When you get these older titles on new DVD releases, it’s kind of hard to decide how you’re going to review them. In the case of the Die Hard trilogy, by now anyone who has wanted to see it will have already done so and the only convincing they’ll need is what version of the films to buy on DVD. Not only is this new set, the Die Hard Collection, another collection of the films, but there are also the single and dual disc releases of the individual films (on top of that a recent, fancier “steelbook” edition of the first Die Hard film arrived alongside a myriad of other Fox films).
The story of Die Hard is hard not to know at this point. The first film is the quintessential summer blockbuster, loading in plenty of action, suspense and a good bit of comedy thrown in. There is quite literally nothing I could say about the Die Hard series at this point that hasn’t been said—at their core, despite their flaws (which show up more in Die Hard 2 more so than the other two of the trilogy), the films are just a ton of fun to watch. There is nothing in these films that are not enjoyable and saying otherwise means you were expecting something series from these films, which, while the subject matter is at times…it really is just an entertaining series to watch.
Since we all know what to expect from the films, I’m not going to deluge you with my thoughts on them—at this point, if you don’t already own the previous six disc edition of the films, you either don’t like the films or were, for some reason, waiting for this new four disc collection. That’s right—this new set, released to promote the new Live Free or Die Hard film opening in a few weeks, is a stripped down version of the fancy “Ultimate” set released back in 2001. While the 2001 set may look a bit dated at this point (the double wide, alpha style silver cases take up more shelf space than is necessary), the first discs of the three films are merely reprinted here in this new set. Everything about them is identical, down to the special features (including the extra scenes and multiple commentaries on the first Die Hard, as well as commentaries on the other two films). Of course, in retrospect, while the previous six disc set does have more special features, there were really no special features created for the DVD releases, aside from the commentaries. The rest was all cutting room footage or TV specials that went behind the scenes of the films.
Unlike the six disc set, however, this new four disc set does have newly recorded material, which makes me hesitant to completely write this new set off in favor of the old one. While the new material covers the three movies, we don’t hear from Bruce Willis at all and older footage is cut into the discussion of Die Hard With a Vengeance. Still, with a run time of near an hour, the two featurettes (the first, running around forty minutes, covers only the first Die Hard and includes interviews with cast, crew and the director. The second, under fourteen minutes, covers the other two films and consists mainly of just words from the directors) give a refreshing take on the films from those involved that is more current than the special features from the late 80s and early 90s we received prior.
While there is plenty of space left on the fourth disc in the set, little is taken up by the extras. The under hour the retrospectives run doesn’t even fill up half the disc, with the non-anamorphic trailers for Live Free or Die Hard taking up even less. Ultimately this fourth disc does feel like fluff content, but it shouldn’t be shunned either. What’s included here is worth watching for the fans of Die Hard, but only the most obsessive of fans would truly put down money for this set again.
On the audio and visual front, the aspects are again the same from the previous releases. While there is some dirt and grain on the films, they still look good even by today’s strict HD-era standards. On top of that are the thunderous DTS audio tracks which bring the films to life. Though, again, if you own the previous set, you already know how great the audio tracks sound.
Ultimately this new set can be passed on if you own the previous six disc set. What material we get here is likely to be repeated on the Live Free or Die Hard DVD release as filler content and the curious lack of any mention of the new film by either of the directors interviewed for the past films leads me to believe there is a lot of unseen interview footage that will be incorporated into the fourth films DVD release.
It’s really up to the viewer what DVD set they want to purchase. While the special features for the three films represented on this set are adequate, there’s no doubt that the six disc set is still superior. If you’re able to find it (many websites now list it as out of stock), then feel free to pick up over the new release. Although if you plan on seeing the fourth film, a movie ticket to it is included with this set, so in the end the price difference may be worth it. It really just depends on how much you enjoy the films and how many special features about them you want to spend your time watching.
Recommended if you don’t already own the films. Skip it if you do.
Die Hard Collection arrives on DVD June 19th.