Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Noah Taylor, Roland Møller, Hannah Quinlivan, McKenna Roberts, Kevin Rankin, Byron Mann, Matt O’Leary, and Chin Han.
When former FBI agent Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) takes a lucrative building safety job at the behest of his friend Ben (Pablo Schreiber), he travels with his family to Hong Kong to assess the tallest structure in the world. While there he becomes embroiled in an international terrorist attack that triggers an enormous fire, trapping his wife (Neve Campbell) and kids in the upper reaches of the skyscraper.
Before we address the merits of Skyscraper, it’s worth noting the power of the film’s most impressive monolith; Dwayne Johnson. Here is a man who was the buoyancy aid in the floater that was Baywatch, dragged the mediocre Rampage to $425 million worldwide, and convinced people to roll the dice on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, so they could discover how brilliant it was. Here he reteams with his Central Intelligence director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, and despite all the good will in the world, even his charisma can’t prevent this from scraping the barrel, rather than the sky.
You can leave the Die Hard comparisons on the ground floor, because Skyscraper never pretends to be anything other than a derivative action film, it’s just a shame that it doesn’t thrill whilst doing so.
You have two of the most terrifying fears with which to scare an audience; fire and heights. Remember how in Backdraft the flames were given personality, crawling around the walls, reacting to the oxygen like a primitive beast? It was undeniably scary. Here, Thurber just uses it as punctuation to explosions, or a hazy orange CGI mess that never feels threatening, even as it ascends the building.
As for the fact the action is taking place atop the tallest structure in the world, you’d hardly know given the way in which it’s completely neutralised as an element of the drama. There are a couple of scenes in which Johnson almost swings out of a window, but it’s so inconsequentially rendered that you never get that lump in the throat, sweaty palmed feeling you had when Tom Cruise was swinging around the exterior of the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. It’s such a wasted opportunity, especially on the big screen.
Instead Thurber opts to turn this into a videogame, where you half expect an X or O to pop up on the screen to prompt your controller interaction, completing levels as you go up the floors to the end of game bad guy, and let’s not get started on his ridiculous modus operandi. Even when the final showdown arrives, it’s in keeping with the majority of the action, in that it’s so visually incomprehensible that you can’t really tell what’s going on, and is ultimately a rip-off of a scene that Total Recall did so much better.
Don’t for a minute think that this is just an out of touch, highfalutin analysis of Skyscraper, because admittedly there is an element of fun to be had with how ridiculous the whole thing is. Actors are wheeled on who might as well be wearing t-shirts saying “bad-guy” as an arrow flashes over the top of their heads, and one of the most vague witness descriptions of a perp in the history of cinema results in an immediate page one match on the FBI database. The problem is, this begins to wear thin after about an hour, or at the point when Johnson wanders onto a ledge and actually utters “This is stupid”.
As for Johnson, without who the movie would be destined for bargain bins across the world, he tries his best with the sub-par John McClane clunkers he’s given, instead relying on his proven charm as a leading man, and the interesting disability angle, which much like a lot of the film, seems to come-and-go when it suits the script.
Here’s the thing with Skyscraper, you’ll get a lot out of it if you abandon any preconception that what you’re about to watch is anything other than lazy and stupid. In terms of disaster movies, it’s not as good as San Andreas, or even Stallone’s Daylight. Think of it more as The Towering Infer-NO!
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Matt Rodgers – Follow me on Twitter @mainstreammatt