Dwayne Johnson has been a very busy man these past few years, from his fallings out with Vin Diesel on the set of the latest ‘Fast & Furious’ films, lending his voice to a demi-god in ‘Moana’, chasing a giant gorilla in ‘Rampage’, and last year playing a major role in one of the biggest surprise hits of the year, ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’. Personally, I’m less familiar with his recent work on the small screen, but I’m assured he’s very busy there too with the likes of the successful ‘Ballers’. ‘Skyscraper’ takes Johnson to dizzying new heights (literally) but still somehow finds itself on the same level as ‘San Andreas’ and ‘Baywatch’, in the fact it’s pretty forgettable despite Johnson’s best efforts to secure action star status.
Will Sawyer (Johnson) is an ex-vet who lost his leg during trying to negotiate in a hostage situation 10 years prior to the events of the film. Sawyer is now the head of security for the world’s tallest skyscraper, ‘The Pearl’. Sawyer’s family currently reside in the tower whilst he works on the building and they’re the only people to do so other than the skyscraper’s creator and owner, Zhao Long Ji (Han). When a group of terrorists set the 96th floor ablaze, Johnson does everything in his power to get back into the burning skyscraper to rescue his wife (Campbell), son and daughter.
Once again, Johnson puts everything he has into this film and his charm and charisma shine (which is what we’ve now come to expect from him), but this time it just isn’t enough to save this towering inferno of a mess. The action in this blockbuster is few and far between, with the highlight action piece coming just before the start of the second act which involves Johnson hopping around a kitchen trying to fend off an attacker. It’s a well-choreographed fight in a tiny space, which had given me hope there would be more to come, but the only action sequence to really rival it comes at the very end, so it’s quite the wait for something other than Johnson running and jumping around.
The CGI for ‘The Pearl’ was absolutely stunning, and the building looked gorgeous in every shot. Thurber did a fantastic job capturing the sheer record-breaking scale of the building in some of the exterior shots, which included a lot of footage from helicopters circling the building. Likewise, the interior of the building was incredibly well detailed but it feels like we didn’t get to see all that much of it outside the introduction at the beginning of the film. My favourite room of them all is the Pearl that sits on top of the Skyscraper itself – and if you do give the film a shot then I’m sure you’ll enjoy the scenes that take place in there just as much as I did.
In the run-up to its release, it felt like the trailers really were giving too much away but obviously, we couldn’t know for sure. Well, they did… The big moments from the second act all mostly feature in the trailers, with some clips of the third, so we know Sawyer’s big risks will eventually pay off, which means the film lost its sense of danger for me and the ‘will he make it, won’t he make it’ scenes have no real tension or impact.
If you’re a fan of Johnson and his recent escapades then you’ll likely know what you’re in for with ‘Skyscraper’. You can really tell he’s a family man in real life through his portrayal of Sawyer, a man who would do anything to keep his family safe no matter what the cost. Johnson and Campbell have a great on-screen chemistry, which really makes the family aspect of the whole film one of its (very few) strong points.
As far as Summer blockbusters go, this film just about reaches entertaining levels. It strays in and out of the silly territory with some of its dialogue and Sawyer’s questionable methods, but because it never once embraces this aspect and instead continues to opt for a serious tone, you can’t help but put your head to your palm and shake your head a little. Had the film not taken itself so seriously I feel it could have been a lot more enjoyable, and some particular lines of dialouge would have come off less cheesy and there’d have been fewer eye rolls.
Despite a promising premise, the end result feels very underwhelming, with Johnson being the only reason I stayed sat in my seat until the very end.
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Pablo Schreiber, Chin Han, Noah Taylor