Skyscraper movie review: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson’s new film takes his hot streak – which began with Jumanji and Rampage – to greater heights. It’s loud, ridiculous fun.
Director – Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast – Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller
Rating – 3/5
A few days before the release of Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson put out a tweet in which he declared that while he respects everyone’s opinion about the film – good or bad – the one he values the most was of a disabled critic. The Rock proceeded to share a link of her review, along with a picture of the critic, sitting in a wheelchair. And that, dear readers, is why Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson makes the big bucks. In addition to making more money to act in and produce his films than any other movie star alive.
The Rock has also convinced studios to pay him millions to market the damn things, because – think about it – only The Rock could have made Skyscraper, a film in which he ostensibly takes on a kilometer-tall building (and wins), an empowering story about overcoming disability. In fairness, though, he really does wear a prosthetic leg in the film – but rarely does it factor in the plot, or even define his character beyond the odd limp or two. In fact, Skyscraper has some of the nuttiest moments of any Rock movie, and this is including the muscle-flex-plaster-break from Furious 7, getting flipped off by a giant gorilla in Rampage, and racing a nuclear missile in Fate of the Furious.
He gets plenty of opportunity to do his thing in Skyscraper, including but not limited to telling his children a variation of his ‘Daddy’s gotta go to work’ line, rescuing a wife in peril, and cracking that million-dollar smile – which, if you’ve been on the ride long enough, you’d know are the most important ingredients of a Dwayne Johnson movie. This time, The Rock and his special set of skills are required in Hong Kong – not because it makes box office sense, but because a rich Chinese billionaire has had his pet project hijacked by terrorists.
I have nothing new to add to my disdain for Hollywood studios pandering to the Chinese market, but all things considered, this is one of the least obnoxious examples of it. Sure, the movie’s set in Hong Kong and has almost the same number of Asian actors as the recent Sylvester Stallone film Escape Plan 2, but it feels organic somehow. Or maybe we’re finally getting used to seeing this happen and the studios’ evil plan is succeeding – just like how the Rock has brainwashed us into expecting nothing but serviceable mediocrity from him.
Either way, Skyscraper means the enjoyable time at the movies – it’s loud, it’s dumb and The Rock wears a shirt in it and not his trademark Under Armor, which, is as monumental a move as the thought of Salman Khan removing his bracelet. When the 96th floor of the Pearl – that’s what they’re inexplicably calling the super-futuristic skyscraper – is set on fire by some vaguely Eastern European types, The Rock must save his family – they’re inconveniently the tower’s only residents – from roasty doom.
So he does what you’ve seen in the trailers and nearly all the marketing material: he jumps off a crane and into the fiery inferno like he’s some sort of superhero. This and a couple of other actions scenes are especially well done, and director Rawson Marshall Thurber – who, interestingly is one of the few studio filmmakers who writes his own scripts – milks these scenes for all they’re worth, effectively making the audience worry about The Rock’s safety. That’s quite the achievement if you ask me. So we gasp in fear as The Rock scales the outside of the building not once, but twice, armed with nothing but his biceps and a winning attitude.
These scenes are the highlight of the film, which moves too fast to let failure sink in. Incidentally, Skyscraper has been shot by the Oscar-winning cinematographer Robert Elswit, who is no stranger to filming huge movie stars clinging onto huge buildings – he’s the man behind the breathtaking IMAX photography in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. And while Skyscraper is fun to look at, it can’t help but feel very heavy on the green screen, whereas Ghost Protocol prided itself on the practical stunts.
It is also disappointingly derivative. It borrows the hubris of the Towering Inferno, the European villain from Die Hard, and the family in peril from Johnson’s own Fast & Furious films. It sort of makes sense for Johnson to make such a blatant Die Hard rip-off at this stage in his career. He is to our generation what Bruce Willis was to his.
But unlike Willis, who by most accounts – mostly Kevin Smith’s – is a pain in the neck to work with and has shot his own career in the foot, Johnson’s reputation as a professional and universally beloved figure will hopefully help him transition into more diversified roles as he matures. And we’ll see this change very soon, in fact, when he cameos in his next production, Fighting with my Family. In the meantime, let him enjoy being an action superstar – he certainly deserves it.