WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Universal's Skyscraper, in theaters now.
Skyscraper is a disaster movie in the vein of The Towering Inferno, with a healthy dose of Die Hard thrown in. Like both films, the action takes place inside of a building, although in this case it's the architectural marvel known as The Pearl, which towers 3,500 feet above Hong Kong. There's a raging fire eating away mercilessly at the structure, but there are also criminals armed to the teeth who are after ... something. It actually takes us a while to find out what it is exactly that Skyscraper's antagonists are seeking. It may not be clear at the start, but the further we get into the film, the more their scheme begins to make sense.
As the movie's action begins, Kores Botha (Roland Møller) and his team of mercenaries break into The Pearl with a clear goal; their every move is calculated. They purposely start the fire that goes on to consume the top portion of the skyscraper, and they later become the adversaries of Dwayne Johnson's Will Sawyer, after deciding to go after his family in order to get to him. But what is Kores really after, and why did he go through so much trouble to get it? As it turns out, he has it out for one man, and it's surprisingly not Johnson's Sawyer. Rather, he's set his sights set on Zhao Long Ji (Chin Han), the creator of The Pearl.
As we come to learn late in the game, Zhao Long Ji was extorted for money when he first started construction of The Pearl. Building the tallest skyscraper in the world is not a quiet affair, after all, and Botha, a mercenary and enforcer for several crime syndicates, came knocking, asking for his cut. Seeing as how he had no choice, Ji agreed, but he used his hacking skills to trace every money transfer to Botha, finding every bank account he used around the globe, thereby exposing the identities of the members of the syndicates who employ him. Ji saved all of that information on his personal flash drive, as protection and insurance in case Botha would ever seek more money. If he were killed, the information would be made public, unless certain fail-safes were deactivated using the main flash drive.
When the crime syndicates learned their identities were at risk, Botha's life and reputation were placed in jeopardy, and the mercenary had little choice but to break into The Pearl to get his hands on thr flash drive. However, how does one find such a needle in a hyper-secure haystack? Well, according to Botha's theory, the only way to discover what a man loves most is to set his house on fire. With The Pearl's security systems turned off by his associates, Botha lights The Pearl on fire, and simply waits for Ji to run for the one thing that is most important to him.
The villain's plan hits the bullseye: Ji runs to his personal safe, and makes sure to secure the flash drive before trying to leave the blazing building by helicopter. Of course, Botha had predicted those actions, and ambushed Ji before he could board the vehicle. However, we also learn there was a second goal behind setting fire to The Pearl: Botha wanted to make Ji pay for his actions -- for making him look bad in the eyes of his associates -- and the only way to do that is to force him to watch as his most precious creation, The Pearl, burn to the ground.
The Towering Inferno's titular blaze was due to an electrical malfunction; there was no foul play. In Die Hard, Hans Gruber stormed the Natakomi Building to steal the fortune tinside. The two basic ideas were mixed into Skyscraper, but here, the villains had a slightly different goal: They were only trying to steal back information that belonged to them in the first place, and make sure that the person responsible paid dearly. Unfortunately for Dwayne Johnson's character and his family, they were simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Botha went after the architect of The Pearl, but he was the architect of his own predicament.
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.