‘Skyscraper’ Review: Lofty Premise, Rocky Delivery

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson stars as Will Sawyer, a security assessor who has been asked to evaluate the largest building ever constructed. He moves his family into the massive structure, not realising that his employment is a pretense and part of a scheme by a crime syndicate to force the building’s architect to surrender his secrets. They start a fire that threatens to bring the entire building down. The Rock must now rescue his family from the burning skyscraper and take out the terrorists.

The premise promises Die Hard meets The Towering Inferno

Unsurprisingly it fails to reach such aspirational heights.

Little care is given to the characters or pacing of the film. Director and screenwriter Rawson Marshall Thurber, clearly wanted to make a movie about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fighting terrorists in a big flaming building and focused his run-time accordingly.

The titular building is mostly abandoned which means there’s little peril to the disaster. There are no innocents to be caught in the crossfire, beyond Sawyer’s family. Surprisingly for a film that involves a suicide bombing introduction, there’s almost no grit here. But nor do we have the eccentricity of Die Hard. The action sequences aren’t audacious enough to be memorable, nor are the ancillary characters quirky enough to be diverting.

Much of the first act is committed to clumsily dumping exposition. Little facts such as Neve Campbell’s language experience and the idea of fixing tech by restarting it are fairly obviously setting up later plot points.

This is never more apparent than when Sawyer is given a tour of the incredibly expensive mirror room that serves no possible other function than to host the big climax. This sequence is admittedly visually stunning, if not a little derivative of Enter The Dragon.

We are assured early on that the tower is the most sophisticated in the world as well as the tallest but this never really manifests during the action. Once the fire starts the multi-story garden offers some visual variety, and the complicated terminal system gives The Rock a contrived reason to go scrambling around outside again but otherwise there’s not really anything here that you didn’t see in 1974.

When it comes to high story hi-jinks, it’s inevitable to recall Tom Cruise’s stunts atop the Burj Khalifa in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. As most of Cruise’s stunts were perilously real, they are of course more convincing and thrilling.

It’s fairly disappointing just how little weight the height of the building has in Skyscraper. There is, however, one sequence that sees The Rock clambering around a crane which does offer some feeling of vertigo, especially a heart-stopping slip-up.

Interestingly, the alternate dialogue was recorded for the trailer in which is seems that The Rock is criticising the building for being a massive death trap, so they’ve no-one but themselves to blame when terrorists mess everything up.

In the film, he praises the building as the safest in the world and it’s those pesky terrorists who cause all the trouble. One can’t help but ponder the motivation behind this change. With this change, the Film loses the potential human arrogance commentary.

The hubris as man recklessly builds the tallest building in the world only to have it fall apart. Instead, the film is clearly pro-progress and anti-crime syndicate. There are many sequences in the trailer that failed to reach the final film, including much-needed bonding moments between the family.

Skyscraper has a delicious concept and has some undeniably fun sequences but offers nothing new. Some more interesting use of the manifold elements introduced or more compelling characters would have elevated this above its goofy premise.

Two Stars

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