The sky is the limit.
What’s that up in the sky? A bird? A plane? No, it’s a leaping Rock! Amid thoughts of “that should be fun for a movie” I opted to pass this one up in theaters - prices be what they are, and car limitations preventing me from catching things at the one remotely-local drive in. Then the reviews started coming in - a bunch of people bellyaching about how it’s not Die Hard and blah blah. Look, when I watched the trailer I had seen for this thing, I didn’t think “Oh look, it’s Die Hard remade with the Rock!” All that tells me is that I’m predisposed to find myself praising something people poo on again - but that’s what we are here for, to enjoy some cinematic joy for the duration of the ride. Keep note of all the fire escapes, it’s time we get to talking Skyscraper.
First and foremost, it’s another one of those movies that’s a modern-time sort of affair, so costumes are somewhat lacking for me to talk about. That said, they do still manage to distinguish the main players visually - you won’t find one of those Rush Hour “Ya’ll look the same to me!” jokes here. Even the crowds that gather to “watch the movie” have people that look pretty different from each other at glance - not that it really matters that much for the background people at any rate, but it’s a nice touch. The main villains are really only set apart in this way, as their given qualities and plot developments are limited to different degrees of minion. Oh you know, that skeevy looking lawyer guy? That bearded stupid guy? That chick with the punk hair style? The nerd hacker dude? Seriously, I’m not making this stuff up - these are all just observations. Only one of the villains is given a true purpose, the rest are just “under the employ,” but that’s getting less into costumes and more into plot.
The plot is there enough for a popcorn-munching enjoyment flick. Dude builds massive tower, happens to have a secret. Bad guys come calling to get a hold of the secret, random good guy and his family are caught in the crossfire. Good guy needs to save his family, then save the day. Bad guys get to take an express elevator to smoosh, going down. A lot of the main complaints I had heard about the movie were that it was just a less fun Die Hard - but here, I felt just as much time was spent outside of the tower as in, and the motivations floating around were somewhat different as well. It’s a bit of an unfair comparison on other fronts as well - Die Hard, for all it’s seriousness, was very much that cheese-layered action movie complete with one liners that’s a product of it’s time most are happy to buy into. Although humor can be found here in Skyscraper, it’s not from terrible catchy one liners, Twinky-eating cops, and an inept FBI. This one plays a bit more straight for the most part, and will be better or worse for it depending on what kind of a movie watcher you are.
The setting plays into this as much as the characters. Most of the pressure and danger comes from the building and the fire, almost making it feel like it’s part Backdraft at times - or perhaps something like Twister, where the fire is used like some elemental beast. It’s used somewhat smartly at times as well - throwing things out like “helicopter can’t get lift if it’s way too hot” and the likes. At the same time, the entire movie isn’t set inside of it either, the entire initial act when the tensions begin places the Rock’s character trying to get back to the tower. This provides both the somewhat bizarre humor of the “movie watchers” crowding around the streets and cheering for Rock despite having no clue what’s going on, but also a peek into the inhuman levels of strength and stamina of the character - this is an action movie first and foremost with how it plays things. Some nifty shots exist because of the tower, both before and after fires start raging. The fire’s continual progressions also helps add danger and tension to the scenes as things progress, much like a count down timer during a bomb disarming scene that could be found in myriad television and cinematic endeavors.
Part of that falls to the effects department - particularly the fire parts. It all mostly looks great, with a few spots that look a bit less than stellar. The first reveal of the huge park in the upper part of the tower, for instance, looks out of place from the elevator ride. On the other side of that, when the characters are actually there it looks good - probably because it’s an actual set instead of a green screen backdrop at that point. Still, other things such as explosions, the fire, and some nifty holographic room action all looks like a movie with a budget. It’s not just that stuff either though, as we get the Rock playing a character missing a leg, which gets brought up in various ways throughout the movie, as well as some decent burn cosmetics on him and one of his old unit members. Violence, despite the number of people getting shot, is actually pretty tame thanks to most the blood being removed for that PG13 rating. It’s still there occasionally, but it is one of those things where I don’t need to see red to get the most out of action in the first place, so it’s lack doesn’t really bother me all that much. When the actual fight actions take place, it’s usually not super long but still quite enjoyable to watch, and helps the pacing from feeling too out of sync.
Most of the entertainment value comes from characters selling their parts. You get the family chemistry quite well, even if perhaps some lines are overly cheesy despite how close to home some may hit for people. Turn it off, then back on again right? Gosh. The rock is his usual charismatic self over the course of the movie, in stereotypical action hero ways especially, and gets plenty of time to interact with primarily his family unit. His character is probably the one you get the best feel for over the course of the movie, and in turn his actions don’t feel like they are taking any sudden turns. The wife also gets to kick some butt and do plenty of heroic things, and both the two kids do a pretty decent job with their acting chops despite perhaps not getting the most screen time to do anything with. The villains are, well, kind typical fleeting villains that you won’t remember much about twenty minutes after the movie is over anyways. The acting jobs aren’t bad for the most part, perhaps a bit emphasized here and there - but they really just don’t have a whole lot to do with the roles they have, and that’s more a problem with the script than the actors. That being given, it didn’t hurt my enjoyment of the movie, but bears pointing out for people that wanted some deep finely acted power play between heroes and villains of equal caliber.
Audio-wise things are well balanced as is typical of most modern movies - surely something I’ve enjoyed more the longer I spend watching different ages of cinema. Actor deliveries don’t leave you grasping at straws to understand them, unless we are talking the parts in Chinese, at which point the movie was nice enough to provide my not multi=lingual butt some subtitles to get the point. That said, I don’t recall much of the soundtrack, letting me know it did it’s job without overstating it’s welcome or resorting to tons of classic rock songs I already know and have stuck in my head from elsewhere. The foley work is pretty decent, although there is one punch that sounds off - I don’t know if I’d go as far as saying it’s cartoony, it’s not that wacky, but perhaps it’s a reverb of shift or something but it just stands out to me as “that was weird.”
This is a fun little movie to just sit down and munch on some random junk to. It doesn’t require higher thinking, and really only asks you to just sit down and enjoy what it has to offer. If you go in expecting Die Hard, you’ll probably be a bit shook as to how much it isn’t that and in all honesty I hear it’s much more similar to Towering Inferno anyways - not that I’ve seen that one to comment on it. In the end, if you want a decently paced modern blockbuster, I feel this one definitely fits the bill. The main actors seem to have fun killing it, the characters are easy enough to see or guess by eye, the fire heats things up and provides a nice tension, and it doesn’t throw all it’s proverbial eggs into a single tower basket allowing it to be elsewhere and have fun as well. It’s fun and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome, and I’d argue a well enough option if you had a bunch of people over and just wanted to watch something enjoyable.