Warning, this isn’t exactly a spoiler free review. You have been warned…
Skyscraper has all the hallmarks of a generic PG-13 blockbuster. Terrorist organization out to cause mayhem? Check! Kid characters that serve as a motivation for the protagonist to come save them? Check! People being shot with nary a drop of blood to be seen? Double check! This is your standard PG-13 action extravaganza through and through, made with no heart or passion and only for the sole purpose of cashing in at the box office. You see this particular kind of flick all the time during the summer season; to me they’re soulless money grabbing production line goods.
However, I will give Skyscraper this. The opening segment genuinely shocked me. I really wasn’t expecting a pg-13 blockbuster of all sorts to show, not one, but three kids getting killed off. I mean sure, there wasn’t any blood or anything of the sort, but it was something out of the norm. Usually kids are safe in pg-13 flicks (can’t say the same for animals though), so to show one perishing is kind of a rarity. So, this is actually a good way to open the film, because it sets up The Rock’s kids as actual targets that could die at any point. It even led me to believe that the film was set up to be r-rated, but because of studio involvement, got the pg-13 label on it instead.
I’m not kidding when I say this, but Skyscraper is also a freakin’ ‘Die Hard’ rip off. The synopsis is basically our main character getting trapped in a building with terrorists inside. Its ‘Die Hard’ in a nutshell. Except, instead of being set in an office building during Christmas, it’s a towering skyscraper in Hong Kong. And despite this, it tries to replicate everything ‘Die Hard’ did, wrong.
Let’s take the story for instance. Its dumb. It’s so incredibly dumb that it doesn’t even try to hide its flaws. One of these glaring flaws is with the design of the building itself. Apparently, the tallest structure in the world, with quite possibly the most advanced technology, has a security system that’s about as functional as a video camera without a screen. A group of terrorists managed to crack open a hole in the wall and sneak in without anyone in the building realizing it. If that happened in any ordinary top secret super structure on the planet, these guys would be detected within seconds. But no. Somehow, they’re able to breach the building’s security defences unnoticed. No alarms or anything.
‘Die Hard’ also has better characters than Skyscraper does. John McClane is basically depicted as your everyman, meaning that we actually relate to him during more tense moments. He isn’t some super soldier, or some suave secret agent, he’s just like you or me. He’s vulnerable, and at times is even shown struggling to survive against uneven numbers. With Sawyer, its different. The guy is literally played by Dwayne the Rock Johnson, aka that one actor now pigeonholed into every role involving a steroid filled badass. The guy is built like The Hulk, with massive pecs and sturdy muscles outlining his burly arms. He looks like the type of individual that can punch holes through people’s faces with simply his fists. It also doesn’t help that he’s a former member of the Navy Seals. With McClane, he’s a deadbeat cop. Sure, he has a few tricks up his sleeves, being a cop and all, but you can feel just how outnumbered he is against a whole group of terrorists. In Skyscraper, it’s a terrorist organization vs some musclebound superman. There’s no tension here as Sawyer can just punch his way out of trouble. Also, McClane has personality and depth to his character. He gives us a reason to care. Sawyer has a personality that’s equivalent to that of a rock. And unless you have a rock as a pet, I see no reason to give a crap.
The rest of the cast is forgettable. Sarah, Will Sawyer’s wife, is about as bland as her own husband and is basically an idiot for taking her kids into a building whose security systems haven’t been fully checked yet. Sawyer’s son is made to have asthma, but it relies on Hollywood logic in the sense that it activates when the plot calls for it. In fact, it barely has any impact on the overall story. Its just a gimmick to mislead viewers into actually caring about him. Not once in the film did he ever feel like he was on the verge of death. Also, he’s some person with asthma in a burning building. You would have thought it would trigger an attack in him so life threatening, that he would literally faint the moment smoke started seeping into the very rooms. His daughter basically serves as the film’s damsel in distress, as in she always is shown being captured. And that’s all she’s there for, just to be captured by the baddies. The cops are dumb as bricks, in the sense that they barely do anything but stall the protagonist from saving the day. I mean, how stupid do you have to be to blame everything on Sawyer, when its clear that there were terrorists shooting at both him and at the police?
The motivation for the terrorists flat out makes zero sense. Basically, its been established that their whole mission all along is to capture a device held by the architect of the skyscraper, one that would wipe out their entire identities. Two of their men are disguised as close associates of Ji, so you would have thought that all they had to do, was to just assassinate the guy? Nope, instead they go through all the trouble to try and demolish the building. Wha… why the fuck couldn’t you like… I dunno… steal the damn thing? Must have been such a massive waste of time for something that could have taken minutes to accomplish. Also, why couldn’t they have instead just captured Sawyer? He’s the only person that can activate the tablet and without him, they’re basically screwed. But nope, instead at the first of the film they just send in some lackie to snatch it from his bag.
So, what about the rest you ask? The music? Generic, blockbuster fare that you can find in literally any B-grade action flick on the face of the earth. The visuals? The skyscraper itself is given a lot of care and attention towards its designs, making it seem polished and cutting edge. But when you think about it, it basically looks like a taller version of the Shanghai Tower. Its design may seem futuristic and appealing in the end, but its no where near as creative as you’d think. The action? Boring to look at. Director Rawson Marshall Thurber is clearly suited for comedies, given that his action sequences are about as fun as watching toilet paper unravel. If you’ve watched any action film from Brad Peyton, Roland Emmerich or Brett Ratner, then you’ve basically seen it all.
And you know what hurts the most? This film is intentionally made simply to appeal to the Asian market. I mean its obvious isn’t it? The Rock is a beloved superstar, and his outings in the ‘Fast & Furious’ movies have made him a name for himself in Asian countries. The film also takes place in an Asian territory, features an Asian cast, and is pretty much a disaster movie to boot (the type of film that does wonders at the Chinese box office). Considering China’s obsession with skyscrapers, who would even expect this to fail there? Well tough luck to the filmmakers, this film bombed domestically.
Skyscraper is an assembly line blockbuster that exists solely to capitalize on the International film market. With a barely cobbled together story, a cluster of bland one note characters, and a large amount of plot holes, all the film has going for it are the visual effects which are commonplace in blockbusters of this pedigree. ‘San Andreas,’ ‘Rampage,’ ‘Jumanji 2,’ ‘Journey 2,’ they’re all the same. If you like seeing The Rock fight himself out of situations that no ordinary human being can survive in, then you’ll find some semblance of enjoyment here. But, from my point of view, there are much, much better movies out there to spend your time on.
Final Verdict: 3/10