Updated: Jan 20, 2019
Skyscraper is a unique situation. On one hand, it attempts to leap as high as it can, causing an abundance of moderate action sequences with medium intensity. However, on the other, it is an average interpretation of genres of films that Dwayne Johnson is so clearly inspired by, namely Die Hard for instance. However, ultimately, Skyscraper falls short of what it tries to achieve, resulting in a bland, mediocre film that can’t truly justify its existence as a story. From thinly written characters to a legion of plot holes, these flaws are what persist and are littered throughout the film. It ultimately weakens the tall structure that Skyscraper so desperately topples together. Collectively, the film is an average, insubstantial experience that may feature an enjoyable performance from the always-charming Dwayne Johnson and a dash of creative filmmaking, but still falls flat on its face with poorly written characters, confusing plot holes, and a tactless repetition that is seen in nearly every sequence throughout the film.
As with many films this summer, the biggest issue with Skyscraper... is its screenplay. Like other films, screenwriter and director Rawson Marshall Thurber shows a clear lack of understanding towards characterization. Following a tactless and meaningless prologue, when the film properly opens, it almost immediately cuts to action. Throughout the plot, several actions or events occur just to lead into another action sequence. It feels uneven and more like an attempt to justify the ludicrous things Johnson’s character has to do in the film. Having such a primary focus on action leads to an insanely fast pace. Events, particularly towards the beginning of the film, fly past like whizzing insects. As a result, not enough time is spent developing the motivations or personalities of each character. No matter how much charisma and charm Dwayne Johnson may put into his performance, he is still ultimately left with a dull and practically blank character. The minimalist approach to characterization leads to a confusingly weak villain, played by Hannah Quinlivan. She has only a few lines of dialogue in the film and has a compelling introduction, but the film never continues the thread. Instead it drops it entirely, so at the end of the film, her entire involvement and the character herself feels out-of-place and unneeded to say the least. Even the family, played by Neve Campbell as Sarah Sawyer, McKenna Roberts as Georgia, and Noah Cottrell as Henry, doesn’t have any emotional residue at its core. This is a critical flaw with the screenplay as they are supposed to serve as the central motivation for our main protagonist.
In addition to the minimalist characterization, Skyscraper is plagued by a dull, uninteresting plot and a strong abundance of plot holes. Firstly, the film has been marketed as a thrilling heist film of sorts, where the tension would always be high throughout its condensed length. However, it is anything but that. Often times, the film finds itself in a similar situation it was just scenes ago. It seems as if Thurber was over-confident in the material he was writing in the first scenes that he decided to plaster it across the rest of the film. Most of the sequences, particularly the ones at the end, reek of a feeling of déjà vu. Even with some moderately tense action parts, the feeling is undeniable and weakens the film even more. Secondly, there is an astounding number of plot holes within Skyscraper. As mentioned before, certain improbable events take place due to the film wanting to include more action sequences. This is at the expense of a natural, sensible story. Certain elements of the film make no logical sense. With just an additional thought past the excitement of the action, audience members can discover just how ludicrous and ridiculous the story is, especially the resolution and the film’s abrupt ending. Ultimately, the reason Skyscraper falls so short of its goals is due to the incredibly weak screenplay on display. From minimalist characterization to constant repetition in ideas to a strong abundance of plot holes, the film unfortunately keeps the current trend of placing dazzling, momentary blockbuster spectacle over an engaging and riveting story.
That is not to say that Skyscraper is rotten to its core. For example, some of the performances show an impressive display of quality. For instance, lead Dwayne Johnson, even though he is given weak material, is able to propel himself as a charming and likable character even if there isn’t anything beneath his charisma. However, none of the other performances left a lasting impact. Neve Campbell as Sarah Sawyer does a moderate job, but becomes just as forgettable as the actual film. Primary villain, Hannah Quinlivan, is weak and never evoked a sense of terror or dread that have been so rapid in recent blockbusters. These are only a few examples of the mostly dull performances in the film, a shame because its lead actor, Dwayne Johnson, still does an impressive job even if no one else around him is.
As mentioned before, the film features several impressive action sequences, some of which even break the déjà vu trend that is present throughout much of the film, particularly a climatic mind-bending sequence towards the end of the film. Outside of these sequences however, the production values seem to be in all the wrong places. The CGI, particularly the work done on the Pearl skyscraper itself, is never convincing in both its architecture and fire effects. Not once during the film did I believe that any of the events were actually occurring. In addition, director Rawson Marshall Thurber, from films like Central Intelligence and We’re the Millers, decides to implement a clichéd shaky cam and minimalist approach. What that means is that the sequences are often nearly impossible to view in a proper manner and when the audience does manage to see something, any impressive blow or punch is blocked out the by the camera’s minimalist view. It’s a disappointing approach and indicates that Thurber is a weak action director.
Overall, Skyscraper fits most of the adjectives that filmmakers should try to avoid. Dull, forgettable, minimal effort, average, mediocre, etc. are all words that can be used to describe Skyscraper. A disappointing development as it has certain redeemable qualities such as Johnson’s performance and some creative filmmaking tactics used in the final act of the film.
But they aren’t enough to save the film from being a repetitive experience that attempts to build a sky-high structure with thousands of layers, but chooses to build its structure on an endless pit of oblivion.
Score: 3.7 out of 10
Global icon Dwayne Johnson leads the cast of Legendary's SKYSCRAPER as former FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader and U.S. war veteran Will Ford, who now assesses security for skyscrapers. On assignment in China he finds the tallest, safest building in the world suddenly ablaze, and he's been framed for it. A wanted man on the run, Will must find those responsible, clear his name and somehow rescue his family who is trapped inside the building...above the fire line.
What did you think of this weekend’s Skyscraper? Comment with your thoughts below and be sure to check back on April 13th for the official release of the first analysis essay on HBB Reviews!