Let’s say you are a villain – or a secondary one – in a summer Hollywood blockbuster like “Skyscraper.” Your prey (Dwayne Johnson) has just decided that he’s going to scale the biggest building in the world (with one artificial limb) that’s currently on fire to save his wife (Neve Campbell) and two young children. You’re fully armed, but he only has a roll of duct tape with which to aid him in his quest. Would you a) give him permission to virtually commit suicide, or b) go after him at once? Well, obviously it’s going to be b) thus ensuring the kind of “action packed” movie that is as popular around this time of year as fireworks and cookouts. When Dwayne finally arrives, Neve asks him how he got there. “It’s a long story,” he replies. And it is – at least two hours by cinematic measurements.
In “Skyscraper,” Dwayne plays a security systems analyst, who used to be a hostage negotiator, who was badly injured in one situation. However, it led to him meeting and marrying Neve, who is some kind of super-surgeon veteran with various other skills that come in handy throughout the movie. When the movie starts, Dwayne is prepping for a meeting in Tokyo with the creator of “The Pearl,” (Chin Han), the world’s largest skyscraper which has self-contained communities and is totally computer-controlled. Though the meeting goes well, things quickly start to deteriorate when afterwards Dwayne’s “friend” (Pablo Schreiber) reveals himself to have a shady side, and Neve, upon returning from a trip with her children, runs into suspiciously accented men hanging around their apartment floor (which is supposed to be empty except for them). Sure enough, they proceed to start a fire which soon engulfs the entire floor. As it turns out later, Chin possesses a drive that the bad guy (Roland Moller) is desperate to “retrieve” because Chin is using it as blackmail of a sorts.
Meanwhile a giant group of onlookers gather at the site (many filming the entire thing), to cheer on Dwayne’s bravery. The kids are very brave, too, at one point, the little boy, faced with the prospect of having to cling to Neve and go crashing down through the flames in an elevator acknowledges, “I’m scared” but otherwise doesn’t protest. Neve also turns out to have save-the-day skills, whether it’s speaking Japanese, fighting off a demented bad girl (whose role in the whole thing I never figured out), or getting the fire under control via computerized remote control. (If “Skyscraper” had a motto, it might be, “Never underestimate the power of rebooting.”) This movie has a high body count, or maybe it just seems that way because virtually every minute, someone is fighting for his or her life. Overall, “Skyscraper” is pure mindless summer movie entertainment, although it left me a tad worn out, just like the characters involved. “What are you going to do next?” Dwayne inquires of Chin at one point. “Rebuild,” he wearily replies. One hopes Dwayne’s plans include some therapy for his shell-shocked family, as well.