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With: Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Moller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber, Hannah Quinlivan, McKenna Roberts, Noah Cottrell
Written by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
Directed by: Rawson Marshall Thurber
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of gun violence and action, and for brief strong language
Running Time: 102
Date: 07/13/2018

Skyscraper (2018)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Blunder Construction

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

How might the pitch meeting for the new movie Skyscraper have gone? "It's like Die Hard, but the building is much bigger, and it's on fire!"

"And, get this... the hero has got to get INTO the building before he can get back out!"

It was probably a great pitch, and it's possible that a good movie could have been made from it, especially given that the Die Hard formula has worked many times before (Under Siege, Cliffhanger, etc.).

But Skyscraper, which opens Friday in Bay Area theaters, is mainly a collection of three or four excellent, suspenseful set pieces, surrounded by a bunch of nonsense.

Dwayne Johnson stars as our hero, Will Sawyer, a former FBI hostage negotiator who lost his leg in a mishap and retired. Now he's married to his surgeon, Sarah (Neve Campbell), has two kids, twins Georgia (McKenna Roberts) and Henry (Noah Cottrell), and works in security.

As the story begins, he's hoping to win the trust of Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), who has built the world's tallest building, "The Pearl," in Hong Kong, and land a job there.

Things go well, except that a group of mercenaries — led by Bortha (Roland Moller) — infiltrate the building, disable the safety protocols, and set it on fire. Meanwhile, Sarah and the kids, who were supposed to be at the zoo, have returned early.

So Will must dangle off the outside edge of the building, get back inside, and rescue his family. Things get tougher when the bad guys kidnap Georgia, using her as leverage to get their hands on a secret device of Zhao's.

Skyscraper is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, who has a less-than-inspiring track record. His last movie with Johnson, Central Intelligence, was passable thanks to the star's energetic comic performance. But movies like We're the Millers and The Mysteries of Pittsburgh (the latter based on a Michael Chabon novel) didn't work at all.

They all have in common a kind of artificial building and defining of character, based on exterior traits; Thurber seems unable to get inside his characters, or to make them human.

Though Skyscraper is only 102 minutes long (a light snack compared to most behemoth summer movie running times), it's still slow getting started, eating up running time with a lengthy, largely unnecessary flashback about Will's leg.

Other character development involves Will re-setting Sarah's phone and teaching her a valuable lesson that will, no doubt, help her later.

It's nice to see Campbell back on the big screen, and happily her character is far more resourceful than just the typical "waiting, worrying" wife; she's clever and she can fight.

The villains, on the other hand, are bottom-drawer, mainly the type that try to out-cool one another by speaking in low murmurs with lots of dramatic, evil pauses, and shooting people without warning. This, presumably, helps to cover up the numerous lapses of logic in their plan.

Additionally, as thousands of Hong Kong residents cheer on the hero, Skyscraper scrapes perilously close to the dreaded "white savior" formula.

However, with Will using a giant crane to swing through a window, or scaling the outside of the building using rope and duct tape to get inside a whirling turbine to get to a control panel, or attempting to survive a Lady from Shanghai house-of-mirrors style shootout, the movie achieves sequences of finely-crafted popcorn filmmaking that almost — almost — bring Skyscraper up to code.

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