Movies vs. Reality
Kevin: When we began our discussion of “Skyscraper” we never thought we’d have so many thoughts that it would turn into our first ever two-part Tag Team, but like CJ when someone breaks out the cocaine at a party, once we started we couldn’t stop. In Part 1 earlier this week we noted that The Rock is again playing a leader of men who gets all of his men killed, questioned why mysterious billionaire Zhao put his building’s security in the hands of a security company whose sole employee is The Rock, and wondered who at the Code Compliance department dropped the ball while a structure that could destroy half of Hong Kong if it fell over was being built with zero oversight.
So CJ we left off Part 1 with The Rock managing to climb more than 96 stories of steel girders, with an artificial leg no less, to the top of the crane that just happened to be a little higher than the fire line at The Pearl. As if this wasn’t impressive enough, The Rock immediately knows how to operate this thing without having any previously mentioned construction experience.
CJ: Forget how The Rock was able to figure out a crane in China despite no previous construction experience. My question is, how did he read the Chinese menu/touch screen on the crane despite the script explicitly stating that he only knew one phrase in Chinese???
But as far as I’m concerned, the most impressive thing about him climbing this (at minimum) 97-story crane is that he does so without ever getting tired or breaking a sweat. Also, the tallest cranes in the world are something like 40 stories tall. So who is the guy who developed this crane? My guess? IT’S A DECEPTICON!!!!!! Oh Crane-icon, you showboating son of a bitch!
Kevin: Now I can’t believe we’ve gotten this far in the review without discussing The Rock’s “disability,” which more often than not turns out to be an asset. I also can’t believe we haven’t yet noted that his character’s name in “Skyscraper” is Will Sawyer. I don’t know, does The Rock look like a “Will Sawyer” type to you? I have a feeling this was the generic name they gave his character when someone like Mark Wahlberg was attached and they forgot to change it to something else more Rockian later. Of course in real life The Rock’s name is Dwayne Johnson, so maybe that’s not such a stretch. Also, is he the first global movie star in history named “Dwayne”?
Either way, remember how when “Die Hard” came out it was seen as a breath of fresh air that we had a relatable everyman like Bruce Willis as the hero rather than indestructible supermen like Sly and Arnold? Well I like that apparently the only way they could think of to make The Rock into something close to a relatable everyman is to cut one of his legs off. So The Rock sports a prosthetic leg that is pretty basic. It’s just a standard foot with a thin metal rod connecting to the knee. It’s not like some type of titanium blade that Oscar Pistorious was using that gave him the ability to win medals and shoot “intruders” who turned out to be his girlfriend taking a late night pee.
But The Rock obviously has a hard time comprehending how normal humans deal with something called “weakness,” because remember in “Rampage” when he was shot in the stomach by Malin Ackerman? And how it didn’t seem to affect him in any way other than the few times the director obviously reminded The Rock that he was supposed to be severely wounded, at which point he would briefly put his hand over the small ketchup stain indicating a bullet wound while going about his normal heroic business?
Well similarly in “Skyscraper,” they make sure to have The Rock complain a lot about his prosthetic leg and limp around at the beginning, but once the action starts he is able to sprint and leap no problem when required. For instance, in the scene where he takes a running leap off the crane onto one of the floors of The Pearl, just imagine trying to do that CJ with one of your feet asleep, then multiply that by a thousand for a giant one-legged behemoth like The Rock in this.
Actually while “Skyscraper” has been described as “Die Hard” meets “Towering Inferno,” during this section and later when he is negotiating the side of the building, it briefly turns into a remake of “Turk 182,” as the entire city of Hong Kong immediately gets behind this wanted foreign fugitive – who may have kidnapped or killed their version of Elon Musk and set a fire that could eventually take out a huge chunk of the city – simply because they are impressed by his climbing ability. Hundreds of people even gather to watch the action on a giant Jumbotron (I was wondering if they were going to start taking bets on what would happen like in “The Running Man”).
Also before I forget, at one point The Rock has gotten Neve Campbell and his son to safety, but he and his daughter have been taken prisoner by the bad guys. Zhao is safely secured in his panic room, and main villain Botha tells The Rock that he has to figure out a way to open the doors and get the flash drive he needs from Zhao or else his daughter is dead. Then Botha takes the daughter and leaves … no one with The Rock. Seriously CJ, we all make fun of the James Bond villain thing of “Well Mr. Bond, now that I finally have the chance to enact the elaborate torture I’ve spent years devising for you, I’m gonna step outside for a smoke and leave you unguarded,” but man this is ridiculous.
Like, Botha’s entire plan hinges on this working, and he has about six henchmen still left. He doesn’t feel like leaving one down there to be all, “Yeah boss he just put duct tape on his hands and is working his way to the giant wind turbine that houses the electric box to open the doors … oh shit is he gonna make it? … aww hell yeah he did it! … anyway the doors are open, what should I do now?” Seriously, what the fuck was Botha doing this whole time? He and Zhao would have made a good team, because neither one of them really sweats the details apparently.
