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Movie Review: Skyscraper

skyscraper_ver2Skyscraper is that type of movie that if you put any thought into it all, it completely falls apart. But if you can somehow manage to prevent your brain cells from firing to notice the numerous high-rise-sized plot holes, you might be entertained by the dazzling spectacle of a ginormous building on fire, people being heroic, and dazzling stunts. It is not high art.

Our protagonist in this story is the building, known as The Pearl, Hong Kong’s newest skyscraper which comes in at approximately three times the size of the Empire State Building. In this movie, the building actually gets more backstory and character development than any of the humans.

Those humans include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson who is playing a security expert evaluating the safety of the building. But of course some bad guys want some sort of undisclosed MacGuffin held in the most secure part of the building by the buildings eccentric and rich owner, and so they do what any bad guys would do – they set the building on fire. So The Rock has to scale the building, at times aided only by a rope and duct tape — yes, duct tape, who is arguably the true hero of the movie — to save his family, including Neve Campbell and some really adorable kids. Like, seriously, I’d jump into a burning building to save these kids.

To help the exposition along, we have TV news crews shooting the antics from every conceivable angle outside the building and broadcasting it to multiple screens around Hong Kong. In case you, the audience. don’t know how to react, or when to cheer, or when to clap, they’ve provided a handy bad 80s sitcom style laugh track to the movie to tell you when the jokes land. Did I say jokes? I meant stunts.

That being said, those action sequences are harrowing. And if you’re at all agoraphobic, this movie is sure to make you wish you weren’t looking down, over and over and over again as The Rock precipitously dangles by his fingertips off the edge of the building. The movie is cut from the same cloth as the giant spectacle disaster movies of the 70’s and 80’s– swap out ol’ Chuck Heston for The Rock, and we got ourselves a picture!

This films writer and stunt coordinator also seem intent on showing you that all of the skills you were supposed to learn in elementary school gym class were actually the most important ones. Balance beam, climbing a rope, doing a pull-up, and so on. For those of you who got the Presidential Fitness metal, this movie salutes you. You too can save your family from a burning state-of-the-art skyscraper!

(Pulls out imaginary social justice warrior soapbox) Where this film excels, however, is in its depiction of those with physical limitations. The Rock’s character has a prosthetic leg, which if you think about it is actually a really cool idea to break down ableism. The problem is, it treads into that trope of “disability as superpower,” which is very dangerous territory. (Insert “autistic genius who solves everything” cliche here) You can make a drinking game out of the number of times that his prosthetic leg saves him.

However, I mean this in all sincerity and while I know this review has mostly been incredibly snarky, I really do hope that this helps. And it’s important to have someone of The Rock’s celebrity and physical stature show that a prosthetic limb does not preclude you from being a superhero. I only wish it had been done a little more deftly, and in a far better movie. But for those for whom this resonates, this is likely an important representation for them on the big screen, and we shouldn’t just gloss over that.

That being said, this movie is horrifically dumb. It’s not the dumbest movie of the year – that title is still held by Den of Thieves – but even compared to other recent disaster porn movies starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson, this sticks out as being egregiously IQ-challenged. This makes Rampage look like it got a master’s degree, and San Andreas graduated top of its class from Harvard Law.

That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with a movie being just some cheap thrills and spectacular stunts, but when your other choices in the theater right now include The Incredibles 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and even the incredibly-smart-looking-by-comparison Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom, let’s just say you have some other options to seek those thrills.

2 out of 5 stars