Skyscraper should have a lot going for it. It’s a movie that isn’t a sequel or superhero movie. It also stars, Dwayne Johnson, perhaps the biggest movie star in the world at the moment.
But despite not being based on any pre-existing material, Skyscraper lacks originality, energy or enough humor. Its mere existence should make it daring (What with all of the adaptations and franchises), but writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber fails to capitalize on the concept by making Johnson an everyman.
After a hostage situation went south resulting in him losing his leg, Will Sawyer (Johnson) has left the FBI to start a small security company. His first big contract is assessing the Hong Kong skyscraper, The Pearl.
With Sawyer’s approval, the Pearl will open its residential area. But before he can, the building is attacked by terrorists looking to retrieve something belonging to the building’s owner, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han). Between this and The Dark Knight, Han should probably avoid tall buildings.
To make matters worse, Sawyer’s wife, Sarah (Neve Campbell), and their two children are trapped inside the burning building. Now he must get back inside to save his family and stop the terrorists.
Skyscraper has been compared to Die Hard, but the problem is that Johnson can’t really play the straight man. The reason Bruce Willis was so great as John McClain is because he doesn’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. He’s just an everyday guy trying to get help, save his wife and rescue the hostages.
By comparison, Johnson looks like a superhero. The amputated leg is a clever way of humanizing him and giving him an extra challenge, but by making him the everyman, Johnson’s charisma and charm are absent. This is surprising considering Thurber’s previous films are all comedies, including Central Intelligence which Johnson starred in.
In place of humor is the usual tropes: Kid with an inhaler, bad guys leaving the good guy by himself to plan an escape, and the dispensable hacker. There’s also massive amounts of foreshadowing in the first act that prevent any surprises from occurring later in the film.
The lack of humor and energy make Skyscraper a rather dull experience. And the action isn’t original or memorable enough to make up for it. Remember Tom Cruise climbing on the outside of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai? Of course you do. That’s an iconic scene because Cruise really did it.
Skyscraper features lots and lots of CG. And it all takes place at night. So anytime you see Johnson hanging outside the building, you can’t help but think of the hours and hours Johnson spent in front of a green screen.
They do make good use of his prosthetic leg and there’s a recurring joke about duct tape that works. Also a nice Die Hard reference.
By far the biggest bright spot of the film is Campbell. She’s a smart, confident and capable character and it made me think, where’s Neve Campbell been? A movie based around her character might have been better.
Rolland Moller plays the main villain and he has absolutely zero personality. He’s just another jughead who watches too much MMA and likes tattoos. Hans Gruber he is not.
The reason Johnson works in the Fast & Furious franchise is because that’s a heightened world where there are virtually no consequences and he’s constantly winking at the camera. It’s basically his superhero franchise.
Skyscraper is a by-the-numbers action movie that does nothing to reinvent the wheel. It’s like they thought they had an old-fashioned action movie on their hands and instead made something generic.