It’s exactly what it sets out to be; a big, hot, and loud popcorn movie. Skyscraper does its job admirably. The stakes are surprisingly high, Johnson is as charismatic as he ever is, and the action sequeneces are gripping. This needs to be seen on the big screen to be appreciated, so watch it now or never.
What Works: Johnson, Campbell, and Quinlivan, plus some really breathtaking action sequences.
Have you seen Dwayne Johnson in one of his major action films (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Rampage) in the past year? Or, have are you familiar with him literally at all?
If so, then you know everything you need to already: Johnson is big, charismatic, and really pulls off being a father figure. So he’s naturally perfect for this.
The surprising standouts are Neve Campbell and Hannah Quinlivan. Campbell, who plays an ex-Marine surgeon and Johnson’s wife, kicks some serious ass. She is as much the hero of Skyscraper, fighting through the massive blaze and the terrorists responsible, to save her children.
Quinlivan, who is a complete unknown in the American market, is only in Skyscraper for around 5 minutes of screentime. But when present, she absolutely commands the scene. Quinlivan carries herself with the charisma of a future international action star. The performance was reminiscent of Carrie-Anne Moss’ Trinity in The Matrix, but “bad guy.” Look for her in future franchises.
The real stars of Skyscraper are the large-scale action sequences, which the trailers only give a taste of. Watching Johnson jump off a super-crane or rappel down the skyscraper is honestly gripping in an unexpected way. It might be due to the sheer scale of it all – this is a BLOCKBUSTER, and it wants you to know it.
What Doesn’t: Ironically, Johnson’s role reduces the stakes in a strange way.
The strangest part of the whole project is that Johnson almost makes it less believable, because of who he is naturally.
The most common comparisons since Skyscraper‘s release have been to Die Hard, which is pretty much accurate, except for one simple fact: Bruce Willis is built like a normal dude. So when he’s a normal guy who has to walk over glass to defeat German terrorists, it’s astounding. “Wow, he just soldiers on, this normal guy!”
But when Johnson does it, the thought becomes, “Well…yeah. Look at him. Of course he can jump off a crane, punch terrorists, and literally hold a bridge together with his bare hands.”
This isn’t to say it was the wrong casting, but that the danger Johnson is in at any moment feels reduced – you’re utterly convinced he’ll be ok.
Beyond the Screen: An interesting case-study for the increasing power of the Chinese film industry.
For nerds of soft-power and the politics of international film industries, Skyscraper is a gem.
The film is set in Hong Kong and financed by Legendary Pictures, a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate The Wanda Group.
The film had its world premiere in Beijing and released in China during the month of July, a move that is incredibly rare. July is normally a “blackout” period, reserved for domestic films.
The Hong Kong police force is shown to be very competent, and while they are assisted by Campbell, they are still very much in charge.
If a western character beats a Chinese character, they only do so with help, and that help is always from another Chinese character.
All of these little nuances make for a fascinating look at the power of Chinese financing and their film industry.
Skyscraper is an American blockbuster, but its bones and messages are Chinese in a way that hasn’t been done before.
“Global icon Dwayne Johnson leads the cast of Legendary’s SKYSCRAPER as former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Sawyer, who 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.” -Rotten Tomatoes