Skyscraper is the yet another high-stakes action thriller starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. The story follows Will Sawyer (Johnson), a former U.S. Hostage Rescue Team Leader who retired after failed negotiation leaves him without the lower half of his right leg. Ten years later, Sawyer and his family are in Hong Kong while he is assessing security for the tallest building in the world—The Pearl—when a group of terrorists set it ablaze. Framed for the attack, Sawyer must clear his name and save his family who are trapped inside the building. This brief plot summary for Skyscraper makes it seem as if it is another rip-off of the influential action film Die Hard. Regardless, I still went in hoping for a fun time and that’s what I got for the most part.
On a technical level, Skyscraper is largely successful. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber originates from a comedy background, but his direction of close-quarter fight scenes has improved since his last directorial effort Central Intelligence. In fact, Thurber should direct more action movies down the line because his framing is on-point, specifically for the scenes where Sawyer is scaling The Pearl. Cinematographer Robert Elswit, whose body of work includes Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, brings a large scope that is basically required for this type of movie, which makes me even more curious why this one is not releasing in IMAX—probably because of Ant-Man and the Wasp. The interior and exterior designs of The Pearl are intriguing even when the CGI looks iffy, and the action set pieces that take place in the building are surprisingly creative—complete with appropriately loud explosions. Speaking of sound, frequent Michael Bay collaborator Steve Jablonsky composes a musical score that is not groundbreaking but still fits with what’s on-screen.
The characters in Skyscraper are where its flaws are most visible. The Rock brings his usual charm and energy to the movie but his character is noticeably underdeveloped. In Die Hard, John McClane is going through marriage troubles so we, the audience, can care about him when the Nakatomi Plaza is under siege. In Skyscraper, Will Sawyer has moved past his crippling injuries and is living a happy family life on top of his successful new career, so caring about him is more difficult. Although Sawyer is resourceful in several situations, his only relatable quality is his goal to save his family, but many blockbuster action movies are already victim to this trope. However, the character that I liked more than I thought was Will’s wife Sarah, played by Neve Campbell, the Naval surgeon who saved his life. Her character has a decent arc and she is more than simply a plot device unlike her two children. Roland Møllar is intimidating as the movie’s antagonist, but his character is rather forgettable. He does have a personal vendetta with the tower’s wealthy creator Zhao (Chin Han), yet it doesn’t stop the role from feeling any less disposable.
The screenplay of Skyscraper is not exactly award material but then again, I’m not judging it on those merits. Even though the concept isn’t original, it is still one that can lead to an interesting final product. Unfortunately, I could tell that the studio meddled quite a bit with Thurber’s script. For one, the set-up relies heavily on exposition; even when stunning visuals are present, there is still exposition to explain why they are so important. Additionally, the movie is set in China and many of the people who appear in this movie are Asian, whether they are actors or extras, which gives a clear idea of where this movie is targeted and will make the most money. The plot is also predictable and being a Die Hard rip-off does not help that case.
Despite the narrative shortcomings of Skyscraper, I still had a ton of fun with it and the audience I saw it with probably feels that way as well. Of course, this movie is dumb, and it knows that without having to be incredibly self-aware. Likewise, there are some moments of comedy sprinkled in with varying results. Even when The Rock is defying logic, he still appears more vulnerable than his other role such as Luke Hobbs from the Fast and Furious franchise. I would like to see more scenes where Sawyer put his detachable leg to use but the ones that exist are still entertaining. In fact, anyone going into this movie looking for a surprise should stay away from the trailers since they give away much of the movie’s plot.
Verdict: 3 out of 5
Skyscraper is a fun movie for those who are not expecting anything more from it. Fans of The Rock and Die Hard will at least like this movie. Everyone else should probably see a different feature this weekend (*cough* Sorry to Bother You).