Black Adam (2022): The Hierarchy of Power in the DC Universe Does Not Change All That Much

“Black Adam” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (The Shallows, The Commuter) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Red Notice, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Aldis Hodge (Straight Outta Compton, Hidden Figures), Noah Centineo (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, The Fosters), Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest, The L Word), Marwan Kenzari (Aladdin, The Old Guard), Quintessa Swindell (Euphoria, Trinkets), Bodhi Sabongui (A Million Little Things, The Baby-Sitters Club), and Pierce Brosnan (Mamma Mia!, The November Man). This film is the latest installment to the Detective Comics Extended Universe, well before the recent transition under James Gunn and Peter Safran. Nevertheless, the film follows an individual who is freed from a tomb after 5,000 years. Being a fish out of water, said individual must adapt to a new world with new friends and foes.

2022 has been an okay year for comic book movies. I liked most of the comic book movies that have come out this year. There have been some duds like “DC League of Super-Pets” and especially “Morbius.” However, the genre has had more wins than losses so far. I will say, regardless of their quality, this year has given me a reason to look forward to various comic book movies like “The Batman” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.” The expectations I had for those movies were at the very least, notable. As for how they turned out, both were good, but not great. Although “Black Adam” is an interesting case in regards to hype unlike those two movies. While “Black Adam” may not be as popular as say Wonder Woman, this project had a lot of time put into it, so I was curious to see how it would turn out after all these years. The development of “Black Adam” had been known since the late 2000s. Since then, Johnson has been a busy professional, but I am glad to see him come back to work on this property. At the same time, was the wait too long? It is possible, because every other year, the idea of a “Black Adam” movie became an idea where I would “believe it when I see it.” Well, it is 2022, and now I have seen it. What did I think of it?

Ehh… I guess it is okay…

If you want me to be real, my expectations for “Black Adam,” despite the amount of time that has been put into it, were not high. I was not expecting to be disappointed. Although the marketing was fine at best. When it comes to Dwayne Johnson, I have respect for him as a personality, but he does not always make the best movies. Sure, there are some standouts like “Central Intelligence,” some of the “Fast & Furious” installments, and the “Jumanji” movies. Although he has also made quite a few stinkers like “Rampage,” “Skyscraper,” and “Red Notice.” Despite being arguably the biggest and strongest movie star in the world, he has had quite a few punches he had to roll with. Even so, I find Johnson charming and I look forward to some of the things he does, even if it ends up sucking.

From a general audience perspective, this is the kind of movie that should sell. It is based on comics, which has been a hot trend in recent years. It stars The Rock, who has also been on trend based on his leading and supporting roles. Not surprisingly, the film already made over $250 million worldwide. It may not be making as much money as certain previous DC films, but the film is on track to become one of the biggest of Johnson’s career. Just because the box office is big, at least until “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” slaughters the movie next weekend, does not mean the movie has the strength of Johnson himself. Although I can see why this movie is doing so well with audiences. The action is bombastic, the scope is enormous, and there are some genuinely fun moments to be had here.

This movie is fun, but it is the kind of fun that would I also use to describe certain fast food restaurants. It is great for getting together with your friends to experience something that is it not going to revolutionize the world, but instead something you will mostly enjoy the moment it is in front of you. The dialogue is some of the cheesiest of its genre but the visual effects are pretty enough to have an attractive flair.

Dwayne Johnson, after many years of advertising this movie, saying it will happen, and finally delivering it to the masses, dons the suit of Black Adam, an anti-hero whose main trait is changing his mood either between brooding or stoic. While this may sound like a jab at the performance, I will give Dwayne Johnson some credit for his performance. Every time I watch a performance from Johnson, it comes off like he is playing the same person. Specifically, himself, or some alternate version of such an individual. It is just like Kevin Hart. It is just like Melissa McCarthy. It is just like Tiffany Haddish. Johnson has a tendency to play characters from one movie to the next who would come off as interchangeable if they stood next to each other. While Black Adam may not be my favorite of his characters he has played, Johnson seems to emit a different vibe or deliver another tone when portraying the anti-hero. Maybe it is because Johnson is often seen playing characters whose motivations for good happen to be clear. He is trying to help friends, his family. This time around, he plays a character who is comparatively psychotic compared to say Bob Stone in “Central Intelligence.” Though it is slightly different from some of other roles, I admire Johnson for attempting to play a character with this angle in mind.

When it comes to this film’s characters, that is the element of the film, as disposable as it is, that I am probably going to remember the most. But it is probably for reasons that would work more when it comes to marketing than the film itself. There is nothing wrong with star power, but I am likely going to remember this film because of that more than what happens in the film. I have a strong feeling that the only reason I will remember who the Justice Society is a year from now is the fact that renowned actor Pierce Brosnan plays Dr. Fate. No offense to Hawkman, Atom-Smasher, and Cyclone along with their discount Xaiver Institute where they reside. If Pierce Brosnan was not in the Justice Society, this movie would be just a tad more forgettable than it really is.

“Black Adam” feels like a comic book movie that tries to belong in the 2020s, especially with its attempts to expand a tonally inconsistent cinematic universe. But at the same time, it cannot help but stretch itself back to previous decades. Select scenes reminded me of a wild 90s movie with goofy edits or some notorious 80s film from Cannon Productions like the Sylvester Stallone-starring “Over the Top.” The latter is actually a pretty good example here because of the unlikely bond between the protagonist and a young boy. Although when it comes to this similarity, “Over the Top,” which is not a great movie to begin with, somehow delivers a more appealing edition of such a bond.

