I texted a friend and told him I was sitting in on this movie and his response was “Oh, you mean the Die Hard reboot?” He was not wrong with that response. The premise, at least while watching the trailers, is that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is providing some kind of ambiguous consulting to a skyscraper that is the tallest man-made structure in human history. It dwarfs even the Burj Khalifa. The building has been designed and built in Hong Kong by an ultra-rich character clearly inspired by Elon Musk and touts having the most sophisticated technology ever invented–including an advanced fire control system (ahem, foreshadowing much?).
The first 20 minutes or so of this film efficiently sets up what we’re going to be in for during the film’s brisk next 80 minutes. There’s little subtlety and much exposition, bu we’re seeing Skyscraper; we know what we’re in for. It’s The Rock, after all. Unlike Die Hard, where producers of that film had serious reservations about casting Bruce Willis in an action role (an area where he had no film experience at that point) we know that The Rock can deliver the necessary punches and kicks required.
Neve Campbell makes a very welcomed return to a high profile Hollywood film. She plays a wife, a mother, and a character that can also pack a punch…literally. There is also quite a bit of Chinese talent that is utilized in rounding out the rest of the cast. This film has a considerable amount of Cantonese, which inevitably will lend itself to a huge international box-office draw. It’s nice to see a film that doesn’t cheat when it comes to languages spoken by characters–people are speaking what they would be according to the situation.
The action scenes are well-crafted. There are obvious scenes of heavy CGI, but it doesn’t detract from the entertainment and the harrowing nature of the predicaments our characters encounter. Alfred Hitchcock used to talk about how many of his films employed “The MacGuffin” to drive the suspense. I suppose in the Cold War era, this was a very useful plot driver. Even the modern Mission Impossible films still do this. There is no exception here. There are bad guys. They’re after something. Is it important or nuanced? No. It does drive the action, though. And that’s really all we need. Some of the most fun and crazy action films (Cliffhanger, North by Northwest, Die Hard) rely on it. It’s a narrative where, not to be cliched, the journey is better than the destination. We don’t find out until the third act what the motivations of the antagonists are. I’m okay with that.
Skyscraper is derivative yet fun. It’s nothing special, but it isn’t horrible. Walking a fine line, (which literally does happen in the film) it doesn’t totally tank, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table or any superior acting chops. It has elements where you think “yeah…this doesn’t make any sense…I don’t care.” There also were moments while watching it, I could quote the line a character would deliver despite never having seen it before.
Sometimes, we don’t go to the movies for a nuanced character study or well-executed cinematography. We want to eat popcorn, squeal during the harrowing stunts, and have fun. If you want that, go see this movie. You won’t be disappointed. There are a lot of worse things out there.