Nearly 30 years on, to the day, from the release of Die Hard — the movie about a guy fighting terrorists in a really tall building that spawned dozens of knockoffs that people continue to refer to using the construction: “Die Hard on a…boat/spaceship/rollercoaster, whatever — finally, we have Skyscraper, which is, you guessed it, Die Hard in a really tall building. Instead of Bruce Willis’s wisecracking cop, this has Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing earnest family man Will Sawyer, who has a prosthetic leg (the result of a nightmarish hostage-rescue gone wrong that killed an entire family and about which he seems to harbor no residual guilt or trauma) that you just know will come in super handy for beating people, hanging on to, and reaching stuff, when the time comes.
Die Hard in a really tall building.
But it sure takes forever for that time to come. The first 35 minutes of Skyscraper blatantly contrive to get The Rock’s character out of the building so that he must courageously run back in to save his family and then have to climb a giant construction crane and jump through a window. All so we have a cool bit for trailers. Meanwhile, the rest of the characters here (the terrorists trying to set the Skyscraper on fire, the billionaire who owns it, Sawyer’s wife, kids, and his friend) are endlessly saddled with gobbledygook dialogue about how many floors are in the big tall building, and how the fire system works, and who can control what security computers, and how — and why — there’s a giant deadly wind turbine in the middle of the tower. Of course, every ounce of this is guaranteed to be called back to later.
Once the mayhem starts, though, Skyscraper is mostly bloodless PG-13 gunfire and the occasional (poorly-cut) fight scene, with the most substantial set-piece being an attempt to rescue one of the kids from the inferno. Only the finale, which takes place inside a massive holographic sphere filled with cameras and mirrors, for some reason, is even slightly visually inventive, while also not making a lick of sense. Movies like this shouldn’t be expected to be smart; Skyscraper has no illusions, it just wants you to know where it’s headed and to allow it to coast on silliness to get there. It’s obviously dumb, but it never bothers getting elaborately absurd — it’s merely content to hit every anticipated beat in the most perfunctory way possible.