Despite my digs at the film, which it earns, I had a halfway decent time with “Black Adam.” But if you had to ask me what my favorite part of “Black Adam” was, I would have a troubling time coming up with a definitive answer. This is not to say the movie is awful. It is to say that maybe that when it comes to DC fare, this is an addition that delivers. but maybe not to its full potential. Even though I did not think the movie was perfect, I had a “favorite part” in “The Batman,” specifically the chase between Batman and the Penguin at the movie’s midway point. I had a favorite part in “Joker.” I had a favorite part in “Wonder Woman.” Despite its flaws, I had a favorite part in “Batman v. Superman.” To me, “Black Adam” is going to be remembered for its wins. But when I use the word “remembered” in this case, I might be a bit generous with that, because there are better comic book movies this year. As far as movies with Dwayne Johnson go, this is not the worst he has done, but it is certainly not his strongest effort either.

If anything, this movie comes off as a visual experience. When I watch movies, I refuse to turn off my brain because as someone who reviews movies, I need to stay focused on what it is in front of me. That said, “Black Adam” feels like a turn off your brain kind of movie. Not to mention a noisy one at that. If you watch this in a premium cinema, I would not be surprised if your auditorium shakes, or at least comes close to doing so. “Black Adam” is basically this year’s “Venom: Let There be Carnage.” I liked both movies, but not for reasons that would make want to watch them in the next month or two. They’re noisy, but they’re also noisy in a way that appeals to the senses. The dialogue is not the greatest, but it has its moments. Although “Venom: Let There be Carnage” in this case would be a better movie because as a turn off your brain movie, it feels simpler. Possibly because of its tightly knit runtime and pacing.

In short, did the hierarchy of power in the DC Universe change? The answer, not so much.

In the end, there is not much to say about “Black Adam” other than it is a movie that easily entertains, but also hardly gives a reason to have staying power. “Black Adam” is not the worst DC movie in the ongoing cinematic universe. That dishonor belongs to “Wonder Woman 1984.” Although it comes off as a massive step down to the previous DCEU film, “The Suicide Squad.” I was not expecting this film to be as killer as “The Suicide Squad,” but I was hoping that it would be good. To say it is good would not be a lie, depending on what your definition of good is. But to say it is memorable is another thing. If I need background noise, “Black Adam” is an okay choice. But if I want to watch a DC movie, I will stick with “The Dark Knight.” Although I would still give this a watch in the theater if you really want something to see, but maybe for a matinee price. I am going to give “Black Adam” a 6/10.

“Black Adam” is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the brand new movie “Call Jane.” I went to go see the film in theaters last weekend. It is not getting a lot of publicity, but it is a movie that had my curiosity with Elizabeth Banks in the lead role. Whether it had my attention, is another story. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Black Adam?” What did you think about it? Or, who is your favorite movie star working today? For me, the rule is simple. Give me Tom Cruise or give me death. Let me know your picks down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

DC League of Super-Pets (2022): This Movie’s Biggest Kryptonite? Predictability and Familiar Faces.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine, and stars Dwayne Johnson (Doom, Skyscraper), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, Night School), Kate McKinnon (Yesterday, Saturday Night Live), John Krasinski (A Quiet Place, The Office), Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live, Office Christmas Party), Natasha Lyonne (Orange is the New Black, Big Mouth), Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Narcos: Mexico), Marc Maron (Maron, GLOW), Keanu Reeves (The Matrix, John Wick), Ben Schwartz (Parks and Recreation, Sonic the Hedgehog), and Thomas Middleditch (Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Silicon Valley). This film follows Krypto the Super-Dog, as he must figure out how to rescue his owner, Superman.

I love comic book movies. And I know I am not alone. If the box office for most of the films within this classification have shown anything, it is that films of this type are hotter than they have ever been. Marvel Studios is on fire right now with the release of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” in addition to the massively successful “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” both of which ended up in my top 10 best of last year. DC is also doing well for themselves. I enjoyed “The Batman” despite some pacing issues I had with the film, and I thought last year’s “The Suicide Squad” might just be the best movie to ever have the DC logo attached. And in the midst of all of these movies that I either looked forward to or saw and really enjoyed, I never thought “DC League of Super-Pets” would live up to the quality standards that we have seen in other comic book-based works. If anything, I thought it would probably be on the same level as “Morbius,” only slightly more comedic and family-friendly.

I will be real. I cannot remember the last time I asked for a movie about Superman’s dog, but here we are. Why did I see it? Because I have reviews to get done and AMC A-List is a dynamite investment. I love not paying for movies that I feel the need to see to stay in the loop. Although at the same time, if you have names as big as Kevin Hart or Keanu Reeves, that should bring something promising to the table. And this brings me to my first positive, which I will dive more into later, Keanu Reeves was the highlight of the film.

What did I think of “DC League of “Super-Pets?” It’s predictable, mediocre, and I do not think the comedy landed that much. I have heard some differing opinions, but if you ask me, even some of the more clever jokes in this movie did not garner much of a reaction out of me. Some of the comedy attempts either felt tired, forced, or obvious. There is a “Paw Patrol”-related joke that probably would have been funnier if I did not make a “Paw Patrol” comparison before the film came out. Speaking of “Paw Patrol,” one thing about that show is that it is specifically made for kids. That’s the vibes I got from “DC League of Super-Pets’s” marketing campaign. All kiddy, no maturity. Turns out there is some adult humor in this film, but even that did not land. I can only hear the censor bar so many times before the gag becomes tiresome. This is honestly unfortunate considering the film is written by Jared Stern and John Whittington, who previously wrote another animated DC flick, “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Regardless of its comic-based origins and spinoff placement, it is one of the funniest animation scripts done in recent years. That movie had five writers! I hope for the sake of Stern and Whittington that they came up with at least one of the clever jokes that script contained, because “DC League of Super-Pets” feels like a far cry to the 2017 “LEGO Batman” spinoff.

