Skyscraper Proves the High-Concept Original Action Film Isn’t Dead


WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Universal's Skyscraper, in theaters now.

It seems as if every other Hollywood tent-pole stems from a comic book, an established franchise, a video game or a bestselling novel. In this age of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Transformers and Jurassic Park sequels, and Star Wars spinoffs, it's rare for a blockbuster-scale original movie to see release, never mind find success.

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But here comes Skyscraper, a high-concept action film that features an original story, albeit one that owes a debt to genre classics like Die Hard and The Towering Inferno. It is, plainly and simply, an old-fashioned summer blockbuster. If there's anything to take away from writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber's film, it's that there is still room for the kind of throwback that doesn't aim to be anything other than what it is: popcorn-style fun.

Although star Dwayne Johnson is the obvious selling point, Skyscraper is built around a high concept: The fictional Pearl, the world's tallest, and most technologically advanced, building, has completed construction, and before it can receive the all-clear for permanent housing, it must undergo one last safety analysis. Towering 3,500 feet above Hong Kong, The Pearl is a futuristic work of art that dwarfs the Burj Khalifa, generates its own power, and even boasts a spacious botanical garden and indoor driving range.

So what would happen if this tallest building in the world bursts into flame, the result of an attack by mercenaries? That's the premise of Skyscraper, and the film wastes no time in moving from one pulse-pounding set piece to the next. It all begins with the fateful climb by Johnson's Will Sawyer to jump from a crane to the building, which was spoiled by the trailers. However, that doesn't take away from the thrill of the moment when it arrives in the film.

There's a certain benefit to seeing Will's antics thousands of feet in the air depicted on a big screen. In theaters, audiences will get to experience the heights of the action in a way no television can. This is a film that begs to be viewed in cinemas, and a testament that the original summer blockbuster isn't gone.

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Skyscraper is an action thriller that stands apart from all the other big releases of the summer. The action is ambitious and large-scale, and it's rooted in heart. There are mercenaries opening fire, helicopters exploding, and flaming pillars crushing through steel. This is a film that doesn't let up, and doesn't overstay its welcome. Clocking in at a little more than an hour and a half, the film is fast-paced, and doesn't waste any time. It tells its own story, and then it ends. It doesn't go out of its way to build its fictional world, nor does it try to set up a sequel or a cinematic universe. This is a one-and-done story that benefits from its own closed concept.

We certainly don't see much of this ilk anymore, but it's definitely a nice change of pace. After the likes of Avengers: Infinity War, Solo: A Star Wars Story and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Skyscraper is a nice palate-cleanser, especially when you're looking for a simple popcorn movie.

In theaters now, writer/director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s Skyscraper stars Dwayne Johnson, Neve Campbell, Chin Han, Roland Møller, Noah Taylor, Byron Mann, Pablo Schreiber and Hannah Quinlivan.

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