Postclassical analysis Narrative structure

Perhaps the case for Die Hard as a post-classical film, Pfeil's remarks notwithstanding, is at its weakest when argued on the basis of its plot development, which follows quite straightforwardly the canonical three-act structure, centred on a male protagonist. However, as one goes through the act division once more, two features invite further comment: one is the spacing and pacing of the violent action scenes that intersperse the unfolding of the drama, and the other is the fact that the three-act division can also be 'turned', so as to be centred not on John McClane, but on Holly Genaro or Hans Gruber. Although the overall momentum of the action seems to favour McClane, each act offers parallel nodal points of development for the other characters. For instance, Act 1 ends with Holly admitting that she still loves John; Act 2 ends with her being taken hostage by Hans Gruber, after he recognizes her as the wife of John McClane; Act 3 ends with her having to part with the Rolex watch, symbol of her social status as a career woman, in order to save her life. The coda ends with her socking the journalist who had pried into her family life.

Similarly, it is possible to chart the rise and fall of Hans Gruber around the same three-part act division: his successful surprise entry, the discovery of a 'rogue' occupant in the building, the internal unravelling/decimation of the gang, and his fatal fall clutching a Rolex watch. Thus, the story makes sense from the perspective of each of the three principal characters, with the spectacular set pieces dividing the initiative almost evenly between McClane and Gruber - the action with the fire hose or the elevator shaft being all McClane's, while Gruber calls the shots (with McClane a mere spectator) in one of the most chilling scenes, the assassination of Tagaki, Holly's boss. The case for a post-classical reading, therefore, does not depend on the absence/presence of the canonical story format per se, but would build on the evidence of a 'layering' of the traditional screenplay, which opens it up to several players or avatars, allowing the film to migrate quite comfortably from big screen to the video arcade or the gameboy console. Unusual for a classical film, but again relevant to an interactive scenario is the motive-shifting of the villain: Gruber seems to change his mind as to why he is occupying the building at least three times, morphing from international terrorist to thief and back again to a man with a grievance and the brains and the firepower to act on it.

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