High in the Sky Hopes
Although comparisons to the 1974 Twentieth Century Fox production of The Towering Inferno are inevitable, this new Universal film is not really like that earlier film of extreme peril. Fox’s movie focused on a poorly constructed building that caught fire. In Skyscraper, we have a new Hong Kong building constructed of the finest materials available with no expenses spared. The design, incidentally, is extremely clever with twisting floors and a 30-story green park inside of it. This is a nod to the brilliance of famed late architect Zaha Hadid and her over-the-top designs. Kudos go to the film’s production designer James D. Bissell and his crew for capturing the essence of Hadid’s magnificent style.
Dwayne Johnson, the hero in this adventure-thriller, plays Will Sawyer, a former U.S. war veteran and FBI Hostage Rescue Leader who survived a bombing that severed half his leg. As a special ops leader, he is now qualified to assess fire equipment and security for various high-rises. He signs on to check out the new Pearl skyscraper in Hong Kong for billionaire businessman Zhao Long Ji (Chinese film star Chin Han).
Despite having half a leg missing (but replaced with a prosthesis), Sawyer uses the rest of his powerful body to get into and out of scrapes. Built like a battlefield tank of steel, Johnson has obviously kept his body in tip top condition to take on these ridiculous roles of super heroes. There is the obligatory scene of removing his shirt to show his helium filled muscles and his tattoos that resemble Maori interior decorating designs. What also makes Johnson a big star is that he always portrays a likeable character, and audiences root for him to get out of his laughable predicaments. And best of all, he does it effortlessly with a great sense of humor.
Naturally, there have to be bad guys so that machine guns can be used to liven things up and to shatter all the wonderful glass windows in the building. Zhao’s enemy is taking revenge over old wounds and now overrides all the buildings safety and fire systems. He starts a fire on the 96th floor to ruin the structure. But wait! There’s a complication. Sawyer’s wife, played by the fetching Neve Campbell, and their two adorable twin children, are living in the building and will be trapped by the fire! What to do? What to do? Who will rescue them?
Director/writer Rawson Marshall Thurber came up with a good idea and decided his star Johnson could earn his salary by risking his life to save his wife and children. Through some inane twist, the police are after Sawyer because they think he started the fire. Sawyer must battle is way through thousands of Hong Kong Chinese extras, all shouting and waving their arms on cue, to save the family.
So, what is the most natural thing a guy would do? Well, silly fools, he’d climb a 50 story construction crane to get up the outside of the burning building! This is accomplished with the aid of his prosthetic leg, which nearly melts from the intense heat. He then uses the crane to smash a window followed by jumping what looks like about 200 feet from the crane into the burning building, getting only a scratch. Methinks only an African gazelle could breach a gap that wide. But Johnson is a star and he can do anything!
The piece de resistance (pardon my high school French: please place the accent marks where they belong) is Sawyer’s next move. He wraps duct tape around his hands so that they will be sticky, enabling him to then go outside the building again and climb across the glass like a horsefly with glue on his paws. Better to use Gorilla Glue. Sawyer bounces in and out of the building like a paddle ball, almost falling nearly 100 stories about a zillion times and each time saving himself by hanging on a ledge by his very strong fingers. And the duct tape made lovely suction sounds against the glass.
We can’t give away the ending and whether Sawyer saves his family. Does he or does he not fall and make a big SPLAT! sound on the Hong Kong pavement?
With Skyscraper, Johnson probably has another blockbuster, even though some of the situations border on insanity. He’s the number one box-office star in the world and will continue to be by appearing in wildly popular films like this one.
(Released by Universal Pictures/ Legendary Entertainment and rated “PG-13” for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language.)