It’s that time of year during the summer blockbuster season where the big, dumb action movie drops. Skyscraper (2018) definitely has a chance to claim that title. There are lots of action-packed moments, a few solid performances, a horribly, cheesy script, and Dwayne Johnson. An equation for a summer popcorn flick if ever there was one – but it only kind of worked for me.
Skycraper (2018) managed to be entertaining enough to be enjoyable
Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) has been hired to inspect the safety of a state-of-the-art skyscraper in Hong Kong. It’s creator, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han) believes his building will change the world and be one of the wonders that people will marvel over, but there are others who would see it burn down. Sawyer’s family ends up trapped in the building, and he has to risk everything to save them.
The family element of action films has always been a way of ensuring the audience cares about the events in the film. It’s a quick way to make sure the audience likes the characters in the movie. Neve Campbell plays Sarah, Will’s wife, and their backstory is told quickly in the opening. Their young twins only cement the compassion for their safety. A happy family full of love put in harm’s way leads the damaged hero to have to overcome his own fears and weaknesses to save the one thing he loves. Where this film really nails it is in making Sarah a badass, too. Campbell has played this type of lead in the Scream franchise, and does a good job in this film with this fierce female role. Sarah and the kids need help, but so does Will at times – and both are able to work towards saving the other at different moments. It is easily one of the best aspects of the story, but it also leads to one of the cheesiest scenes in the film that got a few unwanted laughs from the audience.
The set pieces – and there are several, as Will moves from one scary situation to another in an effort to ensure his family’s safety – are generally entertaining. Will isn’t a superhero, and that grounds him a bit making the suspense seem a little more real. What weakens the tension is the live audience watching him do these dangerous feats on a jumbo TV that is just blocks away from the tower. The film cuts back and forth to them, so we hear the reaction that the audience in the theater is presumably supposed to have. Instead, it felt cheesy and unnecessary, and only reminded me of how silly some of the situations were. The scene that the internet had already picked apart of Will running and then leaping from a crane to get back into the tower has the cross-cutting with the crowd during moments of it. The aftermath of the job is real and grounded, but the spectacle of it, and the fear the crowd exhibits, make the moments of suspense feel far too goofy.
In the end, Skyscraper is a solid enough film. I liked the characters, and the villains were scary – but never cartoonish, even though their motives are kept a mystery for much of the movie. It was good seeing Neve Campbell kicking some butt again, and the chemistry that she and Johnson have was enough to make me care about their well-being. Skyscraper earns a Decent Watch rating.