Skyscrapper High on Lowest Common Denominator


Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s new movie, Skyscraper, is one of his worst. It is yet another film that serves commercial purposes without any thought for how serious moviegoers will feel. Christian Tesfaye awards 4 out of 10 stars.

One of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood is a man that does not demand much from filmmakers. Give Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson simple lines, some henchmen to punch, a fictional girl to care about and a set to run and jump around in, and he is right at home.

But the movies he chooses to appear in, and he is allowed to by virtue of his physical build and fame, do not do him justice. There is a genuine actor in Johnson, one that is struggling to burst out of the derivative plots and one-dimensional characters that have defined his career. With the right nurturing, and the courage in his conviction to subject his mainstream audience to a sophisticated storyline, he could be one of the unlikely gems of the big screen.

Do not expect such a turnaround from the new Johnson vehicle, Skyscraper. It is a movie that panders to the movie star’s basest whims: explosions and hand-to-hand combat. It allows the actor to perform all the stunts as he previously had done with all the characters that show up in a sort of movie that he stars in and puts them in a skyscraper.

Nonetheless, the rather weak performance of the movie at the US box office in its first weekend, almost 25 million dollars, indicates that audiences are not as hot for Johnson as they once were. This may be bad for the actor’s commercial appeal going forward, but it is the right panacea to get him to think twice about continuing to appear in such ordinary movies.

The thing with mainstream audiences is that emotion drives them. They like a movie less because of its story or its audio-visual presentation than its conformity to the contemporary representation of what is cool. But they move on fast, and when they do, they rarely look back.

Those of us that look for a movie that makes forays into the human condition though – which is the purpose of all art – have a long memory. There may not be many of us out there for a movie to make hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office, but we would help secure a place in cinema history for the likes of Johnson if they are willing to look our way once in a while.

Skyscraper has correctly been described as The Towering Inferno meets Die Hard, but with less imagination, or even the effort to imagine. Johnson plays Will, a former member of a hostage rescue team that has lost the lower half of a leg in an explosion. But his fortune seems to be turning after he is awarded a contract to assess the high-level security system of what is the longest building ever built, The Pearl.

He is invited to the building with his family to present his assessment, which coincides with a group of mercenaries appearing to steal a drive safely hidden in The Pearl. The most effective way to extract the drive they believe is to set the 225-story tall building on fire in the hope that whoever has hidden it will try and run away with it. With his family trapped in the building, Will will have to punch through the mercenaries and somehow escape from the building.

The director is Rawson Marshall Thurber. He has some good movies in his filmography, such as Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story and We’re the Millers. Both of them are deserving comedies but easily forgettable.

He is also behind the first Johnson-Kevin Hart team up, Central Intelligence. It is one of the better Kevin Hart movies, but this is not saying much given the comedian’s resume. Central Intelligence was the sort of action-comedy that inspires pity more than it does excitement, given the depths today’s studios have to reach to sell movies.

The best performance in Skyscraper comes from the Danish actor Roland Moller, who played a sergeant in the Oscar-nominated Land of Mine. The latter movie did not deserve the accolade it received, but Roland’s performance was noteworthy. He plays the villain in this movie just as effortlessly. He reminded me of the young Gary Oldman. This is high praise for any actor indeed but with a script that has a character with more grit and better lines than he gets here, Rolland could offer up a more memorable villain.

It is too much to hope for that this film ends the commercial appeal of Johnson. He needs the push to begin choosing movies that are riskier and do not pander to the lowest common denominator. We should be able to help out by staying away from Skyscraper, as much as humanly possible.


Published on Jul 21,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 951]



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