What’s the story on the critical and financial receptions for Skyscraper? (“Story,” get it? Skyscrapers have lots of them. Anyways.)
First, it made more than double its giant $125 million budget. That’s good! Expensive movies are supposed to make craptons of money.
But critics and general audiences both think it’s a Midcarder or Jabroni. But the hero is charisma-machine Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, so what’s going on here? Sounds like it’s missing something viewers wanted to see.
Keep reading this SPOILER-FILLED review of “Skyscraper” to find out if “Skyscraper” has the 3 Count!
The 3 Count is the difference-maker between a forgettable film and a film that is rewatchable and recommendable for more people.
The 3 Count is also made of the same three features that make pro wrestling ultrapopular and megaprofitable. Yes, really! I call them the 3 Count!
Since pro wrestling is storytelling in its simplest form, I’ll review “Skyscraper” for its 3 Count, and other pro wrestling concepts, to explain why a can’t-fail movie starring one of the most popular pro wrestler/movie stars on Earth failed to resonate with audiences.
“Skyscraper”: It’s not “Die Hard.”
Let’s look at the trailer’s Butts in Seats Gimmick, the marketing hook that’s supposed to make people say, “I’ve got to see that!”
The Butts in Seats Gimmick
We’ve got an action movie where a babyface (The Rock) must rescue his family from terrorists/heels in a skyscraper. It’s “Die Hard” in a skyscraper! But, wait! Rock has a prosthetic leg, which adds another layer of tension. The casting, the concept, the PG-13 rating, and the family-centered plot tells me this is an action movie for the whole family.
Now, let’s look at the movie’s 3 Count.
The 3 Count
1. Babyfaces vs Heels
Babyfaces vs heels (good guys vs bad guys) is one of the most basic ingredients for emotional investment in any story. Does “Skyscraper” have babyfaces vs heels?
Yeppers. And that may be the movie’s best quality. Let’s look at the babyfaces first.
Will is a husband, father, and small-business owner. He’s also a former Hostage Rescue Team Operator injured in the line of duty, making him a transtibial amputee (i.e., below the knee) and a Wounded Warrior.
His résumé as a babyface has plenty of noble, empathy-creating credentials, and that’s BEFORE the heels show up and start getting heat 20 minutes in.
Here’s the problem. Will Sawyer is…
Ironically, he reminds me of this guy:
Rocky Maivia was The Rock’s first WWE gimmick. He was a babyface who smiled a lot, gave high-fives to fans, and won his matches. But nobody liked him. Because he had no charisma. That’s Will Sawyer to a T.
See that picture there? That’s just after he won the security contract for the largest skyscraper in the world. But he’s got a boo-boo face on!
And that pic of Will? At that point, the bad guys are dead, the billionaire owner of the skyscraper owes Will huge for saving his life, and every member of Will’s family is safe and unharmed. In other words, THAT’S THE FINAL SHOT OF HIM AT THE END OF THE MOVIE!
If he doesn’t have enough personality to celebrate going over in a huge way in the movie, why should we?
At least Will sells when the heels have the momentum and fires-up to take the momentum back. It’s just that he’s a flat character. But, yes, he’s a babyface. And so is…
Sarah is Will’s wife. She takes care of babyface business too by protecting their kids and kicking a little heel ass. She has slightly more personality than Will. Or maybe she just smiles more.
Let’s talk about the heels!
They lie, they cheat, they steal, they pose a threat to the Sawyer family, and they want a USB the skyscraper’s creator has for reasons that don’t matter. THEY DON’T HAVE ANY CHARISMA EITHER!
This is a huge problem! Heels are always better when they’re unlikable, when you really want to see them get their comeuppance. But not here. Huge botch!
Anyway, we have babyfaces vs heels with opposing goals, the basic elements of a wrestling match.
We are 1 for 3 in the 3 Count so far.
Now, let’s look for Top Talent in “Skyscraper.” Top Talent wrestlers stand out from everyone else for their charisma, quotability, distinctive appearance, fun-to-imitate qualities, and huge drawing power at the box office. So, does “Skyscraper” have any characters with Top Talent qualities?
2. Top Talent
No. No quotes, distinctive appearances, charisma, or anything else that makes people want to rewatch this movie. A Top Talent character could have changed that. But these characters are instantly forgettable.
So, we are still 1 for 3 in the 3 Count.
Now, let’s look at how well the storytelling technique of pro wrestling, called Ring Psychology, can be applied to “Skyscraper.”
3. Ring Psychology
Ring Psychology is the form of storytelling wrestlers use to create the emotional peaks and valleys in their matches while they fight for the story’s momentum. Here’s the break down of the Ring Psychology for “Skyscraper.”
Act 1: Entrances
The ring: Downtown Hong Kong. Scenes take place everywhere, not just the skyscraper, called The Pearl.
Babyfaces’ entrances: We meet the Sawyers and Will’s friend Ben. Ben brings nothing to the story, so you know he’s going to either turn heel or die. Guess what? He turns heel *and* dies.
Heels’ entrances: They enter wearing tactical gear like so many other forgettable action movie heels. Also, like The Shield cosplayers.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THIS IS AN EITHER/OR MATCH. THE MATCH ENDS WHEN EITHER THE HEELS TAKE THE USB OR THE BABYFACES ELIMINATE THE HEELS!
Act 2: Ring the Bell!
In short, the Ring Psychology is passable.
Not a lot happens before the midpoint of the movie when Will jumps into the Pearl. That big high-flying moment is the beginning of Will’s character becoming an action movie character.
But that’s a problem.
After huge, 260 lb, transtibial amputee, Will Sawyer outruns machine gun fire from a helicopter and jumps from the construction crane to the skyscraper, like AJ Styles coming off the top turnbuckle…
What do you follow that up with?
Again, Ring Psychology creates emotional peaks and valleys in a match. It builds the spots to build the intensity and emotional resonance, maximizing the pop from the crowd at the end. But once Will makes that jump, the intensity doesn’t reach that high again.
But what about 25 minutes later when Will dangles outside the building by a rope wrapped around his prosthetic leg, which is slipping out of its harness?
He just does a sit-up, somehow grabs the leg, and pulls himself into the window. How’s that for tension?
Let’s skip ahead to The Finish in the Go-Home.
Act 3: The Go-Home
Will kills the bad guys, and Sarah uses a tablet to activate the skyscraper’s sprinkler system, putting out the fires in the building.
Then the Sawyer family reunites.
There are ups, downs, and momentum-shifts. Plus there’s also the pacing and logic fitting of an action movie. But it’s just flat.
Obviously, the Most Over Gimmick of the Movie, the thing that resonates with audiences most, is the big jump. But it’s in the trailer. “Skyscraper” may be remembered for the trailer more than anything else. Like “Terminator: Salvation.” Sorry, I’m rambling.
That’s 2 for 3 of the 3 Count. And not a strong 2 of 3. Let’s finish off this review.
The Blow Off
“Skyscraper” is a serious-ass action film about a silly-ass action flick situation. It’s a bummer!
Plus, they showed most of the movies most tense moments in the trailer, leaving few thrills left for audiences to see once they put their butts in seats. That seriously hurts the rewatchability and recommendability.
I think people who aren’t particular about what they watch won’t mind “Skyscraper.” Some people like watching colorless, safe, action movies. But I’d rather watch “Fast 5” or “Hercules,” both of which have more personality than “Skyscraper.”
Welp, the 3 Count Movie Review rating for “Skyscraper” is Midcarder.
P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Zach Gowen, the inspirational, one-legged WWE Superstar from the early 2000s. As far as his debut, maybe there could have been a classier way WWE could have pulled it off.