CJ: Agreed. I feel like if I were one of the henchmen I’d be like “This guy scaled a 97-story crane, evaded police, jumped into the building, held a bridge together through pure strength, and took a small one-man business and was able to secure a fantastic contract with a mega developer. I’m just saying, let’s not underestimate this guy boss.”
Kevin: Before I forget, you reminded me about possibly the greatest moment in the film. Remember when Spider-Man did this in his last movie?
Well The Rock does something similar when he uses two cables helpfully located to his left and right to keep a steel bridge from falling apart long enough for his wife and son to cross to safety. Now if I remember correctly, in “Spider-Man: Homecoming” it was treated as a highly dramatic moment and a huge test of Peter Parker’s strength. Whereas it’s pretty much a throway action beat in “Skyscraper.” The Rock assumes he can do this without getting his arms ripped out of their sockets with no hesitation, and Neve Cambpell goes along as if she has seen him, or anyone in human history, do something like this before.
CJ: The difference is Spider-Man is fake Kevin, YOU IDIOT! Also, full disclosure, I am proud to say I fist-pumped when that happened.
Now going back to the whole “opening the panic room” section, this requires The Rock to get to the outside of the building from the penthouse level, and slowly shuffle around the outside edge of The Pearl to the panel that will open up Zhao’s panic room. This leads us to seeing The Rock biggest strength: an invincibility to high altitude wind patterns. How wild must those winds be at the top of The Pearl? And yet The Rock sashays himself around without so much as a small breeze as he makes his way to the wind turbines that have the secret computer panel locked inside.
This also makes me ask, what if Zhao accidentally locks himself into his panic room? How do they get him out? I can’t imagine anyone from IT being willing to jump through giant blades coming and going every two seconds. Fortunately The Rock is able to swing his way through the turbines and find a wildly simple set of wires to cut. This strikes me as odd that there is such ridiculous security for the backup subroutines, but if you can get to them they open up no problem. So good news Zhao, if you ever lock yourself in, just put in an ad for an IT specialist/former Olympian/Navy SEAL, should be easy as there are 50 million of those guys looking for work.
Kevin: And yeah, as long as The Rock had to go through that “Goonies”-type gauntlet around the side of the building and then through the giant rotating blades, I feel like when he got to the circuit box he should have had to solve some riddle before being able to open it. And even then if he cut the wrong wire there should have been the danger that a trap door would open. Although after he cut the wire to open Zhao’s panic room doors, I would have just cut all the other wires too just to see what would happen.
And once again, apparently Zhao made sure that the only way to open his panic room would be to go through a series of challenges that would kill 99 out of 100 people, but handing a complete stranger a tablet that would give whoever had it control of the building, and then letting them wander around Hong Kong unprotected? No problemo!
“And yet The Rock sashays himself around without so much as a small breeze as he makes his way to the wind turbines that have the secret computer panel locked inside.” Have we forgotten The Rock’s secret weapon, duct tape, which also comes in handy at the end when The Rock and Zhao pull off the most obvious good cop/bad cop routine since Tango and Cash? Which they had a lot of time to rehearse since, once again, Botha didn’t leave any of his men to keep watch over the panic room either before or after the doors opened. Apparently this lazy motherfucker expected The Rock to not only get the doors open, but then bring Zhao up to him as well.
This brings us to the final showdown, and I did appreciate that while his daughter was obviously in a lot of danger, I don’t feel like she will be suffering nearly the same kind of traumatic PTSD as the daughters in “Sudden Death” or “The Last Boy Scout.” Also I was glad that we didn’t have to deal with a scene where his sickly son starts having an asthma attack and The Rock had to somehow use his fake leg to make a makeshift inhaler. Although I just realized, considering this movie was obviously made to make most of its yen from China, do you think Chinese audiences are gonna be sitting in a theater and wondering why, since The Rock already got his wife and son to safety, he’s even bothering going back for the girl?
But before we have a chance to debate the ramifications of that country’s one-child policy, we finally get to the climax at the top of The Pearl. Oh yeah, before we get into that, they didn’t name the building The Pearl because it sounded good, but because, as CJ mentioned in Part 1, there is a giant fucking pearl-shaped structure at the top, which is the source of much speculation (because again, apart from the 35,000 designers, contractors, security guards, IT specialists, and potential security consultants and their families who have been in there, NO ONE has any idea what’s inside).
Which is odd, because apparently Zhao just shows this thing off to anyone who walks into his office, as he does with The Rock when explaining that tourists around the globe will be flocking to the Pearl, the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” At which point we discover that it’s basically a hall of mirrors, but with really tall television screens. Oh wait, it also can turn into kind of a “Star Trek”-type holodeck that can project … the view of downtown Hong Kong that you could just as easily see by opening your window.
