Last night I caught the end of Die Hard 2: Die Harder and immediately began to ponder the futility of man. Sure, John McClane kicks a lot of ass and says some funny lines, but when you look at the series as a whole, it's actually quite depressing.
In the first film, McClane is estranged from his wife, living in New York away from her and his kids. But clearly he loves her. You can see how upset he is when he discovers she's listed under her maiden name at work. And then when the building is taken over and his wife becomes a hostage, he risks his life to safe her. He applies the old saying of "walking over broken glass barefoot for someone" and takes it even further. He RUNS over broken glass. While being SHOT at.
Ultimately he rescues her and is reunited with his love. But as fate (and the producers) would have it, she's ripped from his arms again when terrorists take over an airport. Unfazed, he goes back to action and saves her once more.
But this story does not end happily. Sure, the MOVIE ends happily, but as we learn upon first seeing McClane again on the big screen in the third film, the relationship did not work out. He appears to us broken and hungover, most likely from staying up late and drinking alone while watching some softcore on Cinemax.
While I don't think he's suicidal, he's definitely lost all sense of self-worth. It doesn't bother him in the slightest to wear a horribly racist sign in the middle of Harlem. He doesn't care what people think of him.
And yet, the movie presents a sense of hope. The villain, while clearly not concerned with human life, does beckon McClane in a way, bringing him back from the depths of his own personal hell to force him to care once more.
So at the end of the movie, we're left believing that McClane will call Holly. They will get back together and be happy because that is what action heroes do.
It's not until the fourth film that we realize this isn't the case. Now McClane is a beat cop with a daughter who wants nothing to do with him. The only way he's able to connect with her at all is to literally save her life.
And while we're supposed to be happy that she's likely going to end up with the Mac guy at the end, the previous films have taught us that this is a false happy ending. Not everyone can be happy. PC guy might break her heart, and she might take her heartbreak out on her father. Or, if those two do wind up together, they will move away and leave McClane all alone once more.
So you see, McClane literally saves the lives of those he cares about most, yet they continue to leave him, turning him into a hollow shell of a man.
Thus the moral of the films is this: The efforts of man are futile.