“Skyscraper” (2018)

Action/Thriller

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Running Time: 101 minutes

Written and directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber

Featuring:  Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber and Hannah Quinlivan

Will Sawyer: If you can’t fix it with duct tape… you ain’t using enough duct tape.”

Critical Commentary:

First things first, with this new movie featuring Dwayne Johnson, released this week on 4K Blu-ray with the aptly if not on the nose moniker “Skyscraper”(2018), is a terrible exercise in crossing a number of previous movies yet done in such a way as to be bland as well as so obvious that viewers are far better off either watching “Die Hard” (1988) or even the not so great “The Towering Inferno” (1974). The main issue with this movie is quality control as well as the seemingly inability of Johnson to say no to any movie that comes across his purview, which is a horrible way to maintain a career that is either built on box office success, critical reactions or audience reactions. If you judged “Skyscraper” by any of these measurements then this movie failed on all accounts, which actually joins a long line of Johnson’s movies, they only seem to be increasing as time moves on. It appears that outside of the ‘Furious’ franchise Johnson seems more than happy to fill out his career with some poor remakes, reboots or reimagining’s that all mostly seem to be variations on his own persona that people are starting to catch on with so are avoiding the trip to see them at the cinema. Of course there has been the odd exception “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017) is one that audiences enjoyed whilst generating almost US$1 billion at the global box office. Which brings us back to “Skyscraper” a movie that is just a ludicrous idea of a movie that seems happy to bring together Johnson, some sub par CGI, a story that makes little sense as well as a narrative that doesn’t mind reminding you that this is based on other far better ideas executed much better with main characters that can actually act.

There is one other aspect of this movie that is troubling, that is the fact that Dwayne Johnson’s character is only supposed to have one leg, as part of one was amputated because of some vague event that happened in his past when he was some kind of special forces operative. The odd thing is that this aspect of the character really does not come into play, it serves as just a way for him to overcome a physical obstacle, it exists for no other reason which I am surprised that more was not made of this when there has been an outcry from the public in regard to able bodied people portraying characters with physical impairments. It may be because this movie didn’t come up on peoples radar as it is just that bad that it was not a story.

“Skyscraper” has been written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber who has not only worked with Johnson before, on “Central Intelligence” (2016) that was quite funny although suffered from some of the problems as this, but also wrote and directed the excellent “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), his first feature movie. What seemed like a great debut that may have heralded a very good comedy career and has in a way did not have in its future a mess like “Skyscraper”. Thurber whose other movies have at least been funny as well as in their own way, original was a welcome figure in the comedy genre. Not only that but they all used the casts provided in very funny original ways, which except for one actor definitely does not happen in this movie. This is definitely Thurbers highest budget so I can only assume there was some tinkering behind the scenes especially with Johnson’s friend and producer Hiram Garcia who seems to be behind some of Johnson’s decision-making. My feeling is that Johnson needs to start making original movies as well as original characters, he needs to start gambling on originality not retreads.

So what is “Skyscraper” about? U.S. Marine war veteran and retired FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader, Will Sawyer, assesses security for skyscrapers. A suicide explosion from a previous mission has left one leg amputated, below the knee. He is fitted with a modern prosthetic leg, which keeps his full mobility. Sawyer is tasked with inspecting the Pearl, and his family – wife Sarah and twin children Georgia and Henry move into the building. Sawyer confirms to Zhao, security directors Ajani Okeke and Sawyer’s friend and fellow ex-FBI agent Ben Gillespie, and insurance executive Mr. Pierce, that the building’s fire and security systems are secure, but he needs to inspect the offsite security center that controls the system. Zhao then hands Sawyer a tablet computer that gives full administrative access to The Pearl’s computer systems that can only be unlocked by facial recognition. So from there it moves into familiar territory that if you have seen any movie will be familiar and you can guess from queues throughout how this will end.

Make no mistake this is a Dwayne Johnson movie that presents him as that everyman as well as superman who is a career guided professional yet has well rounded beautiful children with a brilliant beautiful wife who not only has her own career but supports her husbands. Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this but no hero is perfect, I mean look at John McClane from the “Die Hard” (1988-present) franchise, he has flaws throughout his character, most notably dealing with his family. Johnson has no such issues which makes him one dimensional, not only that, it makes him about as deep as a video game character which really is all this movie is, a video game on the big screen. It is so paint by numbers that it is boring, this is an issue with all the characters Johnson plays in all his movies, supermen who are everyman all bland and supremely unrealistic something he still has in common with his wrestling alter ego. The highlight of this movie is definitely Neve Campbell who plays Johnson’s wife who is just terrific in her limited role, in actuality I could have watched this movie with her as the protagonist and Johnson in a supporting part, if only. Campbell reminded me why she could have been the actress of her generation especially making a movie mistake like this at least watchable, the same can be said of the young actors playing their children.

Sometimes, just sometimes movies can paste over their inadequacies with big moments, action set pieces or great special effects, sadly “Skyscraper” really has none of these, there are no surprises and the immense amount of CGI is quite subpar to say the least. One of the issues is that there is an extreme lack of physical effects so when we have humans interacting or attempting to dodge what are just CGI effects there is a lack of danger or peril which leads to that word again boredom. Attempting to create peril using a family or a fake missing limb is just cheap on the filmmakers part, what they seemed to have missed out on is to create something that is based in reality then giving the audience three dimensional characters that are then thrust into a story where it is natural, understandable and makes sense. After watching “Skyscraper” go and watch that first “Die Hard” movie, see how similar movies do things different so that one is a classic, the other not so much.

While I wouldn’t go out to cinemas to see this and to be honest I have not felt the need to see a Dwayne Johnson movie at the cinemas since “San Andreas” (2015) (not counting ‘Furious’ movies as I don’t really consider them his), and judging from his upcoming movies I do not see myself returning I would say it is enough to watch his movies at home on the small screen. “Skyscraper” is a movie I would say is fine to watch at home with your brain off, it is laughably stupid but if you are wanting something to just watch and forget then, believe it or not, you could do much worse.

Technical Commentary:

Video:

“Skyscraper” arrives on 4K UHD with a crisp and colorful 2160p transfer with HDR10 and Dolby Vision that easily rises above its 1080p counterpart.

The image enjoys a nice color upgrade with Dolby Vision HDR. With Dolby Vision and the added resolution, there is an appreciable improvement in depth and color saturation where the whites don’t feel like they’re blooming as harshly.

A good example of the improvement is the scene where Johnson’s family is running around the giant park as well. In 1080p, the image is dark and murky without much depth. With the added resolution and WCG, the 4K Blu-ray offers more shadow separation. Overall this is a pretty great looking transfer that displays a clear improvement over it’s SDR counterpart.

Audio:

An action movie needs a great audio mix and “Skyscraper” gets that with its Dolby Atmos track. Dialogue is crystal clear throughout and never at odds with the other elements. Sound effects have a nice natural quality to them with many featuring pint-point object places.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentary with Rawson Marshall Thurber
  • Deleted Scenes w/ Optional Director Commentary (HD 12:10) Most of this stuff isn’t earth shattering but you’re gonna want to watch the last deleted scene called “Try Hard.”
  • Extended Scenes w Optional Director Commentary (HD 10:18)
  • Dwayne Johnson: Embodying A Hero (HD 4:04)
  • Inspiration (HD 4:12)
  • Opposing Forces (HD 2:35)
  • Friends No More (HD 4:21)
  • Kids In Action (HD 2:40)
  • Pineapple Pitch (HD 1:38)
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