foot in the past as M said in Golden eye “I think you’re a sexist, misogynist dinosaur. A relic of the Cold War”. This is why there is room for a new hero one who, one conceived in a world after Vietnam, the cold war and 9/11. I’m not totally convinced that that character is Jack Reacher but it stands a chance. The controversy over the casting of Tom Cruise who is too old and too short (by ten inches) and worst of all too famous to play Reacher may just work in its favour. If cruise can establish the character over three or four movies it will have the chance to be recast and reinvented in future the way Bond has been.

Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher

Who is Jack Reacher? Starting with Killing Floor in 1997 Lee Child has already written more novels than Ian Fleming. Unlike Bond, Reacher isn’t a spy with the backup of the British movement and the “Q” branch. Reacher is a former military policeman who has taken to drifting around America. Along the way he gets into various scrapes and ultimately ends up helping people in a sort of Kwai Chang Caine way. Totally lacking any sense of remorse but with a strong sense of morality and a compulsion to help people the character is very clichéd, this isn’t a criticism.

Lee Child’s cameo in the new Jack Reacher movie

So will Reacher be the new Bond? No, and if the filmmakers try to turn him into the new Bond it will be a missed opportunity for a new franchise. Since its reboot a few years ago Bond took a step towards Bourne but always kept its own identity and that’s that Jack Reacher needs to do, forge its own identity in a crowded movie schedule.

  • Skyfall is released on 26th October 2012 in the UK and two weeks later in North America.
  • Jack Reacher is released on 21st December 2012 in the USA and on Boxing Day in the UK

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