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The UnPopular Opinion: Skyscraper

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Every time I write a new entry for this column, it never ceases to amaze me which films people will agree with me on and which opinions drive people nuts. A lot of times with films, I keep my opinion close and don't share it online because I know it would be ripe for commentary here. While I wanted to write this review while the film was still in theaters, it feels appropriate to share my love for SKYSCRAPER as the film becomes available for home consumption. Dismissed as a watered down clone of DIE HARD and a film designed solely for box office success in China, SKYSCRAPER is a balls out action film that doesn't need copious violence or profanity to be a good time at the movies. Coasting along on a flimsy plot and anchored by the always reliable Dwayne Johnson in the lead, SKYSCRAPER is a movie that is best enjoyed by those with ample suspension of disbelief and a willingness to just have fun.

Directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (DODGEBALL, WE'RE THE MILLERS) with zero trace of comedy, SKYSCRAPER reteams the director with his CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE star for a movie that is basically DIE HARD meets THE TOWERING INFERNO and updated for the 21st century. This film is absolutely derivative of every film that came before it in the sub-genre of techno-architectural disaster films. Like DIE HARD, Johnson plays a trained officer of the law (FBI rather than NYPD) who must put his skills to the test to stop terrorists from plotting a heist. Unlike DIE HARD, Johnson doesn't play fast and loose with the one-liners or catchphrases that Bruce Willis did (and that Johnson has done so well in his career to this point). Rather, Dwayne Johnson shows his range as an actor and fully inhabits the role of Will Sawyer. As a father dedicated to saving his family and dispatching the ghosts of the failed mission that took his leg, you absolutely buy into this performance

action, Adventure, Rawson Thurber, Rawson Thurber, Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, pablo schreiber, Skyscraper, 2018, The UnPopular Opinion

As for the other major influence on this film, THE TOWERING INFERNO, both films depict the catastrophic impat of a raging fire and how difficult it can be to escape from it. There is something thrilling and terrifying about the concept that our mechanical and design achievements can backfire on us horribly and SKYSCRAPER combines the deadly potential for relying to heavily on all forms of technology and construction. Like TITANIC or any other disaster film, SKYSCRAPER shows how the basest elements of nature can undermine even the most brilliant inventions. There is, obviously, a lot of fictional technology in this film that may never exist, but the thematic impact of how too much faith in something can have consequences comes through loud and clear. Unlike THE TOWERING INFERNO, however, we have a very small number of people populating the building which changes the stakes. While seeing hundreds of people trying to get out of a building raises the tension of the disaster, focusing on Will Sawyer and his wife and kids makes this story personal. At no point does it reduce the heroics of Dwayne Johnson's character but it allows us to invest more in his quest.

But, let's be realistic here, no one is watching SKYSCRAPER for philosophical waxings on the nature of man versus machine. This is not a film that will ever be taught in college courses nor will it win any awards for writing. This is a formulaic film that doesn't tread far from the beats you are expecting. And yet, you still are on the edge of your seat. Those emotional stakes I mentioned before drive the story home and make you invest in whether Dwayne Johnson will make the jump from the supercrane to the superskycraper. We all know he is going to make it, but you still curl your toes and grip your armrests. You care and that is why SKYSCRAPER is such a fun movie to watch. That also is because Thurber and the crew behind the scenes never make this movie feel fake. Yeah, when we see Dwayne Johnson and Chin Han standing in the sky above the city in the penthouse of the Pearl we know that it is all green screen magic, but when they fight Roland Moller and his teach of two-dimensional mercenaries, the hand to hand combat and fight choreography is both well executed and fun to watch.

A major complaint about the film was also squarely centered on Moller's terrorist character, Kores Botha. Obvious parallels were drawn between Moller and Alan Rickman's iconic turn as Hans Gruber in DIE HARD which Moller coming nowhere close to rivalling that classic bad guy performance. Still, that presumes that the villain in this movie is human at all. The terrorists present an obstacle that must be overcome by Dwayne Johnson in order to stop the true villain of this film: the building itself. In the end, Johnson's Will Sawyer puts every ounce of his power behind stopping the human bad guys and even at that point the actual person who saves the day is his wife, played by an underappreciated and solid Neve Campbell. You may scoff at the fact the the way they finally win is to turn the computer off and on again, but it is chilling how something so basic averts near disaster.

There is also a lot said about the fact that SKYSCRAPER plays like a very pro-China work of propaganda. I will not deny that the film goes out of it's way to make the current Chinese economic climate appear far more positive than their political reality actually is. But, this is the world we live in today. If we put ourselves in the position of other countries that have been consuimg American films for decades where we present ourselves as the beacon of freedom and success, we probably would find it a change of pace to see other countries put into a similar limelight. Whatever yout personal politics dictate, the mere fact that this film is set in China and therefor addresses geographically local mores shouldn't alter how you feel about Dwayne Johnson hanging thousands of feet in the air by a prosthetic leg that is slowly detaching itself and leaving him seconds away from plummeting to his death. That is thrilling and can be enjoyed without worrying that the depiction of the Chinese upperclass paints them in far more sympathetic light than they deserve.

action, Adventure, Rawson Thurber, Rawson Thurber, Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, pablo schreiber, Skyscraper, 2018, The UnPopular Opinion

SKYSCRAPER billed itself as a throwback to the action movies of the 1980s and early 90s and it definitely lives up to that pedigree. This is not a movie that will take the place of DIE HARD or any of the films of Arnold Schwarzenegger, but it does manage to be better than most of the output of Steven Seagal and Jean-Claude Van Damme. As much as I love all of those films, they were also aimed directly at an adult audience. The maturity level of SKYSCRAPER is clearly looking to be acceptable for teenagers as well as grown-ups by limiting the profanity and bloodletting. You may call that pandering but I see it as an intelligent business move. SKYSCRAPER is a well executed and visually stunning piece of filmmaking and it doesn't pretend to be anything more that a fun popcorn film. In a day and age when going to the movies seems to be a dick-measuring contest where each studio tries to outdo one another by raising the bar, it is nice to see Dwayne Johnson continuing to just have fun and therefore letting us as the audience have fun, too.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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