Thursday, 19 February 2015

So-Fetch Friday: Writing a Die Hard Imitator and Getting Sick of Watching Them

I've still been short on writing material and haven't felt as motivated recently. I haven't exactly been able to post a lot of my usual content. I haven't found much material for reviews and I certainly haven't had much time to work on any of those academically-influenced essays I occasionally write that seem to have helped make my work stand out in the blogging community. Right now, I've got reading week, but things have been hectic and despite an attempt to organize a schedule most of what I've planned has been jumbled and disorganized. It's not an easy time for me right now.

This week I've been spending a lot of time watching action movies, particularly Die Hard on an X films. I've been doing a lot of this kind of thing lately, which has a lot to do with the fact that I'm actually writing a screenplay for a Die Hard imitator of my own. Drawing on my careful studies I have taken the "Die Hard formula" to its logical extreme, drawing on all the common patterns and a few twists of my own (along with some other action movie conventions: there's a bit of the train chase, swashbuckler, urban vigilante, and martial arts film genres in there as well). I can also take pride in saying that I may have also finally written a good Die Hard on an X film that has a female protagonist taking over the McClane role (very few attempts have been made, and by most accounts that ones that have have never worked).

We've gotten Die Hard on a bus (Speed), Die Hard on a boat (Under Siege, Speed 2: Cruise Control), Die Hard on a plane (Passenger 57, Executive Decision, Con Air, Air Force One, possibly also Non-Stop), Die Hard in Alcatraz (The Rock), Die Hard in a shopping mall (Point Blank, with a more comedic version being attempted in Paul Blart: Mall Cop), Die Hard at a beauty pageant (No Contest), Die Hard in a hockey arena (Sudden Death), Die Hard in a dystopian apartment complex (Dredd), and Die Hard in the White House (Olympus Has Fallen, White House Down). However, I've found one that I don't think anybody has done yet, which is Die Hard on the set of Die Hard; literally a Die Hard imitator that takes place in a studio filming a Die Hard imitator.

For a while I've been watching every Die Hard-influenced movie I could get my hands on for inspiration on this script. This week alone I've spent a fair bit of time watching them and I think I'm starting to get sick of it. I started by re-watching the original Die Hard, an excellent movie. That was followed over the next two days by my re-watching of the wonderful Con Air and the very good Air Force One. After that I found myself picking up copies of Passenger 57 and Executive Decision, along with Non-Stop (which I have been led to suspect is another "Die Hard on a plane" film) and I'm not entirely sure if I made the right call in doing so. So far, The Rock is still the worst of the sub-genre that I have seen, but neither one seemed to be particularly great. Passenger 57 was kinda fun and I can give it credit for featuring a black protagonist, but I felt the ending was a bit rushed. I was also a bit disappointed with the female lead, who seemed really promising at the start but didn't end up being used for much.  Executive Decision wasn't that great a movie, though it had an interesting interpretation of the "Die Hard formula" (it would have helped if that group had a bit more gender diversity instead of being all-male).

After sitting through most of Executive Decision (for some reason, I couldn't make it through the last ten minutes), I quickly found myself sick of these masculine action films and I've been hoping to find a few action movies that feature some tough girls in them. Maybe I need to re-watch Tomb Raider at some point. That might not be such a bad idea, since it could still help with my script. While watching a lot of these Die Hard imitators can help me get ideas for developing the story, watching some action heroines could give me some ideas for how to treat the action heroine protagonist of my screenplay. Then again, the fact that the main character is an action heroine should hardly be surprising coming from me. If anything it would be far easier to list the few male protagonists to be featured in my work than the multitude of strong female characters.

Actually, that's another thing worth bringing up. I've spent a lot of time talking at length about strong female leads, but what exactly makes a female character "strong"? I think it's an interesting question and one worth bringing up. I actually started on an article that attempted to address that question, and I really should get back on that one at some point. It can get really complicated, since in many cases it's a matter of context and what works for a female lead in one film might not work so well for another. There is also a huge difference in what might be expected from a strong female character across different genres. A "strong" female lead in an action movie is going to be different from a "strong" female lead in historical fiction or a romantic comedy. Perhaps I should ask you, the readers, what you think makes a strong female character? I think it might be interesting to hear your opinions on the matter.

Fandoms have been a lot harder to keep up with these days. I still have not been able to watch the latest episode of Agent Carter, which is a shame because it's getting really exciting. I've only seen the first episode of the new season of The Walking Dead, and it was certainly taking some dark turns (as if there is ever a point in the show that isn't doing that) seeing as it literally started by killing off Tyreese. I still haven't been able to see the latest episode of Elementary, either. Hopefully, I can get back on those soon. I've still been watching The X-Files, and can't help noticing that we haven't seen Cancer Man in a while. I wonder what he's up to while Mulder and Scully are running around investigating all these weird situations.

