Skyscraper (2018)
Skyscraper (2018)

Genre: Action Running Time: 1 hr. 42 min.

Release Date: July 13th, 2018 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber Actors: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Hannah Quinlivan, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell, Byron Mann

 


 

F

or ambitious architect Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), the unveiling of his masterpiece “The Pearl,” a more than 200-story skyscraper in Hong Kong, is a dream come true. For federal Hostage Rescue agent-turned-security consultant Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson), being hired to oversee the building’s state-of-the-art safety features is a monumental opportunity to grow his modest company. But once Will is given exclusive access to The Pearl’s security systems at its offsite control facility, he’s attacked by mercenaries and his tablet is stolen. Acquiring complete control over the monolithic structure, Will’s mysterious assailants disengage all fire suppressants before setting the 96th floor ablaze. With Sawyer’s wife Sarah (Neve Campbell), son Henry (Noah Cottrell), and daughter Georgia (McKenna Roberts) trapped just above the raging conflagration, Will must somehow find a way to enter the rapidly burning skyscraper and save his family.

“The situation is extremely unstable.” The cold open, which sets up Sawyer’s transition from a SWAT team member to a private safety advisor, is tense, tragic, and somewhat frightening (particularly as critical information about a perpetrator is somehow altogether missed). It’s also set in a believable world – that of a psychotic father threatening to kill his children. Strangely, it’s the last time “Skyscraper” is even remotely plausible, though Johnson as a quintessential family man is acceptable, considering that it is one of only two characters he plays (the other being a loner with a troubled past and a heart of gold). Regardless of the role, he’s larger-than-life, both physically and morally. Here, his family isn’t quite as routine, as Sarah served in the military – and even the kids aren’t entirely helpless.

The majority of the film is the typical stuff of sensational blockbusters, with a heaven-scraping edifice full of state-of-the-art gadgetry, painfully generic henchmen (including the instantly slimy corporate guy, played by Noah Taylor, and an emotionless female killer who never flinches and acts as if immune to bullets, played by Hannah Quinlivan), hand-to-hand combat, predictable betrayal, and catastrophic destruction. It’s impossible not to label “Skyscraper” as a cross between “Die Hard” and “The Towering Inferno.” Rather than dinosaurs or rogue A.I. or earthquakes, this disaster picture boasts outrageous technology; not the kind that acts on its own, but the kind that can be hijacked, hacked, and manipulated for use in a glorified robbery. After the opening sequence, “Skyscraper” becomes a series of highly expected events, all setting up obstacles (always involving daring stunts) for the “common man” hero to overcome.

For a hint of originality, Sawyer is given a prosthetic leg, which might diminish Johnson’s intimidating figure were it not for muscular thugs and their machine guns – and the fact that the metal appendage rarely interferes with action-oriented daredevilry. He hobbles from time to time, and the leg practically falls off here and there, but when he needs to run, he runs, quite smoothly; and when he needs to engage in ninja-like martial arts, the handicap never impedes his victories. Likewise, when he dangles from the leg while suspended over precarious heights, it doesn’t appear as if it could be disconnected without a wealth of specialized tools. These improbabilities are perhaps easier to dismiss than the abundance of English letters that appear on just about everything in Hong Kong – from uniforms to computer screens to schematics to instructions for operating a crane. For a more realistic counterpart, Sawyer’s son has asthma, which is not only a sensible affliction, but it also surfaces authentically (though nonetheless contrived) when the skyscraper goes up in flames.

“How did you get into the building?” The potential for falling from towering structures is used for a few clever gimmicks, while droves of goons use excessive firepower to gun down unarmed technicians, and villains speak villainously to notify viewers of their villainy. Amidst the slipping and dangling and shooting, the escalating hazards and accomplishments graduate to comical proportions; Sawyer’s feats are laughably heroic as he tackles scaling the building with duct tape, leaping great distances, and climbing up or through impediments that look utterly impenetrable (such as the double-helix wind turbine that powers the top floors, or the spherical centerpiece room that features monitors that rise up from the floor to create a house of mirrors – a peculiar battleground with no practical application in the context of the film). And that doesn’t even cover the tightrope walking and free-falling elevators endured by his wife, the smoke and flames that roar around them (and all the pandas that surely perished in the atrium), or the murderers with heavy weaponry who stalk the hallways. It’s all terribly silly, but Dwayne Johnson has a knack (it’s actually his forte) for never taking any of it too seriously, which allows viewers to enjoy the outright inanity and the certainty that the good guys will win and the bad guys will die hard.

– The Massie Twins

  • 5/10