Hot Take: If this were an homage to the 80s classic Die Hard, they forgot the humor Bruce Willis brought to the iconic action role. If this weren’t trying to be Die Hard, why is Skyscraper so damn similar?
Full transparency here: 1988’s Die Hard is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s not quite in my top 10 but it’s definitely in my top 20. In 2013, I’m such a big Die Hard fan that I attended a Die Hard marathon to celebrate the launch of A Good Day to Die Hard in which all five Die Hard films were shown in succession. I’ll likely find my way to theaters to see the 30th anniversary re-release of Die Hard in November. Because of this, my initial reaction to the original trailer for Skyscraper was mixed. As previously mentioned on this site, I’m also a huge fan of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. (My first and only pet cat was named Rocky and it had nothing to do with the movie of the same name if that tells you anything.) However, the premise of Skyscraper just felt like too much of a rip-off of Die Hard to be enjoyable. In this day and age, if you want to copy a movie, you just reboot or remake it. However, going in to see Skyscraper, I was still holding out hope that the $125 million budget behind the film would do more than just add some shine and sparkle to the Die Hard concept and hide behind a new title. Not only that, the film had a charismatic actor in Dwayne Johnson to work with and chose to go the serious route which feels like a serious misstep in the end result.
Skyscraper opens with FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader Will Sawyer (Dwayne Johnson) in the middle of a hostage rescue. During the rescue, the hostage taker detonates a bomb and blows up Sawyer and his team. Sawyer survives but loses his leg. Years later, now in private practice as a security consultant, Sawyer is hired to review the security protocols of “The Pearl”, a skyscraper that will be the world’s tallest building standing at 3,500 feet and 225 stories tall. The top investor, Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), ends up having some trouble with a rival gang which decides to use Sawyer’s inspection as a way to take over the building and go after Ji. The gang headed by Kores Botha (Roland Moller) sets the building ablaze and steals the tablet which controls the security systems from Sawyer to allow the fire to burn out of control. Unfortunately for the rival gang, Sawyer’s family was in the building and the former Rescue Team leader and war veteran heads back into the building to stop the terrorists and rescue his family.
Beyond the premise, the resulting film is an over-the-top action flick that contains one ridiculous scene after another. Somehow the film gets sillier as the seriousness ramps up. It’s no more sillier than the last few pure action flicks from Johnson but fails to rely or even tap into Johnson’s more charismatic humorous side. He’s still charismatic in a more serious role but it feels like a missed opportunity to not let Johnson be more funny. There is a signature developing in Johnson action films as it seems to be necessary for there to be lots and lots of fire and explosions throughout his action flicks as Skyscraper rivals Rampage and San Andreas with the number of explosions and fires The Rock has to run around and through.
Skyscraper isn’t terrible but it isn’t worth going out of your way for. The comparisons to Die Hard are obvious but it falls well short of what the iconic film was able to accomplish and falls somewhere in the middle of all of the films that have decided to rip off the classic film over the past 30 years. For those of us who enjoy seeing Johnson on the big screen, it’s likely to be enjoyable enough to get a small thumbs up but it definitely doesn’t reach the colossal heights of the titular building that acts as the centerpiece of the film’s action. And that’s going to have to hold you over until 2019 as Johnson won’t be back on the big screen again until he appears again in the Fast & the Furious spin-off Hobbs & Shaw in August.
You’re a huge fan of The Rock and you’ve never seen Die Hard.
That Die Hard 30th Anniversary re-release is close enough that you’re willing to wait for that to satisfy your need to watch a group of bad guys take a building hostage and see a singular hero take them on.