The bride and I finally got to "Live Free or Die Hard," which has been on our viewing list for some time, but which always seemed to bump against another obligation. The watching not only included a reasonable amount of over-the-top action but a few thoughts about James Cameron, and the parallels between "Live Free" and "The Bourne Ultimatum."
On Cameron first: The impact of the original "Terminator" and "True Lies" on the Big Dumb Action Movie is immeasurable. "Live Free" has a long section with McClane battling a jet fighter that's a blatant th-- er, homage to "True Lies." And "Terminator," along with Cameron's Yes-I-Can-Top-Myself action in "Terminator 2," made the Relentless, Nearly Unkillable Character an action-movie standard. The original "Die Hard" certainly made reference to the form with Karl (Alexander Godunov) making that final charge at McClane.
"Bourne Ultimatum," even more than the two previous movies, feels like a "Terminator" flick, with Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) charging through the film like Robert Patrick in "T2." And Bourne has his very own Terminator coming after him; "Live Free or Die Hard" also has a seemingly unkillable henchman who keeps coming at McClane until, well, he doesn't anymore.
But there was this other thing going on when I watched "Live Free," which was the way it and "Bourne Ultimatum" address the omnipresence of nosy technology in our lives -- and the need for two-fisted heroes to overcome it.
"Bourne" doesn't make the argument quite as specifically, since Bourne is also very techno-savvy. But he is pitted against every freakin' surveillance device in the known world -- and he's still smarter than all of it. And McClane does need techo-geek help, courtesy of Justin Long and -- yes, I smiled -- Kevin Smith against the brilliant, computer-bending Timothy Olyphant.
Alas, Olyphant is no Alan Rickman. Or Jeremy Irons. In fact, he reminded me a little of William Atherton, the annoying reporter in the early "Die Hards." But that is, in a way, essential to the whole notion of both these movies -- Olyphant is on a par with David Strathairn in "Bourne Ultimatum," smart, cunning, devious and with Biblical overtones (Olyphant is Gabriel, Strathairn is Noah) but not really a fighter; neither is a match for Bourne/McClane in terms of physicality, which in these movies translates into moral superiority and, eventually, victory.