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Skyscraper – Movie Review

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Skyscraper – Movie Review

Rating: D+ (Bad)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Universal Pictures

Action movies in the 1990s were often pitched to studio executives as Die Hard, but with a different setting. One imagines Skyscraper was produced with a similar mindset, this time mixing the iconic Bruce Willis vehicle with The Towering Inferno. There was potential here for an entertaining, brainless action spectacle for Dwayne Johnson. Unfortunately, every aspect of Skyscraper feels corporately manipulated and that creates a lack of excitement or suspense. Every story beat is telegraphed and the screenplay has been dialed down to appeal to the broadest possible audience. Despite the best efforts of Johnson and the visual effects team, this becomes a dull experience lacking in much invention.

Johnson is a talented and likeable actor, but that is the only reason to care about him and his predicament in Skyscraper. There’s no proper characterization given to Johnson’s Will Sawyer or anyone else. The antagonists are obvious from the second they appear on-screen and Neve Campbell is mostly relegated to playing the standard wife role. There is not a single surprise in Skyscraper. Director/writer Rawson Marshall Thurber unsubtly emphasizes key parts of this high-tech building early on that will obviously come into play later. The film’s unoriginality even extends to whole scenes borrowed heavily from Die Hard. While there is potential in showing Sawyer overcoming the odds as a disabled army veteran, that aspect of his character is hardly touched upon.

The action scenes are fairly routine and lack the required tension, even in moments when Sawyer is hanging on for dear life. There is never a point where he feels like he is truly in danger. Oddly, the most disappointing aspect of Skyscraper is how underwhelming the fire feels. The visual effects artists do a superb job of creating the flames that engulf the top half of the building. However, it’s hard not to compare the fire to the one in The Towering Inferno, which seemed to have a mind of its own and leaped out at characters when it seemed like things were going their way.

Everything in Skyscraper seems tailor made to appeal to a large intentional audience. The screenplay never trusts the viewer to follow along, so Sawyer begins describing exactly what he is doing on screen. The movie is also part of a recent trend in Hollywood blockbusters of re-shaping their films to pander to China, the second largest film market in the world. The film is set in Hong Kong and a quarter of the dialogue is spoken in Chinese. There is nothing wrong with appealing to a specific country’s tastes, but it also creates a cynical element that is hard to shake when watching one of these American films try so hard to capture the Chinese Yuan.

The blatant corporate nature of Skyscraper would be somewhat forgivable if the movie was fun. Sadly, it lacks the entertainment value required in a big, stupid action picture. There is no emotional weight or interest in what happens to these thinly written characters and even Dwayne Johnson doesn’t display nearly the same amount of charm he’s known for in most of his other roles. Even though the movie seemingly knows it’s ripping off Die Hard at every turn, it can’t even turn that element into the roller coaster ride it wants to be. Skyscraper probably has the makings of a potentially thrilling ride at Universal Studios, but it falls short as a film.


Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison