The Rock takes on a ‘Skyscraper’ and wins over audiences

By Chic DiCiccio

Neve Campbell and Dwayne Johnson in “Skyscraper.” Photo courtesy of Legendary Entertainment

Based on all the marketing, you could jokingly imply that Dwayne Johnson fights a building in “Skyscraper.” Once you see the film, you’ll quickly realize that’s no joke. Johnson/Guy Who Sometimes is Called The Rock pretty much spends three-quarters of this insane, preposterous action movie, well, actually fighting a building.

While it may be fully outrageous, “Skyscraper” is shamelessly fun and borderline self-aware in its stereotypical action movie goofiness. In the real world, Johnson’s Will Sawyer would have died a horrible death more than a dozen times. In this movie, he jumps through spinning wind turbines, hangs upside down from a shattered window over a mile in the air, dodges machine gun fire, and survives it all while doing so with a prosthetic leg.

Oddly enough, the driving force of the plot isn’t that far-fetched. After his career with the FBI abruptly ends, Will decides to run a security business and he’s been hired by uber-rich Zhao Min Zhi (Chin Han) to inspect the systems inside The Pearl, his skyscraper that is now the tallest of its kind.

Since everyone takes their entire family on business trips to Hong Kong, Will’s wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and their twins, Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell), set up shop in one of The Pearl’s residencies. Once the Eurotrash bad guys show up (led by Roland Møller), “Skyscraper” hits the accelerator and wisely never lets up.

Could the baddies have simply tried to steal what they want from The Pearl as opposed to setting the entire building on fire? Probably. But then the blatantly CGI building wouldn’t get to, you know, be on fire. It also wouldn’t have given Oscar winning cinematographer Robert Elswit the opportunity to make fire look fun as opposed to terrifying.

Having directed him with comedic success in “Central Intelligence,” director/writer Thurber would be wise to hitch his wagon to Johnson for the foreseeable future. Neither of them are going to be thanking the Academy anytime soon, but they have made two entertaining movies that do one thing: showcase Johnson’s screen presence. Their first team up was all geeky charm and muscle and “Skyscraper” is … umm … well, everyman charm and muscle.

That’s right. The handsome, completely ripped, and genetically superior (assumedly) Dwayne Johnson is the everyman in “Skyscraper.” There’s a melancholy behind Johnson’s Will Sawyer, who has experienced tragedy, but he’s doing it all for his family and that’s as American/apple pie/heroic as it gets. Is he a larger carbon copy of John McClane? Uh, yes, but never mind all that and just allow Johnson’s world dominance to continue.

There’s little doubt that Thurber has seen “Die Hard” a few times and probably “The Towering Inferno” as well. Actually, there are countless movies from which Thurber drew “inspiration” (in quotes to imply stolen). You could almost go scene-by-scene and guess what past movie most inspired “Skyscraper.” You’ll receive bonus points for decoding what action hero Johnson is channeling in each scene.

The fact that “Skyscraper” is not a sequel or based on a comic book character makes it a summer movie unicorn. This is a completely original idea straight from the headspace of one guy. Yes, it’s a bit insane that guy is the one that brought you “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” but if anything, you have to give him and Universal Pictures some credit. These days, it’s rare for a studio to slap down $125 million on a movie that’s not a sure thing.

Of course, it helps to have the hardest working man in show business, Dwayne Johnson. Find someone that doesn’t like this guy. Now that would be like finding a unicorn.