If you are a fan of movie scores in any way, you can’t really go wrong with any of the Die Hard series as they have the right amount of excitement and thrills to keep you entertained.
Die Hard is at the beginning and end of EVERY action discussion. The series and its star are as recognizable as any franchise on the planet. Yes, I said THE planet. Many contributing factors have given this series so much staying power that even A Good Day to Die Hard couldn’t weaken its pedigree. One of the most overlooked contributions, as is the case in any great film, is the film’s accompanying movie score.
Die Hard has had 5 films so far, with 4 different directors. Admittedly, this can take a little away from the continuity, when each director tries a little too hard to put their own “stamp” on their film. This is just one of MANY reasons why A Good Day to Die Hard failed in every way. At no time does it feel like a “Die Hard film”, but more like a very expensive video game. (Sorry, I’m bashing A Good Day to Die Hard again, ain’t I?)
This can be a very dangerous trap that movie scores can fall into as well. Let’s take for instance the composer of the first 3 Die Hard films, Michael Kamen, who when hired to score the soundtrack for Licence to Kill, his first and last 007 film, Kamen could never seem to find a sound for the film, that didn’t sound WAY too much like one of his Die Hard or Lethal Weapon scores.
When Michael Kamen passed away, the Die Hard score torch was passed to the extremely unappreciated Marco Beltrami, who did such an admirable job on Live Free or Die Hard, that he was elected again for the franchises latest installment.
With only two composers contributing to the series, and with the successor making the obvious choice to follow the beautiful blueprint that was earlier made, Die Hard has not only created some action packed moments, but some amazing music as well. Let’s take a look at each score, as well as one of my favorite tracks from each.
Die Hard – Michael Kamen
Michael Kamen created more of a haunting score for the original Die Hard, while choosing to have his returning themes provide the “action” feel, whenever necessary. The film is brilliant and the only critique that I can give it, would be that because the film takes place on Christmas, it at times does feel a little too “jolly and festive”. The jingle bells that appear occasionally seem out of place to me. But, hardly any reason keep this score from being an all out masterpiece!
Score: 4.5 out of 5
Die Hard 2: Die Harder – Michael Kamen
This is actually my favorite of Kamen’s three contributions. The score plays such a huge part in the range of emotions that I feel while watching this fantastic film. Of course the themes all return and fit beautifully!
Score: 5 out of 5
Die Hard with a Vengeance – Michael Kamen
This is actually my least favorite of all of the scores in the franchise. Kamen gave us a taste of classical music in the original Die Hard, when he played Beethoven. Although he was probably attempting to find a way to tie our villain from Vengeance with his brother from the original film, by incorporating more classical pieces, I just found it very unfitting and way too much overload as it seemed to return throughout the film.
Score: 3.5 out of 5
Live Free or Die Hard – Marco Beltrami
As I mentioned earlier, I believe that Beltrami does as good a job that has ever been done, in regards to finding that fine balance of “making it your own”, while still paying tribute to the beauty of the original. Beltrami continues the themes as well as the instrument choices that Kamen used in his scores, which gives the score a great sense of continuity. However, he ups the ante, as he moves the sound into a new generation of action. While the original film score has a “looming doom” feel, the pace of Live Free is relentless.
Score: 4 out of 5
A Good Day to Die Hard – Marco Beltrami
This is where I may loose my supporters. While the film itself in no way resembles a Die Hard film, the score for A Good Day to Die Hard fits very nicely with the series’ feel and is actually my favorite of the franchise. Before you tie a chain around my neck and hang me, let me defend my choice. Marco tested the water with his first attempt at a Die Hard score. But now he feels at ease. He feels comfortable with Kamen’s masterful themes, after incorperating them into his own sound from Live Free. It seems that much easier to make them flow with “his sound” now. The feel of Die Hard is still VERY much there, but he has found amazing ways to reinvent them, so that they don’t seem stale after 25 years. He even incorporates a harmonica in this track titled “Jack makes the call”.
Score: 5 out of 5
And so there you have it. My review of each of the scores from the Die Hard series. If you are a fan of movie scores in any way, you can’t really go wrong with any of them. But, I dare you to put on A Good Day to Die Hard one afternoon, on a drive down a fast moving highway. You’ll be pulled over for speeding before track 5, if you’re not careful…