CJ: I am still super confused about the final confrontation. So The Pearl (the actual pearl itself that sits on top of the whole building) is filled with dozens of seven-foot-tall screens that can project anything, including reflecting a person’s image, making it like a funhouse of horrors where you don’t know which is the person and which is glass. This leads to an amusing enough final battle where people keep shooting the glass (get it?) and no one can find each other, allowing The Rock to creep around and take each bad guy out one by one.
But what I want to know is, what would the purpose for the general public be here? If you have a room full of these people with the screens on, wouldn’t it just result in multiple people smashing into these screens, getting wildly cut up, and causing mass hysteria as security and medical personnel run around trying to address all the casualties amid horrified screaming? I feel like this funhouse is really just an awful lawsuit waiting to happen.
Clearly The Rock felt the same way, as he proceeds to destroy every screen in The Pearl, leading to two great moments. The first is when he literally pulls a sword from his pants and kills a man. And second, Botha holds his daughter hostage in front of a giant hole that has opened up in The Pearl, threatening The Rock that he will drop her. The Rock is on the other side, puts down his gun and tells him he forgot one thing … THAT HE’S BEHIND HIM! Turns out the bad guy was talking to a screen and Rocky has been standing behind him the whole time! After he pushes him to his death and the audience, led by Kevin, erupted into cheers, I wondered: if The Rock was behind the bad guy the whole time, why didn’t Botha hear him?
Kevin: Regarding that whole sword thing, I was impressed by The Rock’s ability to hide the fact that he had a sword the length of his leg hidden in his pants for so long. He didn’t even walk slightly funny or anything. Also if it were either of us CJ I don’t think we’d be able to stay that cool and in character when that one henchman was getting within striking range. I think we would have given the game away by constantly looking down at our pants, and then when we felt he was getting suspicious we’d awkwardly be fumbling around trying to get it out before being shot about 87 times. I’m still actually not sure how The Rock pulled his sword out so effortlessly, but I would have loved if the sword actually just ripped his pants off and revealed he was wearing some red, white, and blue boxers underneath.
And don’t forget, after The Rock kicks Botha down the hole, he also tosses a grenade that blows him up as he is falling. It’s too bad it wasn’t one of those grenades from “Die Hard 2” that took forever to detonate, because it would have been great to have a scene where Botha is falling for like three minutes and he keeps looking over at the grenade falling right alongside him and wondering when it is gonna go off.
Actually the total destruction of the inside of The Pearl may be a blessing in disguise for Zhao, because now he has a chance to go back to the drawing board and come up with a more impressive attraction than “hall of mirrors, but with big TVs.” Because tourists who spent a ton of money would get pretty pissed being sold the idea that this is the “Eighth Wonder of the World” and then finally getting in there and being all, “Wow, it’s me on a TV screen, I haven’t seen that since Circuit City was still in business.”
On that note, when The Rock asks Zhao what he’s going to do next, he says, “Rebuild.” Great, in that case maybe Hong Kong’s version of OSHA might want to have some input this time! Also, I can’t imagine how much extra Zhao is gonna have to pay new security personnel and maintenance considering the likelihood they may be gunned down by terrorists, or what kind of break he’ll have to give the retailers on his bottom floors considering the possibility this entire structure could come crumbling down on them.
I’ll also just note that this is the second movie starring The Rock in addition to “San Andreas” in which he saves his family from a disaster while many other people perish, and which ends with someone talking about how they are going to rebuild. I guess the message is clear: when disaster strikes, unless you share DNA with The Rock, you’re fucked.
I did like the fact that “Skyscraper” is the rare summer blockbuster with a definitive ending that doesn’t leave open the possibility for a sequel. Of course neither did “Die Hard,” and we eventually got four more of those (plus that “Die Hard: Year One” bullshit we thankfully have not heard anything about since it was announced). Now based on the box office it’s unlikely we’ll get a sequel, although we all thought that about “Escape Plan,” and thanks to China we got “Escape Plan 2: Hades.” So don’t be surprised if in a few years we see a VOD “Skyscraper 2: Guangdong Province,” in which The Rock collects $5 million for five days’ work and the real star is some Chinese actor/martial artist/pop star du jour.
CJ: Or Kellan Lutz.
Kevin: So we should probably start wrapping up before this turns into our first three-part Tag Team. Now we both enjoyed the film CJ, so why do you think it is severely underperforming the box office expectations. Like Icarus flying too close to the sun, is it being punished for the hubris of opening on the 30th anniversary of “Die Hard”? Is The Rock being punished for again teasing the possibility of a presidential run that will never happen, or maybe the public thinks that if it stays away from The Rock’s movies long enough he’ll be consider running the free world? Or is it as we’ve always feared, is Neve Campbell simply box office poison?
CJ: To quote from the Book of Revelation:
“And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts,
And I looked, and behold a pale horse,
And his name that sat upon him was Adam Sandler, and Hell followed with him.”