Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson trying to save his family from paramilitary criminals in an enormous building they’ve set on fire should make for an amazing movie. Alas, it’s watered down in that way most modern blockbusters are, but it’s still crazy enough to be nicely entertaining.
Ever since the first poster of Johnson leaping to his doom was released, Skyscraper made clear that things like physics and reason weren’t going to be important considerations, and this devil-may-care attitude extends to the plot. Like, Johnson’s character is presented by news media as a criminal who started the disaster; but whenever he appears on public TV screens, the people of Hong Kong inexplicably cheer him on. Then at the end, perhaps in a nod to Hong Kong cinema, a huge crowd of strangers cheers The Rock on for several minutes straight, with the sort of over-the-top enthusiasm usually reserved for pop concerts. It’s great.
Despite the extreme silliness, everything is played with an attempted seriousness that actually helps. There’s no winky, Snakes on a Plane-style self-awareness here. It’s genuine schlock. The combat-based action scenes are lacklustre, edited in a way where you can’t see what’s happening and certainly don’t feel the hits. But the vertigo inducing sequences of sky-high spectacle are brilliant. Yes they’re created with CGI and yes we know Johnson isn’t ever in any real peril, because he’s The Rock, but they’re still very well done and make for an occasionally tense, sweaty palm watch.
A lot of credit should be given to the visual effects team, who have pulled off a lot of lovely tricks in Skyscraper – like the titular building itself, which is super cool in a wonderous, sci-fi kind of way. I do wish the film had more of an edge and decent fight scenes, but it delivers the low-level thrills the synopsis promises well enough to recommend.