Thursday, May 03, 2007

Live Free Or Die Limp?

Aint it Cool reported an upcoming Vanity Fair piece in which Bruce Willis expresses his displeasure at the likelihood of Die Hard 4.0 being released with a PG-13 certificate. The implication is that a PG-13 Die Hard 4.0 simply couldn't be as good as an R rated Die Hard 4.0. This strikes me as incredibly weak logic, for obvious reasons. I'll state them below anyway.

The Willis dissents story has spread across the web and the consensus seems to be that people are siding with Bruno. Makes me sigh, I'm afraid. What on earth is the connection between a film's quality and the MPAA rating it receives? Aren't there a whole heap of action classics with PG-13 ratings? Yes, there are. And when Die Hard 4.0 fails to live up to a long list of them and it's problems become apparent, how many of those problems could be resolved by including more profanity or nudity or making the violence more explicit?

I don't see what it is in the Die Hard concept that cries out for R-rated material to succeed. It needs a strong plot, well conceived action sequences and to be executed with skill and flair. That's what it needs - not pandering to the pubescent and pseudo-adult juvenilia.

Having said all of this, if a film is censored from a natural, organic R rating to acheive a PG-13 for marketing, that's a different argument entirely. But, of course, Die Hard 4.0 is almost certain to have been designed as a mass-market PG-13 product from day one.


Ted said...

The original DIE HARD was filled with graphic violence that was sold on the humility of its protagonist. There's a reason why Terry Gilliam cast Bruce Willis in 12 MONKEYS based on the strength of his scenes of pulling glass out of his feet. The extremes of realistic action violence for the time, coupled with human depth, are what made the first one a blockbuster.

The second and third films shifted away from that and more to just having a hyper-chaotic shoot-em-up, but still managed to engage people (Maltin's assessment of DHw/aV as "all twelve chapters of a movie serial at once" seems especially accurate) on the merits of Willis' personality and the ridiculous stakes of the movies.

If we're realistically assessing the new one, I'm more bothered by the fact that McTiernan is sitting this one out than the fact that it might be PG-13. But what case could they have for making it PG-13 BESIDES wanting to sell tickets to kiddies?

Could GOODFELLAS be PG-13? Could ALIENS?

Capt Midnight said...

"Die Hard 4.0 is almost certain to have been designed as a mass-market PG-13 product from day one."

Which sucks. Hollywood has become more and more conservative. Can you believe there was once a little movie called Basic Instict with blood, sex and profanity. It was quite a success. Hollywood doesn't think anymore for that kind of spectator. I never thought someone who wasn't a studio employee could think this way about Pg-13 and R movies.

This "weak" logic you mention turns out to be pretty strong when you find out the three previous Die Hard saga was R (and quite a strong R).

Brendon said...

Why would this one have to be the same? Surely all we'd want is for it to be good?

Anonymous said...

How can you call this weak logic? Perhaps my American demeanor disallows my ability to be open-minded about your argument, but: are you off your rocker? There is EVERYTHING wrong with a PG-13 Die-Hard...(not to even touch the point he has a so elegantly stated elsewhere on the web, 16 year olds were 4 when the most recent Die Hard was released...this is not a play to appeal to the film's fan base, but a ridiculous stunt to appeal to the tween demographic.
I'm not sure how you can be so upset over the particulars of the release of Grindhouse and feel a pg-13 Die Hard is fine...and saying it doesn't matter as long as it's good is like saying it doesn't matter what i do with my life as long as i'm making tons of money. On the surface that may sound fine...but deep down, it's soooo wrong.

mATteO said...

I think that Vern has a really good point ,very well reasoned, if a bit overdone. Your post, on the other hand, does not offer any valid point, and smacks of snobbishness (what a suprise!)

droidguy1119 said...

Dammit! I knew my comment didn't go through.

Anyway here is what I said as best as I can resay it.

The Vanity Fair quote says that Bruce is unhappy that Die Hard 4 will be CUT to achieve the PG-13 rating. He and Wiseman shot an R movie and it is being edited to come in under the PG-13, which as you say is a horse of a different color.

The problem with rating the film PG-13, besides the fact that it would be in keeping with the other films (so many moments in the first film would be considered R -- probably the HO HO HO blood message on the dead guy's shirt, the death of Holly's boss, McClane pulling glass out of his feet, even the body falling onto the windshield, probably), is that the number of people who really want to see this movie who are under 17 are way outnumbered by those who are over 17 and would like a film that keeps the character of McClane the way he was, instead of pandered down to them simply because the trailer got a good tracking score. McClane swears like a sailor and simply hangs onto the bad guys while they bloody him up as much as he does them. That's what makes it a Die Hard film, that is the essence of the character. There are certainly action films that can succeed on a PG-13 level (Bourne and Casino Royale come to mind), but they've always been pitched at the PG-13 level. It takes away from McClane to make the film PG-13. It's possible he won't even be allowed to say his signature catchphrase because "motherfucker" is considered too strong for a PG-13 (although I bet the rules would bend on that one).

My hope is that Bruce mentioned it in order to drum up negativity towards the idea of a PG-13 rating and the studio will see their tracking scores drop like bodies out a window.

Brendon said...

I think there's some argument about what CUT means. Every film is cut - except those that are single-take affairs (all three or four of them).

I don't think this film is being censored to reach a PG-13, I think it is being edited with a PG-13 in mind. Different issue.

In this case, the PG-13 was the plan.

But still, I can't see why a Die Hard has to be R rated. I can imagine a very exciting, thrilling PG-13 Die Hard.

Brendon said...

Oh - and there's bound to be an unrated DVD. Not good news - quite exploitative. Maybe Wiseman was been ripped off as much as the audience.

Anonymous said...

Die Hard should be violent. Not in a lame "rated PG" way but at the very least in a "pushing the boundaries of a 15" way. But that's just my opinion. Personally I'm more perturbed by the fact that Bruce is bald in this one. McClane with no hair?!?! It doesn't seem right.

Anonymous said...

Brendon?? It's called DIE HARD. It means its supposed to live up to the title of being the most hardcore, manly action movie possible. The violence in the first film was shocking at the time, but wrapped into a very good film. The title alone surmises that the main character is going to have to go through some horrible, bloody, intense drama to succeed in the end. Also, John McClane lives hard - he curses, he hates terrorists, he kills people in violent ways when necessary (Icecicle through the eye in Die Harder.) Also, this is the end of the franchise - it owes its fans - %70 of which are over 18 - to make it like the others in tone and action depictions. Your opinion on this one is way off.

Brendon said...

"he kills people in violent ways when necessary" - I suppose that's the key to my disagreement with many here.

I don't think that is ever necessary, per se.

Besides, the Estevez death in Mission: Impossible didn't result in an R rating, did it?

The subject matter of the McLane films doesn't require explicit violence, nudity or profanity. It requires high levels of thrills, excitement and action. Those things, no matter how intense they become, can fit within a PG-13 rating. Witness Return of the King.

Of course, a PG-13 Hostel film... that's a different matter...