At first blush, giving Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson a prosthetic leg in Skyscraper actually seems like an inspired idea. Charming as he is, Johnson is something of an outmoded action hero: He’s so cartoonishly big and ripped, he seems invincible. There was a time, back in the 80s, when all our action heroes looked like that (think Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude Van Damme, et al). But Bruce Willis in Die Hard ushered in a more human-sized action star. (Ironic, since Die Hard is the film Skyscraper takes most of its cues from.) Unfortunately, the prosthetic leg is more of a gimmick than a true hinderance here. Johnson’s Will Sawyer can run and climb and fight like a champ—he barely seems hampered by it at all. At one point, however, he does use it to prop a mechanical door open.
If anything, Skyscraper leans into Johnson’s cartoonish strength. His character is a superman—able to climb enormous towers, leap preposterous distances from building to building, and, at one point—no lie—hold a small drawbridge down with nothing more than his bare hands and bulging biceps.
His character, a former military man and FBI agent (he lost his leg in a domestic hostage situation gone wrong), is applying to be in charge of security for the world’s tallest and most technologically sophisticated building, in Hong Kong. (The building, alas, is such a product of CGI, it never looks real. It might as well be in Wakanda.) While he goes through the interview process with the building’s visionary owner (Chin Han), his family—military surgeon wife Sarah (Neve Campbell) and fraternal twin cuties Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell)—are living on an unoccupied floor of the building.
Well, you can guess what happens next (especially if you’ve watched the spoileriffic trailer): A group of international baddies with asymmetrical haircuts and overcoats break into the building, start a fire on an upper middle floor, and shut down the building’s sprinkler system and security protocols. Will has to get back inside the, uh, towering inferno to save his family.
Skyscraper is a paternalistic fantasy extraordinaire about a father who will do whatever it takes to protect his family, but at least Campbell’s Sarah gets a few moments of badassery (she’s the one who figures out that the bad guys plan to parachute to safety and even triangulates their likely landing point).
Skyscraper is ridiculous, but knowingly so (I hope). It just keeps upping the ante in the most absurd ways possible. It’s not enough that Sawyer’s family is trapped inside a burning skyscraper with terrorists, his son also has asthma, so the little guy is wheezing as he hobbles his way from floor to floor. And the penthouse has this room of mirrors for no reason other than—mirror rooms are cool and make for fun misdirections in action thrillers.
Going into the film I told a friend that I had high hopes that Skyscraper would be escapist, mindless summer entertainment.
“Was it everything you hoped for?” he asked after the film.
“Yes,” I replied. “But a little dumber.”