Skyscraper is the latest movie to star Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and has him single-handedly save his family from a tower full of terrorists, but does it stand tall, or is it a crumbling mess?
Sometimes, if you’re a good little audience in your 30’s, the Hollywood machine will use all the algorithms and processing power at its disposal to reach deep into the crevices of your teenage mind, suck out all possible nostalgia previously laid dormant and squirt it shamelessly across a 50ft screen.
Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, once the most electrifying man in sports entertainment and now the most electrifying man full stop, is Will Sawyer, ex-military, ex-hostage-rescue man with one leg, now international building inspector. Neve Campbell, sporting her best Sidney Prescott haircut since ‘Scream 2’, is Sarah Sawyer, ex-Navy, ex-surgeon and The Rock’s spouse. Together, they and their two kids have journeyed to furthest Hong Kong as Will is tasked with inspecting the tallest building on the face of planet Earth. The Pearl.
The brainchild of developer Zhao Long Ji, played by Chin Han who seems to be reprising his role in Nolan’s ‘The Dark Knight’, The Pearl is an engineering marvel and the safest tower on the block. It’s literally got everything. CO2, sprinklers, iPads, the lot. There is, however, such a thing as TOO safe and The Pearl, like the boat in that movie ‘Titanic’, is so safe it’s doomed. The measures and precautions taken in constructing the most secure building in the world, can, in the hands of a dedicated group of henchmen with a chip on their shoulder willing to execute extreme prejudice, become the very weapons that bring it crumbling to its knees.
On premise alone Skyscraper is worth a look. How empty can a soul be not to get even marginally excited at the prospect of The Rock and Neve Campbell kickassing their way through some goons in a burning building? One can only speculate. But if there’s a special, albeit secret place in your heart for ‘Con Air’, ‘Deep Blue Sea’ and ‘Commando’ then there is enough here to slightly warm that often neglected portion of your being. That is of course if you’re able to overcome the film’s consistent downward spiral from the absurd to downright ridiculous.
Yet despite it’s lurching and wobbly foundation, it does manage to deliver moments of tension that rumbled the nerves of the audience. One such sequence that smacked of ‘True Lies’ and parkour was particularly nail-biting and vertigo inducing. Even the downright bonkers gaffer tape climb has its charms. If Skyscraper at any point was taking itself too seriously, it’s not long before it becomes self-aware. Rawson Marshall Thurber’s penchant for the slapstick takes control as the film quickly flips from ‘Die Hard’ to ‘Dodgeball’.
It’s this lurching from the action comedy to stoner comedy and it’s shamelessly derivative narrative the undoes Skyscraper. It pays much homage while at the same time devalues itself. It fails in finding its own unique voice.
It’s bland photographically, with rushed, bare minimum cinematography. Many of the set pieces are more like video game stages in an isometric plat-former. Will’s obstacles are more akin to those faced by Mario than John McClane.
The supporting cast is dismally underused. It’s great to see Campbell back on the big screen kicking ass, but ashamedly she doesn’t get to kick a great deal of it. She’s supposed to be a badass ex-Navy officer and it’s tragic she’s not given a few expendables to dispatch along the way. Of all the outlandish predicaments Johnson somehow manages to navigate with a single leg, it doesn’t feel too farfetched an idea to see a physically fit and healthy Neve Campbell break a few skulls for old times sake.
Byron Mann’s Inspector Wu is another casualty, who seemed all set to step into the boots of ‘the friend on the outside cop mate’, but sadly never does. Skyscraper is, in fact, a multitude of abandoned propositions. There are so many baddies with dogs in the race and no one central antagonist with enough charisma to really match Johnson’s gravitas. Never for a moment did I consider things were out of Sawyer’s hands.
Perhaps this is a factor in why the prospect of the Johnson-led Fast and Furious spin-off with Jason Statham is so appealing to me. Johnson/Statham is almost the perfect cinematic feud.
It is however what it is. And what it is, is an entertaining Rock movie, that sits nicely in the pantheon of Rock movies. Skyscraper is by no means anyone’s finest work, but it’s certainly not without its merits, especially when it’s not taking itself too seriously. And if you can get with that, then it’s probably the best film 1999 never made.