Among Varese Sarabande’s latest CD club releases is the deluxe edition of the late Michael Kamen’s score to “Die Hard 2: Die Harder.” Now they did put a soundtrack out to this sequel when it was released back in 1990, but that only contained a mere forty minutes of music. This new edition, however, has over two hours of music, much of which has never been released on compact disc before. The result is a soundtrack that pays tribute to Kamen’s unforgettable work on “Die Hard 2” and reminds us all of how key his music was to this sequel’s critical and commercial success.
Listening to this score in its entirety, it felt like I was watching “Die Hard 2” again for the very first time. I still vividly remember seeing this sequel in a movie theater when it first came out and it had me on the edge of my seat right up to when the end credits began. This is the rare sequel which proves to be just as thrilling as its predecessor, and it succeeds in combining terrific action with emotionally powerful moments which have you rooting endlessly for Bruce Willis’ character of John McClane.
Kamen’s music does repeat many themes from the first “Die Hard” movie, but he also gets more serious this time as well. Whereas Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) was a playful a villain as he was evil, Colonel Stuart in “Die Hard 2” is a cold-hearted bastard with no sense of humor and a solid determination to see his plan succeed. This is made clear in the soundtrack’s opening track of “Nude Tai Chi/Marching Through The Hotel Corridor” which illustrates how Stuart and his fellow soldiers are deadly serious in carrying out their mission.
Other tracks like “Crashing the Jet” and “Skywalk Shootout” showed how brilliant Kamen was in underscoring terrifically staged action scenes. The composer also does unforgettable work in creating music for this sequel’s more heartrending moments like in “John Picks Up Doll” which reminds viewers that even if stuff like this only happens in the movies, there is still a strong human element to the story which really sucks us in.
It’s also great to finally have the tracks like “Chasing The Jet” and “Fight On The Wing” available on disc as they were sorely missing from the soundtrack’s original 1990 release. The second disc also contains alternate tracks such as “The First Killings,” “Baggage Flight,” “Attention Dulles Tower” and “Colonel Stuart’s Speech.” But after you’ve gotten through listening to the music which comes before the alternate tracks, you may find yourself too emotionally exhausted to listen to them.
In addition, the deluxe edition of the “Die Hard 2” soundtrack has a booklet which has notes written by Julie Kirgo. She makes very good points about the sequel and how, while it has John McClane dealing with the “same s-t,” it differs from the original movie. Kirgo also points out how Kamen references Jean Sibelius’ “Finlandia” in the same way he referenced “Ode To Joy” in the original “Die Hard.” She also writes about Kamen’s musical education at New York’s High School of Music and Art and the Julliard School, and this includes information about Kamen which I was not aware of previously. It was very interesting to read about how talented he was at playing the “notoriously difficult” oboe instrument.
Looking back, it feels like Michael Kamen was somewhat underappreciated in his time. He created many memorable film scores for films like “Lethal Weapon,” “Highlander,” “Brazil,” and he even scored a James Bond movie with “Licence To Kill.” Despite that, he never won a single Academy Award for his work. Then again he doesn’t need one to prove how great his music was, and his score for “Die Hard 2” is further proof of that. Varese Sarabande has put together a terrific deluxe edition of the “Die Hard 2” soundtrack that shows how thrilling his music was and how much the sequel benefitted from it. It is currently available in a limited edition of only 3000 copies, so be sure to get yours soon before it sells out and becomes a ridiculously expensive item on the collector’s market.
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