The story of “DC League of Super-Pets” does not reinvent the wheel. I never asked for this movie to begin with, and therefore I never asked it to reinvent the wheel, therefore I did not know what to expect. But the movie itself sort of reminded me of a longer episode of a Saturday morning cartoon, but not necessarily a great one. I also think the script of “DC League of Super-Pets” is probably going to land better with those who are dog or cat people. People who have pets and consider them part of their family. I live in a space where there are pets, but they are not necessarily my pets, so this script did not connect with me maybe in the way the writers hoped it would.

I want to talk about the biggest problem in this movie, and this is the problem that the movie has built up ever since its first teaser. Going back to the big names. Having big names like Dwayne Johnson in your movie always builds intrigue and promise. It’s like when a printer gets endorsed by Shaquille O’Neal, or Mark Cuban becomes a quasi-mascot of a new, innovative product, or when Howie Mandel fist bumps everything in your store for some reason. When this film’s first teaser released, the primary focus was on the stacked cast this movie managed to acquire from Dwayne Johnson to Kevin Hart to Kate McKinnon to John Krasinski and so on. I want to talk about those first two names. Dwayne Johnson is arguably the biggest movie star in the world, and Kevin Hart, in addition to being a relevant comedian, has worked with The Rock in the past on “Central Intelligence” and the “Jumanji” movies. This is their third property together, and I do not mind actors or crew joining forces more than once. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone have worked together numerous times in “Crazy Stupid Love,” “Gangster Squad,” and “La La Land.” Their chemistry is undeniable.

I have no idea if this is coincidental or not, but the Gosling/Stone pairing is a match every time. The difference between Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone compared to Johnson and Hart is the ability of the former pair to show range. Ryan Gosling can be the sexy boy toy, he can sing, he can be stoic. Emma Stone can be a quirky young woman, she can be an aspiring actress, she can be someone from a couple centuries ago. The two are “actors,” not stars. Johnson and Hart, despite having personality, are not the greatest thespians, and it shows in “DC League of Super-Pets.” When I look at Krypto, I see The Rock. When I look at Ace, I see Kevin Hart. In my imagination, they are just playing versions of themselves in animated dog form. This is why part of me is often worried when I think about the upcoming “Super Mario Bros.” movie because like “DC League of Super-Pets,” I am just worried that Chris Pratt is going to do another version of Emmet from “The LEGO Movie” or something. Chris Pratt, like The Rock, while he is definitely a better actor, is not the greatest of the performers working today. Pratt’s voice is recognizable, and that is part of why it felt weird hearing said voice in Pixar’s “Onward.” I am not saying live-action movie stars should not voice animated characters. Some have as much talent as those who primarily do voice-acting. But these roles show Johnson and Hart’s lack of range as actors. Dwayne Johnson and Kevin Hart always do the same schtick or some variation of it in their movies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. Not having a live-action environment hinders that and makes this film the weakest of their collaborations. And the fact that I am looking at these dogs’ faces and seeing nothing but Johnson and Hart makes their performances creepier than they should be.

I said I will get back to Keanu Reeves. A promise is a promise. Reeves is easily this film’s best part. Not just because of his voice, but the character he plays, that being Batman. Much like “The LEGO Batman Movie,” this interpretation of Batman or Bruce Wayne is on the more parodic side, and rightfully so. I said earlier that I was slightly concerned that Jared Stern and John Whittington possibly never came up with any solid jokes in “The LEGO Batman Movie.” Although after reminiscing on Batman in this film, part of me has second thoughts. I was not a huge fan of the film’s comedy, but the parts where I was almost rolling on the floor were the scenes where Batman shows up. His screen time in this film is minimal. Think of it as a funny Stan Lee cameo where he plays himself except it happens ten times. Despite this movie’s lighthearted tone, it also pokes fun at the darkness of the Caped Crusader. Everything from his lone wolf mentality to his lack of parents. It’s hilarious, and I might every once in a while look on YouTube for the scenes in this movie containing Batman just to get a laugh.

In the end, “DC League of Super-Pets” is, to my surprise, not the worst comic book movie of the year. Again, “Morbius” exists. You’re welcome, Warner Brothers! You are going to have to settle for the dishonorable mention. Some of the voice acting is hit or miss. When I watch an animated movie, part of me wants to forget that I am watching something that has The Rock in it. I think as far as voice performances go, Johnson’s performance in “Moana,” while not my favorite in history, is slightly better than the one he gives to Krypto. But I also do not know if I can blame it on his ability, because his voice is recognizable. When it comes to Kevin Hart playing a house pet, I’d rather listen to his performance as Snowball the terrier in “The Secret Life of Pets.” I often watch films for an escape. If I want an escape with The Rock and Kevin Hart, I would rather watch “Central Intelligence.” This is not a film that is going to stand the test of time. As far as DC goes, it is surprisingly better than “Wonder Woman 1984,” but unlike “DC League of Super-Pets,” I had higher expectations for that film. I am going to give “DC League of Super-Pets” a 5/10.

