20th Century Fox
“What if a demon crept after you into your loneliest loneliness some day or night, and said to you: ’This life, as you live it at present, and have lived it, you must live it once more, and also innumerable times; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and every sigh, and all the unspeakably small and great in thy life must come to you again, and all in the same series and sequence—and similarly this spider and this moonlight among the trees, and similarly this moment, and I myself. The eternal sand-glass of existence will ever be turned once more, and you with it, you speck of dust!’—Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth, and curse the demon that so spoke? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment in which you would answer him: ’You are a God, and never did I hear anything so divine!’” — Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, 1882, trans. Thomas Common
“How can the same shit happen to the same guy twice???” —John McClane, Die Hard 2, 1990
Most sequels try to hide from their derivative essence. This holds especially true for action sequels in the 1980s and 1990s, where plots, characters, and especially catchphrases are recycled once, twice, even five times, exalting in the security of their cookie-cutter form while pretending their predecessors hadn’t done it all before. The Rambos of the world seemed to fit the latter answer to Nietzsche’s hypothetical; eternal return gave them superhuman power, and big box-office revenues. What’s one more sequel if it means a profitable new Paul Kersey adventure? But Die Hard 2 is no ordinary sequel. In almost every way, it embraces the former answer to Nietzsche’s question. Die Hard 2 and its hero, John McClane (Bruce Willis), both revel and despair in the poetic absurdity of the story’s premise.