Following the success of Die Hard in 1988, the film spawned a franchise of its very own, but it also spawned a host of imitators. The "Die Hard movie" has essentially become a genre unto itself and considering that it also takes place inside a large building, it's impossible to not see Dwayne Johnson's Skyscraper as the latest in a long line trying to find success with this formula.
But what exactly does it really mean to be a "Die Hard movie?" What are the key qualities that make up this subgenre of action movie? There are clearly some specific characteristics that tend to show up in most of these films. While not every "Die Hard movie" uses each of these elements perfectly (some modify or outright ignore some of them), but these are the key things that clearly separate the "Die Hard movie" from other action hero films, which Skyscraper will need to use well if it wants to do the genre proud.
One of the reasons that John McClane is such a relatable hero is that he's not a superhero. He's not a Navy Seal or a Green Beret with extensive training. He's just a guy. He's also a cop, so he's not entirely without the skill set needed to save the day, but he's certainly over his head for the particular situation he's found himself in. This makes his success much less of a sure thing, which keeps the audience invested in the action. While The Rock's character in Skyscraper is a former FBI agent, we've seen in the trailers he's also injured, making him less of an obvious superman than he otherwise could be.
The reason that a large building is such a perfect location for this sort of story and that Skyscraper is borrowing it wholesale, is because the location is easy to lock down. By keeping the hero inside a finite space, it limits the hero's access to tools or weapons that could aid him and prevents reinforcements from arriving, forcing our hero to do it all by himself. Skyscraper takes this idea to the next level. The building itself is massive compared to the one in the original Die Hard. It's actually the tallest building in the world. This has the potential to give The Rock access to more "stuff" but also makes any chance at outside aid that much more complicated.
If your evil plan involves taking over an entire airport, a battleship, or a sports arena, then clearly you've decided to forego subtlety. Whether the goal is robbery, extortion, or something even more extreme, you've decided the best way to get what you want is via the "go big or go home" method. However, to make up for this, you've planned for every conceivable eventuality. When things go sideways and the cops show up earlier than anticipated, you're ready because you knew that could happen. Your plan is flexible enough to deal with anything, including contingencies that would seem insane, but somehow, you planned for them just in case. In the early footage for Skyscraper, the villain's motives haven't been super clear, but to make a real "Die Hard movie," the flick needs to get this right.
The one thing, which the bad guys have not planned for, is that they accidentally locked a never say die super cop in the building with them. The action unfolds around our hero in a properly designed "Die Hard movie," not because of him. He just happens to be there, via accident or coincidence. If the villains had any idea who was among their hostages, they clearly would have just shot this dude first. However, it's because they don't know what they've gotten themselves into that the hero gets his chance to save the day. From all outward appearances, it looks like Skyscraper follows this key element of the genre. Dwayne Johnson's character doesn't go looking for trouble, it finds him.
If Skyscraper is going to stand the test of time, it needs to be the sort of movie that people quote at each other for years to come. To that end, The Rock will need a good catchphrase. Yippie-Ki-Yay is already taken, but surely there will be some over the top line that Dwayne Johnson can use just as pulls the trigger on his intricate trap or fires his last bullet into the diabolical leader. If the movie doesn't come up with its own, it's welcome to borrow one from the action hero cliche handbook. Might I suggest "Do the math," "Bingo," or "Oh...I'm afraid I just did."
This guy is an unsung hero of the "Die Hard movie" subgenre who deserves recognition, as he's almost always there. While I've given him the name "roof patrol," he's not necessarily found on the roof. However, he's almost certainly out there someplace. He patrols some far-flung corner of the enclosed space. Our hero comes upon him an hour or more into the movie, and this henchman seemingly has no clue what's been going on around him for the entire movie. He's just watching his post, and he's completely taken by surprise when the hero arrives to take him down. Clearly, based on his position, he was the low man on the henchman totem pole. He won't be missed, whether or not it's Bruce Willis or Dwayne Johnson taking him out.
Once all the henchman have been disposed of, it's time for the hero to go one-on-one with the guy in charge. This guy is either the best fighter in the group, leading to a big final blowout action sequence, or he's the smartest of the bad guys, leading to a battle of wits where our hero must outsmart his opponent. Either way, we get to see the big bad, who has been able to stay one step ahead up to this point, finally run out of options and have to do things himself. Which won't turn out well for him at all. If Skyscraper doesn't get that right, it's not the kind of movie I thought it was.
If Skyscraper gets all of those things right, it will be worthy of the _Die Hard _comparison. Find out when the movie hits theaters this weekend.