“DC League of Super-Pets” is now playing in theatres everywhere. Tickets are available now.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is going to be for the film “Vengeance,” directed by B.J. Novak. Also be on the lookout for my review for “Bullet Train,” the new action flick starring Brad Pitt as he and assassins crowd up a speeding train in Japan. If you want to see this and more from Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “DC League of Super-Pets?” What did you think about it? Or, what is a movie with a stacked cast that disappointed you? For me, that big disappointment was 2017’s “The Circle,” starring Emma Watson, Tom Hanks, Patton Oswalt, John Boyega, among others. Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Red Notice (2021): The Three Biggest Movie Stars Join Forces to Torture Movie Watchers Everywhere

“Red Notice” is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Skyscraper, Central Intelligence) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, ), Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool, Free Guy), and Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman, Criminal), Ritu Arya (Doctors, The Umbrella Academy), Chris Diamantopoulos (Up All Night, The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse), and this film centers around two agents who are assigned to track down the world’s most wanted art thief.

Netflix is the epitome of watching a movie or TV show from home today. You can go to your microwave, whip up some popcorn, turn on your smart television, open the app, and let those images fly. Granted there are other options like Hulu or Prime or HBO, but only one has earned the identity of being the place where can watch your stuff and “chill.” Although in recent years, Netflix has taken the movie theater business rather seriously. They’ve released great, emotional titles like “Roma” and “Marriage Story,” and they’ve racked up some Oscars here and there. They even released my favorite film of 2020, “Over the Moon,” which I’m sure is an opinion that others don’t typically share, but knowing myself, I really could have used that film at a certain time in my life, hence why I loved it so much. Netflix’s bread and butter is obviously streaming, but they’ll occasionally try their hardest on a movie when the moment allows. Extreme emphasis on when the moment allows. Because not all of their stuff is theatrical, and a straight to streaming movie is today’s equivalent of a straight to cable movie. Everything looks a bit less polished and they don’t always showcase high quality. But for “Red Notice,” this is an interesting case. This was released theatrically, so it has that going for it. But also, the film had not just one, but three of the highest paid actors working today.

You have Deadpool and Blue Shirt Guy himself, Ryan Reynolds. One of the sexy Canadian Ryans out there. Yes we Canada! I know, he’s not in “Toy Story,” just go with it!

You also have Dwayne Johnson, who if you ask me, is probably today’s biggest stereotype when it comes to being a movie star. He’s not the ultimate chameleon, but he has his fans and knows his audience.

Lastly, there’s Gal Gadot, who I have fallen in love with for awhile given her portrayal as Wonder Woman. I think when she first started in that role, granted that was not her first gig, I think her line delivery could have been improved, but I saw potential in her, and she has been growing since then. And one of the first positives I can give to this film in terms of Gal Gadot being in it is that this is one of the better performances I’ve seen from her. The reason is because the way her character is written and directed unleashes the thought I have held for her for a long time. Gadot is probably one of the most beautiful women acting right now. Whether it is of highest intentions or not, which it probably is, she spends much of the movie coming off as almost semi-seductive in every scene. She has a couple lines in this film that feel like they come out of an action-packed porno.

I will also give the movie another thing. When it comes to the costumes, again as an example, I’ll mention Gal Gadot’s red outfit that is almost intentionally meant to put her perverted enemies at bay, they’re very well done. Ryan Reynolds and Dwayne Johnson look like they’re going to be the highlights of spy prom. I think many of the costumes in “Red Notice” are dazzling to say the least. I will also say that some of the sets are well put together and they occasionally make me want to travel the world. But I also want to note that nearly every positive I have given so far is either something based on looks, or how attractive the cast is. As the old saying goes, looks aren’t everything. How is the actual movie in terms of substance?

It’s pure crap. Honestly, this looks like a cheap “Fast & Furious” ripoff that is not quite bad enough to be in the Walmart $5 bin, but that kind of makes it worse because looks can be incredibly deceiving. It has the looks of a modern blockbuster, but it has a script that was created by a 12 year old! This film cost $200 million to make. I bet the three leads received an enormous portion of that pile of cash. I mean, what does Ryan Reynolds need all that money for? Is he gonna try to buy Canada or something?!

This is one of those scripts that if you are specifically writing it with the actors who ended up in this movie in mind, it would sound great in a pitch, but from my perspective, it’s also kind of a long shot considering some of these actors having busy schedules. Given the final results, I think these actors should have stayed busy.

Look, I love Ryan Reynolds as much as the next guy. I think he is one of the most hilarious dudes, and possibly my favorite movie star on the market today, but I have to admit, I don’t think I laughed once when this character was on screen. Part of his role in this film is the typical Ryan Reynolds schtick where he’s almost got traits of a lovable idiot but in actuality he’s not that much of a dumbass, but every line out of his mouth is ridiculously flat and I don’t even know if he was just off while filming or if Rawson Marshall Thurber is not as good at directing as I would like him to be. I liked “Central Intelligence.” I just wish “Red Notice” was as entertaining as that. This film is edited and written as an action-packed thrill ride. Why doesn’t the acting match the feel of a thrill instead of coming off as slightly robotic?

In fact when I watch this movie and I look at Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, the first thing I’m reminded of is “Hobbs & Shaw.” Only it’s ten times worse… Because between the characters of Hobbs and Shaw, you had chemistry. One of the best things about the film “Hobbs & Shaw” for me was the chemistry between Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. They hated each other, and they took every other moment to acknowledge their displeasure. Sometimes it was really funny. Whenever I look at, again, Dwayne Johnson, shows you the kinds of roles he’s taken in recent years, alongside Ryan Reynolds, I feel like I’m watching a watered down version of that pair. Even though the “Fast & Furious” franchise has never made a single masterpiece, the one thing it often gets right is the chemistry between certain characters, Hobbs and Shaw being one notable example.

