a critiQal film review Skyscraper (2018)

Plot: Former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Sawyer (Johnson) now assesses security for skyscrapers. On assignment in China he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he’s been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family who is trapped inside the building...above the fire line.

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  • ...with a bit more original thinking and a more memorable villain, this action pic could have been truly great.

Although we hadn’t yet seen Rampage (2018), we couldn’t wait to check out the newest film from Dwayne Johnson: Skyscraper. Even though it looked like a rip-off of Die Hard (1988), it still looked pretty interesting. But would it be? Or is this one of those films that looked better in the previews?

Dwayne Johnson takes on the lead role in Skyscraper. Of course, that’s one of the main reasons people want to see this film. Especially after viewers re-discovered he could be funny in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017) (after all, he was funny way back in Be Cool (2005)), it’s nice to see him going back to his action roots. Unfortunately, his action movies as of late haven’t been as good as they could have been, but they haven’t been bad either.

Again, in Skyscraper, Dwayne does a good job of portraying the hero. With his likable personality on-screen, viewers are naturally drawn to him, and he’s still good at bringing them along for whatever crazy ride he’s gotten himself into. In Skyscraper, his character has a bit of PTSD, so he looks traumatized throughout most of the action sequences. His military skills come into play, but he himself looks frightened. Sure, he’s got a personal stake in what happens, but it’s still that expression of shock is still a little hard to watch for almost an entire film.

Neve Campbell (where HAVE you been since Scream (1996)?) plays his wife in Skyscraper. While she’s not exactly first choice these days for a female lead, she does a solid job in her role. She’s a loving wife and mother, and all of her actions are as predictable as they are heartfelt. A solid performance from her after being gone so long? This may kick off a new career for her.

In fact, the whole lead family (kids included) are well done. It’s the villains that are the problem in Skyscraper. Instead of the memorable Hans Gruber from Die Hard (1988), the villain and his henchman are hard to tell apart here. He just seems to be matched for his muscles to go against Dwayne, rather than for his acting skills. True, the film doesn’t give him much to go on, but even so, he could have made at least one of his lines memorable. And, since there is never the mano-a-mano fight viewers are expecting, why is he even cast in this role at all?

From the start, it’s easy to see the influences of Die Hard (1988) and The Towering Inferno (1974). So much so, in fact, it’s almost hard to think of anything in Skyscraper as original. Most of the action sequences are derivatives of scenes from those films, and the one that seems a bit different has already been showcased in the previews. While the sequences are still exciting, it’s really hard to not think of the other film sequences, and remember how original those felt.

The special effects, on the other hand, are spectacular. Whether it’s the fire raging out of control, or the daring stunts, the viewer does get the impression the hero is acting all of this out from impossible heights. But the thing that really gets impressive marks in the special effects department is Dwayne’s artificial leg. Whether he’s pulling it off to put it to use, or he’s swinging around with an empty pant leg as he’s trying to retrieve it, it looks so real viewers will be wondering if Dwayne lost a leg for real (he didn’t).

With some spectacular special effects and solid performances from the lead family, Skyscraper seems destined to be a classic. But, with a bit of a shoddy plot (obviously there just to get Dwayne into a burning building), too obvious derivations of classic films, and its complete lack of a memorable villain, viewers will find it might not be as good as they were hoping. Like most of Dwayne’s recent action movies, it has potential it doesn’t quite live up to.

Still, it’s not that bad. It just could have been so much better.

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