Channeling the spirit of Die Hard with some video game era grandeur, Skyscraper won’t be the cultural icon its predecessor was, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun for its hour and fifty minute run time.
The particulars may have changed, but the essence of Skyscraper remains the same that motivated John McClane; a man’s family is trapped in a building full of armed criminals and the authorities outside are none the wiser. With his back against a proverbial wall, the desperate family man must use ingenuity and never-say-die commitment to save those he loves.
Imagine Die Hard if Arnold Schwarzenegger had been cast in the iconic role instead. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson brings a lot more physicality and super-hero physique to the protagonist. Die Hard is a classic for a reason, and McClane’s position in the cultural consciousness will remain unthreatened. In twenty years, few people are likely to remember Skyscraper, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun watching the Credible Hulk leap, swing, and smash his way up and down a ludicrously tall skyscraper, remaining one step ahead of a raging fire (a towering inferno, if you will) and chasing the criminals who have set the blaze to cover their heist against the building’s wealthy owner.
It’s ham-fisted and occasionally absurd, but in a summer full of Ant Man and Wasp, Deadpool 2, and a jam-packed crossover Avengers, with a little bit of Han Solo, Ocean’s 8 and a Jurassic World, this isn’t far from the course’s par. Coming on the heels of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Rampage, this really ends up the third-most absurd movie starring the man known as “The Rock” this year anyway. Johnson smirks and glares his way through the role of Will Sawyer, US Marine turned FBI Hostage Rescue turned building safety and security specialist (this is apparently a logical career progression), with the same screen presence and charisma that has made him a household name as an action hero for the last decade. The audience can cheer along as he overcomes impossible odds with just a tad too much flair that consistently runs a little over the top.
Of interesting note is the choice to portray the Will Sawyer character with a prosthetic leg, a nice touch with a bit of inclusivity as we see a physically disabled protagonist acting at his most able on the screen, and it manages to do it without turning the leg into a constant prop. Aside from a scene included in many of the trailers, having a prosthetic leg is merely part of the character, presenting its own share of challenges, and treated with respect.
Where it struggles is in a lack of any really memorable bad guys. Every one of them seems cut from a familiar mold, and none get any real development. There’s no suave and arrogant Hans Gruber nor even a lunatic Karl. The bad guys are fairly generic, and aside from the one with the spectacular facial hair or the woman who stands out merely because of her gender, they’re almost entirely interchangeable and unremarkable. Their motivations are clear, though the plan doesn’t make any sense. But it seems like in the end it’s neither here nor there. They’re there to provide armed opposition to our hero.
Skyscraper is the summer blockbuster at its top form, and a worthy competitor for your ticket dollars and time. It’s a fun, well-paced, and enjoyable popcorn consumption exercise that won’t strain your brain or your patience with its share of laughs and thrills.
Three out of four stars. Skyscraper stars Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han and Roland Møller and opens in wide release on July 13th.