Also, this film has one of the lamest and most forced examples of Coca-Cola product placement in recent memory. It felt like something out of an “SNL” sketch that made fun of an action movie as opposed to an actual action movie.

In the end, when it comes to “Red Notice,” there is not much to say except that it is one of the most forgettable landfills of a film I have watched in some time. Again, the stars look cool, the sets look cool, but I feel like more time was spent on developing the style of the movie to the point where Rawson Marshall Thurber and others involved literally forgot substance. I thought it would be tough for Dwayne Johnson to release a film that is worse than “Jungle Cruise” this year. Well, here we are. I also thought it was gonna be tough for Ryan Reynolds to crap out something worse than “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard” this year. Mission accomplished, I guess! Gal Gadot looks stunning in a red dress. Okay. Let’s make a good script with that concept in it! How bout that? I’m going to give “Red Notice” a 2/10.

“Red Notice” is now available on Netflix for all subscribers. The film also released in theaters, but it has been a month since it came out, so I would not count on going to the theater to see this film at this point.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, I just want to let you know that I have more coming. I have reviews coming for “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” “King Richard,” “Tick, Tick…BOOM!,” “Encanto,” “Sing 2,” “Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” and “West Side Story.” I’m also going to be seeing “Spider-Man: No Way Home” soon, so I will have a review for that as well.

Also, tomorrow, I will be sharing my thoughts on “The Matrix Reloaded” as part of the ongoing review series “The Matrix Reviewed!” Stay tuned!

If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Red Notice?” What did you think about it? Or, what is the most disappointing movie you’ve seen with a great cast? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jungle Cruise (2021): Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt Sail Through a Mediocre Run Through the Amazon

“Jungle Cruise” is directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown, The Shallows) and stars Dwayne Johnson (The Fate of the Furious, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, A Quiet Place), Jack Whitehall (The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Mother’s Day), Edgar Ramírez (Gold, Point Break), with Jesse Plemons (Game Night, Judas and the Black Messiah), and Paul Giamatti (12 Years a Slave, Sideways). This film is based on the Disney theme park ride of the same name and is set during World War I. Throughout the film we see the mysterious ship captain Frank Wolff, who gives cheap tours through the Amazon River, join forces with Lily Houghton as they search for a tree that contains magical healing powers. While their intentions are to use it for good, Germany has other plans to utilize the power of the tree in order to win the war.

I saw “Jungle Cruise” on opening Thursday in the theater and safe to say, I had moderate expectations going in. I was not expecting Shakespeare, in fact most movies starring The Rock, regardless of his acting talent, are not usually taken as seriously as others. The trailers looked okay, they seemed to have promised a generic adventure that is somewhat family friendly despite being PG-13. In fact, the more I think about it, it kind of looked like a better version of “Dolittle,” as the plot of that film also involved finding a specific tree for healing purposes. There were plenty of people at my screening. It was not a sold out show, but it was good to see families returning to the theater. I went by myself, because I’m awesome, I’m important, and goddamnit, I’m the absolute best! But is “Jungle Cruise” worth the trip? In addition, is it worth $30 on Disney+?

“Jungle Cruise” certainly ain’t no “Indiana Jones.” Or “Pirates of the Caribbean” if you want to get into other theme park ride-based films. Well, the first one to be specific. If anything, “Jungle Cruise” is more in line with the fifth “Pirates of the Caribbean.” It’s a fun film to watch once and then forget about. I will admit, I had quite a few problems with this film as I sat down trying to take it all in. This is one of those rare times where I watch a film and think that Dwayne Johnson is not exactly likable. I mean, sure, I can probably find one or two other films where that is the case. “Tooth Fairy” is another one that comes to mind. But if I have learned one thing in recent years, it’s that regardless of his acting ability, Dwayne Johnson is one of the most charismatic movie stars out there today. He’s up there with Tom Hanks and Ryan Reynolds. Two actors who I think are more talented than The Rock, but there is no denying that they have delivered dumptrucks of likability over the years just from their personalities and how they present themselves on screen.

I’m not saying The Rock is a dick in this film or anything. I just find the way they wrote his character to be somewhat of a letdown. You know, one of the best things about movies like “The Empire Strikes Back,” “Memento,” and “Parasite,” without getting into detail, are the twists and turns these movies take along the way. “Jungle Cruise” is no stranger to this idea, but there was one subversion of my expectations that happened in the first twenty minutes of the film regarding The Rock’s character that made him go from a badass hunk of a man to… Somebody. I dunno. The point is, right off the bat, the character did not leave me with the best first impression. In fact, one of first scenes in the movie with this character, Frank Wolff, is him giving a tour through the Amazon River. The tour itself is notably cheap and lacks an oomph factor. That was the intention on the script’s part, therefore I am not calling this a critique. But the thing is, the whole scene is just The Rock trying to give a boring tour while delivering so many dad jokes. And that’s a thing throughout the movie. Dad jokes! Dad jokes everywhere! Who wrote this movie? 7 year olds? I have never ridden the ride this movie bases itself upon, but apparently, according to what I’ve heard about the Jungle Cruise ride itself, there’s a tour guide on the ride, and that tour guide will spew out dad jokes here and there. While I appreciate the nods to the source material, I’ll be blunt and say this doesn’t rock.

