A former cop out of his element in a building beset by armed mercenaries with family members trapped inside – sounds kind of familiar, right? That’s the story in Skyscraper, and also basically the story of the classic Die Hard, starring Bruce Willis.
The new film isn’t a remake, but the two movies are close enough that the new film, written and directed by Rawson Thurber, plays like a modernized version of the high-rise thriller, custom-designed to suit Johnson’s persona. Here’s how Skyscraper is The Rock’s own version of Die Hard – and why it is still a worthwhile film in its own right.
In Skyscraper, Dwayne Johnson plays Will Sawyer, a former FBI field agent who began a second career as a security consultant after he was gravely wounded in a hostage rescue situation. Now he wears a prosthetic leg, but still gets around with all the grace and power we’ve come to expect from The Rock.
Sawyer is hired to check out security for The Pearl, a state of the art building in Hong Kong which also happens to be the tallest structure in the world, with a unique wind turbine power system and cutting-edge safety features. It’s no spoiler to say that things don’t go well.
Most crucially, when a group of armed men invades the tower, setting fire to the upper floors in order to flush out the owner and designer of the Pearl, Sawyer is stuck elsewhere in the city, while his family (played by Neve Campbell, Noah Cottrell, and Kayden Magnuson) scrambles to evade both the fire and goons inside the Pearl.
So we’ve got the equation: a tough star, a fancy new building, invading armed men targeting the building’s head honcho, and fire. It would be difficult to make a film that more perfectly fit the equation Die Hard plus a little Towering Inferno plus The Rock.
Yet ultimately, there are more differences than similarities at play. Skyscraper is not a beat for beat remake of Die Hard, though the two films are undeniably similar. First there’s the question of Will Sawyer’s physical ability. Die Hard reduced John McClane’s mobility by shredding his feet with broken glass. Will Sawyer has to deal with having lost one of his legs from the knee down. That gives him another object to use in his defense – an impressively sturdy prosthetic – but also makes running and jumping just a bit more difficult.
Then there’s the high-tech angle in the new movie. The Pearl doesn’t just have forward-thinking safety systems; it has a namesake sphere at the top which, if nothing else, is perfectly conceived as the location for a climactic movie battle.
And this film goes much further with over the top physical action than Die Hard did. No surprise given that Dwayne Johnson stars; he’s not exactly famous for his sense of restraint. You’ve seen the trailer shot of his character jumping from a construction crane across an incredible distance to land just at the threshold of a broken window. Physics? Who cares! That’s very clearly not what Skyscraper is about.
There’s more than that in the movie, but we won’t spoil all the film’s tricks. Suffice to say that, while Die Hard featured moments like John McClane using a fire hose to escape the explosion atop the Nakatomi Tower, Skyscraper has even wilder stuff in store.
Skyscraper opens on July 13.