Dwayne Johnson reteams with his Central Intelligence director, Rawson Marshall Thurber, for a disaster movie set in a very tall building that is equal parts Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. You would think a movie that stars The Rock and is equal parts Die Hard and The Towering Inferno would be, at the very least, dumb fun, but Skyscraper is oddly dull. First of all, The Rock never even punches the building, which is a huge let down. Second of all, for a movie about a guy trying to rescue his family from a super tall skyscraper which is ablaze by 1) jumping from a super tall crane and 2) using duct tape hands to scale the building the execution is too straightforward and it’s taking itself way too seriously. There is a silly movie dying to get out of Skyscraper, but it is trapped in a conventional disaster movie.
It starts with a prologue in which we find Will Sawyer (Johnson) as the leader of an FBI hostage rescue team. A hostage situation goes bad and Will loses his leg below the knee. But he also meets a Naval surgeon, Sarah (Neve Campbell), and when we jump ahead ten years, Will and Sarah have married and have a couple dumb wiener kids. These are the very definition of dumb wiener kids, existing solely to be imperiled, and possessing no discernable characteristics. They might as well be named “My Son Is In There” and “I Got You Honey”. Campbell, at least, is given some stuff to do and actually participates in the plot beyond being Supportive Wife. She is that, but it genuinely feels like there was a real effort to make sure she wasn’t just window dressing, as women in movies like this often are. Also, you don’t cast Neve Campbell and banish her to the sidelines.
Skyscraper very quickly becomes ridiculous, as security expert Will is given a tour of the tower, including the mysterious “pearl” at the top, which is revealed to be a high-tech observation deck which uses elaborate screens to provide the view. This sets up the inevitable climactic showdown in a funhouse mirror scenario a la The Lady From Shanghai which is the most enjoyable part of the movie, even if John Wick Chapter 2 does it better. The crane jump or the duct tape hands should be the best parts, but Skyscraper is just so weirdly serious it weights those moments more than they can bear. The funhouse mirror ending is the only part that feels like it was crafted specifically to have fun with this crazy setting.
This is also a strangely low stakes movie. In Die Hard, John McClane was trying to save his wife, but he also had to worry about her co-workers. And in The Towering Inferno, the goal is expressly to see how many people can be saved as the building burns. In both cases, the movies establish that anyone can die, and tension comes from not knowing who is going to make it. But the only people in danger in Skyscraper are The Rock’s family and their Chinese billionaire benefactor, Zhao (Chin Han). There’s a little bit of a good-or-bad ambiguity with Zhao, but he is not developed enough as a character for that to be riveting, and when does The Rock ever not save his family in a movie like this? It’s never really in question that he will save his family, which does not make for good, or any, drama.
Skyscraper is the third movie Johnson has released in seven months, and it’s easily the least good of the lot. It doesn’t even have the nerve to be bonkers like Rampage. Johnson is at his best when he has scene partners to bounce off his charisma, and he spends most of this movie alone. He’s certainly watchable, but it is a palpably duller energy than we’re used to from him. And it is so weird that a movie this atrociously stupid is taken so seriously. Skyscraper ought to be the definition of dumb summer fun, but it’s just another forgettable disaster flick.