Goddamnit.

I will say that one of my regrets, despite seeing this in the theater, part of me wishes I saw it in 3D or some large premium format. I ended up seeing the film in regular 2D as that was the most convenient timeslot. But if you want a visual feast, this may be worth the trip. The same cannot be said for the story though, at least from my perspective. Because while it is unpredictable at times, it is surface level and the unpredictability is not precisely impressive.

Although I will say that one of my highlights of the film would be some of the supporting cast. Jesse Plemons has been great in everything I’ve seen him in so far, so naturally he is also great in “Jungle Cruise.” Here he plays Prince Joachim, an over the top German aristocrat who stands in the way of the heroes. Plemons does not even feel like himself in this movie. He feels like he’s playing someone from another world at times. Granted, it is a Disney film, where a little over the top sprinkles are encouraged. I will also note Jack Whitehall as Lily’s brother, MacGregor, who comes along for the cruise. Whitehall comes off as a likable coward who almost tries to be the voice of reason but does so almost poorly. I think he is easily one of the better parts of the film the more I think about it.

Disney has tried time and time again to recreate the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Whether “Jungle Cruise” gets a sequel or not is still somewhat questionable on the surface because of the pandemic. The movie did not do too great thus far theatrically or on Disney+. But when it comes to movies based on Disney’s theme park rides, this feels more focused on gimmicks and immersion compared to story. The story is okay, but it is most certainly not great. If you have a family and are looking for an excuse to leave the house, I’d say see this in the most immersive format you can afford. It may be fun for a couple of hours, but I cannot guarantee you will remember it much after.

In the end, “Jungle Cruise” is mediocrely paced, more focused on style over substance, and MY GOD the dad jokes never end! That’s a weird complaint coming from me, because if you know my family, specifically my father’s side, we get together a lot and we are no strangers to puns. In fact, for those of you who do not know, my last name is Drees, and on my father’s side of the family, we call puns and other related jokes “Drees humor” just because of how commonplace it has become when we are around each other. Either way, they did not work in “Jungle Cruise.” I think Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt are a fair pair. Although I wish the script served the actors better, especially Johnson. The film does look nice, but looks are not everything. I want a good story too, but “Jungle Cruise” failed in that regard. I’m going to give “Jungle Cruise” a 5/10.

“Jungle Cruise” is now playing in theaters and it is also available through Disney+ with Premier Access for $29.99 on top of a subscription.

Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review for a film based on a Disney theme park ride, why not read five more?! Be sure to check out my reviews for all five “Pirates of the Caribbean” films including “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” “On Stranger Tides,” and “Dead Men Tell No Tales.” I reviewed all of these films as part of recognizing Scene Before’s 5th anniversary in an exclusive series titled “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Chest of Reviews!”

Continuing down the road of Scene Before’s 5th anniversary, this Monday I will be unveiling my thoughts on the 1984 sex comedy “Revenge of the Nerds” as a starting point of the upcoming review series, “Revenge of the Nerds: Nerds in Review.” As I’ve said previously, my in-depth thoughts on this film, not to mention franchise, feels like it is long overdue.

Speaking of things we’ve all been waiting for, this weekend we are finally getting to watch “The Suicide Squad!” I have IMAX tickets for Saturday, I cannot wait to share my thoughts with you. James Gunn, I have faith in you, do not let me down. If you want to see all this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jungle Cruise?” What did you think about it? Or, did you ever go on the Jungle Cruise ride? What was that like? Leave your thoughts and opinions down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019): The Kinda Sorta Freaky Friday Holiday Special

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“Jumanji: The Next Level” is directed by Jake Kasdan, who also directed this film’s predecessor, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” This film stars Dwayne Johnson (Rampage, San Andreas), Kevin Hart (Ride Along, The Wedding Ringer), Jack Black (Kung Fu Panda, Goosebumps), and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy, Doctor Who). This film is the sequel to the recently mentioned “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and it continues following the characters we got to know from the last film, a group of young adults who get sucked into a video game and become the the avatars they chose. And in this followup, the main young adult, specifically Spencer, returns home from studying in New York around Christmastime. He eventually goes into his basement and decides to play the “Jumanji” video game once more. This leaves Spencer’s friends bewildered of where he’s gone and leads to their eventual return to the virtual world.

I have been on this blog since 2016, and I have reviewed a good number of movies every year since then, but one of them was not “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” For one thing, I had little time on my hands for it, there were other movies I was more focused on such as “The Disaster Artist,” I was trying to get started on 2018 in film, I had my end of year countdowns (by the way, stay tuned for my BEST & WORST movies lists of 2019 once the New Year arrives), and I will also add that I saw the trailer for “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” and before that, I heard about the movie’s plot. I wasn’t particular fond with it. I grew up admiring the “Jumanji” film from the 1990s, the one with the horrific board game that brought havoc upon humanity, I loved that movie from a story and spectacle perspective. The ending still gives me chills just thinking about it. When it comes to “Welcome to the Jungle,” the 2017 reboot, I was scared for how it would turn out because it felt like there was going to be significantly less at stake compared to its 1990s counterpart. After all, the movie took place inside a video game as opposed to the real world, where ACTUAL things happen. But to my surprise, I had a rather fun time with “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.” The main cast has terrific chemistry, a lot of jokes inside the video game worked, Jack Black’s performance is up there with some of the finest I’ve seen in a popcorn movie, and here’s a shocker, it felt like there were stakes! Surprisingly, anything that took place in the real world was boring compared to the video game. Granted, when the movie kicks itself into gear and I start seeing lots of Sony product placement everywhere, I cannot help but get irritated.