I have, however, managed to start watching a few things. On the advice of my peer mentor I decided to try out Hannibal. I've only seen two episodes so far, and not entirely sure what to think. I was initially a bit confused about its intentions, as the fact that it features a younger Hannibal Lector (who at this point may or may not be a cannibal, it's not entirely clear) but is set in the present day suggests that it doesn't take place in the same continuity as Silence of the Lambs. I also saw the first episode of this show called Banshee, which initially had me confused and uncertain but started to win me over by the end. At first I was a bit concerned about what seemed to be a predominantly male cast but it did ultimately meet my quota for strong female characters (apparently I have one now, though precisely what it is I'm not sure of). The impression I was left with at the end was that this show could either be really interesting or really stupid, and I wasn't quite sure which.

I have managed to watch a few other movies outside of the various Die Hard imitations, though it's been extremely limited. Most of you already saw the comments I made about The Fast and the Furious, and in light of the responses I got to that post, am considering giving it another go, perhaps when I'm in a better mood and have more free time. I did also attempt to watch The Imitation Game, but only saw roughly the first 20-30 minutes. What I did see looked promising, but unfortunately during the screening a pipe burst disabling the sprinklers and the theater had to be evacuated as a precautionary measure.

So on that note, I'll leave you to think about the question I posed earlier: what exactly is it that makes a strong female character? What qualities would you expect to find in a female lead that you feel would be most likely to make her work? Also, I would really appreciate it if anyone could recommend me some action movies with a tough female protagonist.

Around the Internet

  • Kristina Dijan announces the return of The Great Villain Blogathon. I'll have to get on this once I finish my classes in March. It's going to be a tough choice.
  • Brittani Burnham discusses the 2015 Oscars and who she thinks will win vs. who she thinks should win.


  1. I know it's rather obvious, but aren't the Alien movies pretty much Die Hard on a spaceship? And, like, Ripley is pretty kick ass.

    I think what makes any great female lead stand out is an emotional angle, but not one that is overworked. Give her a soul and don't make her some robotic stock character. I like the idea you came up with.

    1. Ripley is pretty good, but I'm not entirely sure I'd call Alien and its sequels "Die Hard on a spaceship". For one thing, the first two installments were released before Die Hard, but if anything the plot is more like reverse Die Hard. Instead of one character making a stand against a large group of dangerous men, its the lone character stalking and killing the heroes. At least that's the first, second, and fourth films. Maybe the third has more of the "Die Hard" elements?

  2. Thanks for participating in So Fetch Friday again! I know how hard it is to write and blog; my College Math online class started this week so its double the homework/effort.
    I haven't seen Die Hard in such a long time! Your script sounds exciting!
    This week, I caught Agent Carter. I was surprised by how much fun it was and hope it make time for it every week. Goodness, The Walking Dead - that show slays me.

    1. I hope so. It still needs a lot of revision but it certainly has potential to be something really good. I've been trying to stay optimistic about watching these "Die Hard on an X" films, since one thing that has occurred to me is that even the bad ones like The Rock still can give me ideas, in this case for the movie that is being shot within the movie (the director is most definitely not an extremely unsubtle jab at Michael Bay) and I can learn a few things about what not to do when writing an action film.

      I'm hoping maybe some time during the weekend I can catch the latest episode of Agent Carter, and the Walking Dead. Either way it should be interesting.

  3. I would be on overdrive if i watched that many films with a similar theme:) Lara croft films are examples as well as Mr. & Mrs. Smith. Actually many films that Angelina Jolie is in shows kick ass women. I think of Fay Dunaway in Network but she is just a bitch and so that doesn't quite work because strong women should not all be bitches. Gun Crazy is another strong female although she is lusting for blood. I think if they show women in men's roles, give them the same style, intelligence, compassion and strength but without showing their T & A-that would be great

    1. That's true. Maybe I should just go on Netflix and see what they have in the way of Angelina Jolie films. Gun Crazy might be worth checking out at some point as well. Seeing that sort of dynamic in a woman is unusual, especially for a movie made in the 50's, so that could be interesting.

      I think that's a good interpretation of a strong female character. Unless the movie is actually about sex or features strong sexual themes avoiding certain body parts is usually a good idea. Muscles, however, I would say are fair game. Showing off a woman's muscles is alright since the same thing is often done with men.