Having recently fought a malevolent board game in Jumanji: Return to the Jungle, and wrestled giant mutant monsters in Rampage, Hollywoods busiest stack of sentient beef Dwayne Johnson is back to face off against his largest foe yet, the worlds tallest skyscraper. Mountains and small moons must now be shaking in their enormous boots, uncertain of where The Rocks overpowering urge to fight larger and larger things will lead him next.
Skyscraper has aspirations of being this generations Die Hard – something not even the most recent Die Hard films could accomplish – and for all its ambition is perhaps only the fifth or sixth best action film set inside a skyscraper.
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) is a hostage-rescuing FBI badass turned safety assessor specialising in very tall buildings, and finds himself drafted in to assure the owner of a soon-to-open skyscraper that his skyscraper can safely scrape skies without catching fire in incredible and dramatic scenes that would last around 90 minutes and thrill audiences around the globe. Its simply rotten luck, then, when a Scandinavian terrorist cell shows up to override the skyscrapers terrorist-proof safety systems and send the whole thing up in a blaze, with Sawyers family (Neve Campbell and a pair of kids) still trapped inside.
While stupid fun, this latest vehicle for Johnsons antics is at risk of fatiguing even his most ardent fans, who by now must see his bloodied and battered torso silhouetted against an exploding window every time they shut their eyes. Skyscraper lacks the tongue-in-cheek self-parody of Jumanji, or the cut-loose self-awareness of Rampage, and instead carries itself with a seriousness that makes it hard to forgive its faults.
Theres an over-reliance on CG set pieces, culminating in a ridiculous shootout in a very expensive hall of mirrors. Youll laugh at the script, rather than with it, when Sawyer instructs his wife to flee the crumbling inferno with their asthmatic son, not because the structure is falling apart around their ears, but because “theres a lot of smoke in here”. The actual goal of the terrorists is baffling too – something to do with a magic metal data egg – and unnecessarily overwrought for a film thats largely about The Rock leaping off cranes and swinging about the joint.
Infrequent moments of self-awareness, especially when Sawyer openly remarks on how absurd the entire situation is, bring Skyscraper back to the audiences side, but unless you derive adequate pleasure from the unbridled spectacle of watching Dwayne Johnson do a very big jump, its not enough to make amends. Johnson can sell these action blockbusters all by his giant self, but Skyscraper asks too much of its hard working action-hero, and has him biting off more building than he can chew.