Speaking of surprises, I honestly think “Jumanji: The Next Level” may be better than its predecessor. I think it has better writing, the ideas are just about as clever as they were in 2017, it’s crowd-pleasing, and I will say that a couple new characters bring a bit to the table as well. Most notably, Danny DeVito (Batman Returns, The Lorax).

In this movie, Danny DeVito plays Spencer’s grandfather, Eddie, and I don’t know how many of you saw the trailers, but without giving much detail, he ends up getting sucked into the “Jumanji” video game, so he manages to become an avatar. To be as blind as possible, the avatar he happens to portray is why I found it hilarious when he asks “Are we in Florida?” Yes, the trailer reveals who he becomes, but I went into this movie fairly blind so I am just trying to go off of my experience.

Now I mentioned that in the last “Jumanji” movie, “Welcome to the Jungle,” I never really liked anything that happened in the real world, and I say this because anything that was spoken or acted out in the real world was never funny, somewhat generic, and it did not have much glamour to it if you wil. All I saw were four stereotypical teens not knowing they were going to escape their boring everyday lives and that’s about it. Granted, I grew to like them, but still. But what made the real world events interesting was catching up with our past characters, because they were reuniting, and even though I have known them for less than a week, I feel like I have grown up with them. After all, they were in high school in the first film, and now they are following their own paths in life. I have a feeling I will have some sort of reunion with somebody down the road that I have known from high school in the future, after all, the holidays are here, making this a good time for it. Plus, I’ll mention once again, speaking of reality, Danny DeVito’s real life character is honestly a highlight of the movie for me. I am honestly surprised at how much I enjoyed watching him, especially when he has a little reunion of his own. This movie goes into a little sideplot (if you can call it that), about a restaurant that he and someone else operated together. This is just a fraction of the interactions DeVito has with the character of Milo, who is wonderfully played by Danny Glover. Both of them have great chemistry and I honestly would not mind a spinoff mini-series on Crackle or something just listening to them have conversations.

But let’s be serious, real life is overrated, and sometimes it’s a video game, it’s just a fact. I do like how the video game manages to go in different directions with its characters and storyline, this time there is a new plot where the characters are after a different object. It’s sort of got similar beats to the previous installment, but it has enough to not feel like a ripoff. As for the villain, Jurgen the Brutal, I thought he was just going to be this cliche bad guy who wants to do bad guy things upon one or two early impressions of him, but even though he may resemble someone with cliches, the way the movie goes about executing his character, specifically towards the end, is a thing of beauty. There is an ongoing scene where our characters are interacting with him and his cronies, it’s not only intense, but also pretty funny. That’s the thing that I will say is amazing about this movie. I know it’s got comedic talent, but to have TWO “Jumanji” movies that aren’t exactly the within the realm of “Jumanji” I have come to know and have BOTH be funny and charming is one of the best surprises I have gotten during my recent moviewatching experiences.

But even though I will point out that this film is better than the original, it doesn’t mean it’s flawless. As much as I really like the climax, it does get a little off the rails towards the end. Granted, there is a bit of that off the rails factor that I like, but there’s also a tad that I found to be too insane. It is a video game though, which often distorts itself from reality so maybe I’ll retract this error eventually. I think some of the pacing could have been fixed, and once again, this is not that big of an issue, but there are some scenes that take place in the real world that feel like they are just inserted at a random point and it almost doesn’t flow. This movie is not that much longer than its predecessor, and even though I found certain portions dull, the pacing is a bit better in that film. The last film felt shorter than what it actually was, but this one just felt a tad longer. There’s also one scene with ostriches that is most certainly trying to get a laugh out of people, but feels like something out of a a horror movie where every character does not know the first thing about common sense. I get it, jokes bring smiles to people’s faces, but so do characters with brains. Nevertheless, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is funny and I would not mind watching it again on a rainy day at home.

In the end, “Jumanji: The Next Level” is exactly as the title suggests, “The Next Level.” The last movie was good, this one is a step up. I think I’ll end up having a little more replay value with this one, but we’ll have to see. The characters, both real and fake, are all a joy to watch. The movie itself is pretty mindless, but also works because it is so mindless. In fact, portions of its creativity perhaps comes from mindlessness. I know “The Rock” is not a GREAT actor, just a muscular man who has a somewhat engaging screen presence, but if I had to compare the performance he gave in “Jumanji: The Next Level” to pretty much anything else he’s done, this may be the best he’s been in terms of solid acting ability. I mean, when you are playing someone that is literally portraying somebody else in avatar form, it requires a little bit of extra effort to maybe be convincing. For that, props to Dwayne Johnson. I’m going to give “Jumanji: The Next Level” a 7/10.

Thanks for reading this review! My next review is most likely going to be for “Uncut Gems,” which I saw before reviewing this movie, but I wanted to get this “Jumanji” review out first because it felt like a higher priority. Also stay tuned in about a week and a half, where I will have my review for the biggest movie event of the season, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account for greater access and posts brought directly to your personal feed! Please leave a like on this post, and if you like liking, like… a lot, check out my Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “Jumanji: The Next Level?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite video game of all time? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Fighting with My Family (2019): 2019’s First Truly Lovable Movie Experience

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“Fighting with My Family” is directed by Stephen Merchant (Hello Ladies, Logan) and stars Florence Pugh (Lady MacBeth, The Commuter), Leda Headey (Game of Thrones, 300), Nick Frost (Paul, Into the Badlands), Jack Lowden (Mary Queen of Scots, Dunkirk), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers, The Internship), and Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Rampage). This film is based on the true story of a family who live and breathe wrestling like it is an alternative to oxygen. Two kids who are very passionate about the sport get a chance to try out for the WWE, and this is based on truth so I wouldn’t call this a spoiler, but it is also essentially the origin story of Paige, who becomes the famous wrestler fans have come to know in recent years.

