Skyscraper and the sounds of silence

Devin on screen

I admit that I haven’t kept this as updated as I would have liked.

Century of Film kind of fizzled not because I didn’t like doing it, but because I was having trouble being interesting when talking about Notorious – which is an extremely good movie, let it be known – and also kept running out of time to actually put the piece together. Maybe I’ll revive it one day, because it was quite fun to run through the history of film.

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I decided, then, to instead give myself less pressure, to talk about stuff that makes its way to my screen without as much planning or anything in the way of a theme – in fact, expect to see some stuff about video games here as well. Instead, I will update this as the mood strikes me, when I encounter something that I just have to talk about.

Let’s talk about Skyscraper.

In a lot of ways, it’s like Die Hard, but worse. It’s still about an elaborate plot in a skyscraper being foiled by a balding man, but everything is worse. In some ways, it’s like the Die Hard video game for PC Engine in Japan, in that it has a jungle in the middle of it for no reason. It ends with a joke from the British sitcom The IT Crowd, as a major problem is solved by turning the skyscraper off and on again.

Last week, in my column, I talked about how Eraser was a movie that made a bit of an impact when it was released but has been forgotten since. That’s going to be the fate of Skyscraper. It’s a forgettable movie, from the title to everything that happens in it. The villains aren’t great, the heroes aren’t great – the Rock is a formidable screen presence but he’s not really given much to do here and the plot is nothing new or special. It steals scenes from other movies, but does them worse – the terrifying tower climb from Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is replicated here, including stealing the exact shot from when Tom Cruise leaves the building, but the sequence is shorter and less interesting.

So why talk about it?

I was fascinated by director Rawson Marshall Thurber’s bizarre inability to use silence.

I have seen two movies from this director, this and Central Intelligence, which also starred The Rock. In that movie, there is a scene set in a bar with no incidental background music. That scene stuck with me because I became extremely uncomfortable, since I have been in a bar and all bars have music in them. It felt intrinsically wrong to have the scene play silent, because I know how bars work.

In this one, there is a fight scene in a hotel room that also is not accompanied by music. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, lots of directors will go silent for the sake of dramatic effect, and when well used this can make a heavier impact than it would have had with a score behind it.

When poorly used, it just makes one wonder why the scene doesn’t have a score.

In this case, there’s no particular reason why the scene is silent. While one character has betrayed another, it’s not played in a way that justifies a lack of a score. It’s a well done but otherwise standard fight scene. While going silent in the climax would have made sense, because it would emphasize the drama of the moment and also focus the audience on the weird sneakiness required in the scene – set in a magic, high-tech sphere that functions like a funhouse hall of mirrors – the fight scene is just two people beating each other. Instead of intensifying the drama, the silence just makes you wonder why it’s so quiet.

They hired Steve Jablonsky to do the score, and that guy can score a fight scene, making it even more of a mystery why he didn’t. It’s a loud scene anyway, so the lack of music is oddly distracting in a way including a bit of a score wouldn’t have been.

It makes you realize how you get used to the grammar of film, because when someone departs from it without any obvious reason it just doesn’t feel right.

This is likely the last time anyone will think very hard about the film Skyscraper.

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