Way back in 1988 when I first saw Die Hard, which is as much a love letter (albeit a violent one) as an action thriller – you may recall that John McClane (Bruce Willis) is in L.A. from New York where’s he’s a cop to see his estranged wife Holly and hopefully rekindle the fires of romance – it didn’t even remotely enter my mind that anyone would make a children’s picture book of the film that launched Bruce Willis’s career as a bona fide action hero.
But they have, and as you would expect given it’s drawing from iconically awesome source material, it’s a very impressive effort.
It hews faithfully to the film because after all how can you improve on cinematic perfection, and makes the point, quite rightly too, that Die Hard is a “holiday classic”.
“What, what?!” you say. “How can that be, what with all the terrorists and death and people falling in life-ending fashion from buildings [to be fair, is there any other way to fall? But I digress]?”
To which I would reply, sans quote marks, that the way McClane singlehandedly (with cheerleading provided by Sgt. Al Powell, played by Reginald VelJohnson) takes down Hans Gruber, played by the inestimably great and much-lamented Alan Rickman, saves all those lives, including most importantly Holly’s, and restores some peace on earth and good will to all men, when there has quite noticeably been none, is pretty damn festive, is it not?
After all, things could have gone quite differently had McClane not taken out Karl, and Tony – I mean, c’mon he scrawled Ho Ho Ho in bright red ink on Tony’s sweatshirt, with the terrorist even wearing a red Santa hat; Christmas PLUS my friends – Eddie, James and all the others, including most spectacularly Hans, and there would not have much deck the halling going on for anyone at Nakatomi Towers.
And John’s gift to himself of a rejuvenated marriage to Holly would not have happened, putting a dampener on his romantic plans for the future.
Die Hard then is the ultimate holiday movie.
That much is obvious from A Die Hard Christmas which has festooned its cover with holly sprigs and pretty yellow Christmas lights on its cover, which lovingly features McClane front and centre, Al standing faithfully next to him, and Hans and Karl looking suitably cool, calm and non-festively menacing.
Adding to the Christmas feel is writer Doug Horner decision to creatively channel the rhythmic flow and feel of Clement Clark Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, which begins with the immortal lines “‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house / Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse”, a rhyming scheme reflected in the first lines of A Die Hard Christmas:
“‘Twas the night before Christmas,
and up in the tower,
everyone was partying,
except one wallflower.”
Doesn’t that make you think of eggnog, chestnuts roasting and presents under the tree?
No, okay, fair enough it’s actually a little bit of a downer.
But then Hans and his nefarious gang arrive in their truck and the murderous mayhem with only man left to stop them in their tracks – the “wallflower” himself John McClane who, glass-cut feet and all, goes into bat for Holly and her fellow employees (except for slimy Harry Ellis, played by Hart Bochner, who is traitorous sleazebag and rather fatally, and permanently ends up on the Naughty List) and saves them all.
Sure he loses heart at one point, only rallying when good old Al talks him around, but he comes good, and Christmas, and many lives are saved falalalala lalalala.
How can you not feel festive with that kind of story, especially with Doogie Horner’s fun rhyming poetry and JJ Harrison’s wonderfully cute artwork to speed you on your merry way.
Granted, it’s not the kind of book you’d show to kids unless you want to replace all those visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads with bloody, bullet-filled bodies – I am guessing not but hey I could be wrong – but it is indeed the picture book for the season, a delightful retelling of an ageless tale that we knows ends well, just like every Christmas should …
“Bearer bonds fluttered
like fresh fallen snow
as Holly embraced her blood-spattered beau.
So Merry Christmas to all,
be kind to one another,
And, most of all,