You may have heard the name Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. He was the WWE Heavyweight champion. He showed Vin Diesel that he wasn’t the only one who lived his life a quarter mile at a time. He’s been the son of Zeus. He took on a tidal wave toe-to-toe. He also saved a city from a pack of mutated monsters, and he’s protected our beaches. But there is one thing “The Rock” hasn’t done. He hasn’t taken on the tallest building in the world, with one leg. Until now, because ‘Skyscraper’ is here, “The Rock” is one leg down and trying to save his family from a massive fire that is ripping through the world’s most state-of-the-art building.
Nothing about the promo material for this movie has promised us anything we haven’t already seen before as far as a plot-points and story direction. It admittedly has a very formulaic progression. It provides us with an impenetrable facility that conveniently gets penetrated. We get a group of cardboard villains. A skilled, but reluctant hero. Timely doses of sense-of-humor, and virtually every other trope in the genre. But it all works for a great movie experience.
Just because something has been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t be done again. Never is that more the case than in Hollywood. In the upcoming years we will see many more of these movies, along with more disaster films, revenge flicks, home-invasion thrillers, college raunch-com’s, and stories set in post-apocalyptic wastelands. Some will be good. Some will not be. But they will have all been done before. The key is how many unique elements are added to the mix to create a fresh take on this rehashed material.
I think ‘Skyscraper’ added enough of its own substance to create a wildly adventurous journey from a very familiar ride. Headlined by “The Rock” who once again proves he can carry even the most routine film with his charisma. I quite enjoyed the foundations to his character. We are accustomed to seeing Johnson as a larger than life hero, and this story does its best to ground him. To frame him as a man with a skilled past, but also a past he is haunted by that has changed him into the family man we see in the story. He’s a dad now, not a soldier, and I felt this backdrop was nicely built to sort of bring him down to earth with the rest of us to make the harrowing scenes later in the film much more suspenseful.
Sure, the story works extremely conveniently when needed, but when you have this theme of a story do you want intricate plot layers? No. Over explanation of plot-points is not a wise move in a film like this. You want quick doses of story to keep things moving with just enough validity to resonate with you so that you can invest in the characters and the deadly situations thrown at them. Something this script does repeatedly as one tense situation after the other is played out with a nice flow. Just enough development fills the gaps and we are back in the center of the chaos as a building burns to the top. Watching a man fend off bad-guys while trying to save his family. You know the end of the story but with so much going on, watching them get there is still a highly entertaining time.
Johnson wasn’t alone in this one however, with Neve Campbell coming in and delivering a strong performance. She was highly capable. She kicked some ass and protected her children without hesitation, and that dynamic to her character was another entertaining angle of the movie. It gave the film a nice balance without Johnson having to be the complete focus in the action department. Plus, she just felt like the personality-type that would marry “The Rock” and it just worked effectively. They create a natural chemistry together which made their relationship feel much more genuine. This, along with their energy overall also helped take up the slack for a story filled with endless plug-and-play character-types.
But again, in a movie like this it comes down to the action. If you aren’t going to give us an inventive story you must deliver some imaginative visuals and it certainly does. The technology in the film was utilized to weave some creative twists in the story-line. Added with some great digital-effects, they craft many immersive sequences that showed a lot of creativity and ambition. I was up in my seat completely engaged with clammy palms watching Johnson climb all over this massive super-structure high over the city for the world to conveniently watch. When he isn’t dangling off the edge of the flaming building, he’s dodging gunfire, and fending off villains with some enjoyable fight sequences to give the entire film a nice balance in the suspense department.
I thought the fight-sequences were nicely done at times with some gritty camerawork to capture the pure intensity of certain moments that do get your adrenaline pumping. But there were also some sequences of over-editing and rapid cuts that felt more jarring for the action than it did to intensify it. Pulling the camera back and letting the cuts last longer could have made for appeal in these scenes. But with so many other dynamics going the action and suspense is still more than enough to provide for a great time in the theater with a bucket of popcorn. It was loaded with action that will keep you invested. The special-effects add a lot of depth to pull you up in the air with Johnson while he’s saving his family and it does so while delivering solid doses of levity to ease the tension when needed.