It’s easy to love a big, dumb action flick. You show up to cheer on the good guy, hope the bad guy dies in an interesting way, and rest your brain for a bit. What’s not to like? Unfortunately, ‘Skyscraper’ goes far past the “dumb” part of these potential blockbusters and forgets to actually have a story we care about in a remotely believable setting.
To no one’s surprise, ‘Skyscraper’ takes place in a skyscraper. But not just any old big building, this is “The Pearl,” the tallest building in the world. Three times the height of the Empire State Building, this monument to innovation and man’s triumph over building less tall stuff should be flawless. As we know, humans are flawed and therefore the Pearl is flawed too.
Rather, a group of bad guys are flawed, and are able to use the Pearl’s safety systems against it and against the few people trapped in this tower of fire. What’s that? Three of the people in this building aflame are related to Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) – his wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their two kids. Will is the one person on Earth who knows the building better than the architect himself, and he’s ex-FBI. What an amazing coincidence!
It would be easy to check your brain at the door and enjoy the inevitable explosions and close calls, but ‘Skyscraper’ makes too many baffling decisions for the building’s layout and for the plot in general. For example, why littler the building with machine-gun-toting bad guys, but never allow Will to get into a cat-and-mouse chase? Every time they encounter one another, the characters are just plunked together with zero suspense or strategy involved. Not that ‘Skyscraper’ needed to copycat ‘Die Hard’ any harder, but at least borrow the good parts of the film you’re overtly referencing.
The building also never becomes much of a character. It has plenty of weird features, but as they’re being controlled by the bad guys, we never feel like it’s Will versus the building; it’s consistently Will versus the bad guys. (The Pearl also has a high-tech hall of mirrors for no logical reason whatsoever. In fact, I could write an entire tome on the issues I have with the building itself, so I’ll keep that short for now.) Also, it’s truly inexplicable why, in an enflamed high rise, not one character ever acts like they’re hot. They can be closely waltzing past a flaming pillar without even springing a single bead of sweat from their brow.
I did enjoy the explosions. And I liked watching Sarah kick ass all on her own. She’s a combat veteran, and had done three tours in Afghanistan before meeting Will. The only genuine laugh in ‘Skyscraper’ is when the local Hong Kong police underestimate Sarah’s ability to speak languages other than English. The woman needs no saving. She’s able to fend for herself and her children.
Put bluntly, we deserve better than this. The Rock deserves better than this. Neve Campbell deserves better than this. Big, dumb summer action movies deserve better than this.