The Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection has basically been released three other times with a few different tweaks since Live Free or Die Hard hit theaters in 2007. What audiences are getting that is different with this set is a bonus disc featuring seven brand new featurettes that retrospectively look back on 25 years of John McClane.
The 25th Anniversary Collection features three hard R-rated flicks, Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance, as well as the PG-13 2007 film Live Free or Die Hard. Each of the films vary in picture quality, as they were shot during different time periods and don’t seem to have been particularly cleaned up for Blu-ray. Excepting the special effects in Live Free or Die Hard, these would probably all look similarly fine on DVD. I’d almost rather have grittier picture quality when it comes to a McClane movie, anyway.
It has been much easier to see how the Die Hard films have continued to resonate over the years when this set showed up and I could watch them one after another. Ever the reluctant hero, McClane (Bruce Willis) hasn’t really changed over the years, although the problems and circumstances he faces have changed and the spectrum has grown from one building to a much broader landscape over the years. Fans may always be privy to the same old McClane, but they never have to go on the same adventure.
Partially, this is due to the variety of rich villains and side characters the franchise has traditionally offered, with only a few missteps. Peppering each of the movies are fan favorite performances, from villainous characters played by Alan Rickman or even Maggie Q to side characters that have lived on in pop culture, including Holly Gennero McClane (Bonnie Bedelia), Sgt. Al Powell (Reginald VelJohnson), Trudeau (Fred Thompson), Zeus Carver (Samuel L. Jackson) and Marvin the Janitor (Tom Bower)--the list goes on and on.
When considering the Die Hard movies, normally fond moments and characters pop up, first. However, the Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection offers the somewhat unique ability to view each of the four films released in the franchise in order, to really sit up and pay attention to the material, and to hone in on the deft dialogue, the recurring themes, and a few other delicately handled moments that make the entire franchise a cohesive entity. It’s really not just the, “Yippee ki-yay motherfucker” that holds the franchise together, it’s a lot of careful work by several different directors who believed in the character of McClane and what that character can bring to audiences time and time again. Whether or not fans have favorites among the four movies, I still believe it’s worth it to own all four.
It was a big disappointment that there was not a ton of cohesiveness between discs. The first three movies are set up with the same menu and formatting and the fourth flick in the franchise is literally the regular Blu-ray release just tacked on as part of the set. In fact, the Live Free or Die Hard disc was still sporting previews for The Simpsons Movie, which I actually appreciated, and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which I would otherwise have forgotten existed.
Each of the discs come with a set of bonus features that have been available with other releases. The first Die Hard film, for instance, comes with commentary and news reels, among others. With some of the other movies, deleted scenes and featurettes are available. With Die Hard with a Vengeance an alternate ending is even available. There’s more, but that’s the gist.
The Bonus Disc is split into two sections. Viewers can choose the “Decoding Die Hard” path or the Die Hard Trailers path. I actually chose the trailers first, and was happy I did, as I was rewarded with the A Good Day To Die Hard trailer at the end.
“Decoding Die Hard” is a lengthy set of retrospective segments that take a look at the making of the first 4 films in the Die Hard franchise, as well as other retrospective interview footage. There’s a full segment on McClane’s character called “Modern-Day Hero,” which discusses everything from Willis having firm opinions on his character to the gun click over the “mother fucker” line in the fourth Die Hard film that kept the rating at PG-13.
Each of the bad guys gets a lengthy segment and each of the sidekicks and most of the side characters are remembered during another segment. “Punishing Blows” takes a look at the action sequences and how Maggie Q’s big scene in the fourth film is the first time McClane has been evenly matched by a woman during an action sequence, which is worth a watch. Following this is a segment on the “explosive” effects. The most exciting of these is the discussion of the miniature work that goes on in the first couple of films.
While the retrospective featurettes are certainly worth the watch, the packaging is unremarkable and even features a piece of paper listing the extras on the bonus disc glued to the back. If you’ve been hankering for copies of all of the movies in the franchise, the Die Hard: 25th Anniversary Collection certainly fulfills that niche and even offers some worthwhile extras, but it isn’t anything to write home about and it may be worth holding out until the newest film can be added to the mix.