Will Sawyer and his family have been living in the tallest building in the world,”The Pearl”, built by Chinese billionaire Zhao Long Ji in Hong Kong, for six months. He is a security specialist tasked with assessing the safety of the tower. His wife, Sarah, is a Navy surgeon who met Will when she amputated his leg after an FBI hostage rescue went wrong. However, this family vacation is ruined somewhat when an extortionist sets the building on fire.
The more cineliterate amongst you may have already twigged what films Skyscraper has been “influenced” by, as right off the bat you can tell that the elevator pitch was Die Hard plus Towering Inferno plus China. However, Skyscraper doesn’t do anything else with its story. Skyscraper has a handicapable main character and it does nothing with it; there were times when I forgot he had a prosthetic. Will’s relationship with his family does not change. He starts by having a great loving family and it ends with the same thing. It could have been so much better if we see him struggle with both his leg and his family. It could have been a great story about redemption or pulling yourself out of a depression caused by the loss of a limb.
Another major issue with Skyscraper is a nitpick, but it is still something that I feel is worth addressing. There are elements of the film or references that feel like callbacks. Will says something about duck tape, and you wonder if that was in the movie earlier, as his fear of heights. These break the movie emersion as you are always wondering what you missed, what was edited out of the film that the editors didn’t smooth over. That and the lack of originality and exploration leaves Skyscraper feeling incredibly shallow.
If the story had been less blatant with its “homages” and focused on a personal story it could be more forgivable to have a series of bland gruff villans. We have a gruff leader who grumbles his way through the film and a standard skilled Asian assassin. Again if they were obstacles to the real story, of a father realising his true priorities as a father and husband, this would have been fine; these would be manifestations of their problems that the characters would fight to get better. But when they do fight it is cinematically unintelligible. This is nearly unforgivable for a film that relies on spacial awareness for narrative cohesion. It is especially true of a climax that takes place in a room that you see early in the film and you know it is where the climax will happen. It is a room that has cameras and high-tech screens in it, leading to a hall of mirrors type scenario. However, even when the mirrors aren’t playing with space there are odd edits and camera angles. It becomes painfully obvious that the people behind the camera do not know how to film a fight scene and we also know that the actors do not know how to fight.
The stuff is bombastic and unbelievable, but that doesn’t really matter because there is one element that Skyscraper has going for it that saves it from being just a below average action film with highly implausible architecture. That, of course, is the star, Dwayne Johnson. I have probably said before about how charismatic, and intensely watchable The Rock is, but here his sheer force of personality pulls audiences along and he sells how much danger he is in despite just being on a green screen. He has proven himself in other movies like Rampage, but here he is able to force audience members to care about him. In probably the big set piece of the film, Dwayne must scale The Pearl with duck tape on his hands and jump through turbines to get at an access panel. You know he will survive because that is the movie you are watching, but Johnson’s sheer likability and his acting ability made my cold black heart beat that much faster and the hands that clasped the pen I was using to write my disdain was a little bit sweaty.
For what it is Skyscraper is fine. It does its job as an action film that feels tense with a main character that audiences care about. However, due to a shallow plot that merely apes the movies that came before it rather than adding a personal touch, Skyscraper is now stuck at the bottom floor.
You can watch Skyscraper in cinemas now