Right off the bat, I will just tell you all something. Wrestling is not my jam. If you know me in real life, this wouldn’t surprise you, sports in general are not usually my goto activity. I say that regardless of whether I am watching a sport or playing a sport. In fact, the reason why I went to see this movie has nothing to do with wrestling. Aside from getting passes to a free screening, I was excited for this movie because it was being helmed by the likable and talented Stephen Merchant. He has this flow when it comes to comedy that ultimately just works. I have seen a lot of his interviews on talk shows or other scenarios over the years and the guy is just freaking funny! Maybe his British accent has something to do with it, but still. Plus, he was the voice of Wheatley in “Portal 2,” which might just be my favorite video game of all time. Granted he was in “Tooth Fairy,” which if you think about it, it’s sad that I still remember that movie, but the guy is talented. And let me just say, he does a hell of a job with this movie! Merchant actually wrote and directed the film, but to add onto what I just said, he actually has a role in it too. Granted, the role isn’t enormous, he plays some random dude named Hugh, but it works. In fact, that is an understatement, because Hugh might just be the best part of the movie!

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Part of me is wondering if Merchant (left) wanted to do this role simply because out of everything he’s written, he thought it was the most humorous part, but nevertheless. Hugh is comedy gold. And when it comes to a lot of comedy that I am exposed to, most of what I consider to be “good” comedy is actually through written lines. Physical comedy usually takes a backseat for me nowadays. Not everyone can be “The Three Stooges.” When it comes to Hugh, it’s all non-verbal comedy. And f*cking brilliant non-verbal comedy when all is said and done! Also, one of the standout traits that I personally gathered from Hugh is not only that he acts funny, but he also looks funny. I’ve seen images of Stephen Merchant (in fact I just provided one), and the way he transforms himself into this character just takes him from a lanky British dude to a guy whose house your kid might not bother visiting on Halloween night. And this was actually a surprise to me because I saw marketing for the film and I see Stephen Merchant in it for a brief second, but it almost looks like he’s doing OK comedy. This was better than I anticipated!

One of the best parts of “Fighting with My Family” is that you don’t have to like wrestling to watch it. Because ultimately it is not about wrestling, it’s about family, it’s about striving to accomplish your goals, and the complication of social interaction. There was a part of the film where I compared it to a reality competition, especially when you consider there’s a scene where chicks hate each other over word choice. In fact, this comes partially as a surprise considering how the opening titles state that this is from WWE Studios. When was the last time I saw that for a motion picture release like this? Admittedly, there are times when this kind of feels as if it commercializes WWE, especially considering the cameos from professional wrestlers that are present in this film including John Cena, the Big Show, and Sheamus. Plus there is one scene where the brother is saying that he is imagining 20,000 people cheering him on as he stands in an empty stadium that has graphics moving around. It’s almost like “The LEGO Movie,” which may technically be commercial but it tries to sneak things in along the way.

Now as far as Paige goes, I do like her portrayal in this film. I like how they made Paige out to be a shy, timid, and goth looking girl in front of these stereotypical chicks who show off their bodies the whole time. It sort of reminds me of that Planet Fitness commercial where the girls keep talking about how “hot” everything is and there’s also another girl who finds the whole situation awkward. Another thing I like about her character, without diving too deep into spoilers, is the message that people can sometimes pressure you into being somebody just for shiggles or for the sake of fitting in. Maybe you ultimately don’t want to be that person, but the way things go in life, you are automatically triggered into thinking you need to change your ways. I thought that was very well done.

Also, I will say, I saw this going in, but I went to see this film with my mother, and she was somewhat looking forward to seeing Dwayne Johnson appear on screen. Without spoiling anything, he’s only in a couple of scenes. He’s not the star of this film. But for the scenes he’s in, it makes me wonder how he is in real life. I’ve always pictured The Rock to be a nice guy, and this movie makes a convincing case that maybe he is supportive of his fans. This is a guy who gets in a car accident with someone who happens to be a fan, keeps his cool, and shakes it all off like it is no big deal. By the way, that’s a true story, there is a link below the paragraph for further proof.

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Before I give the final verdict, I’ll talk for a sec about Paige’s brother, Zak. One of the complaints that my mother gave toward the film is Zak’s appearance, saying he didn’t look like a wrestler. Having seen him in the movie, I would agree. If this were fiction, there’s a high chance that I’d automatically be on her side, but this is based on true events, so I decided to close my mouth on that subject for a period of time. With that in mind, I decided to do some brief research on Zak, and I found a couple of images where his body looks similar to his actor counterpart. The body thing is something I can actually avoid calling a mistake, but what is a mistake is Zak’s characterization. While his motivations seemed to be clear, I kind of pictured a guy who would get mad for no reason. Granted, the reasoning for his anger seemed understandable, but there are not many characters I would prefer to remember just for mainly being angry.

In the end, “Fighting with My Family” was actually pretty fun. It’s intense, humorous, and kind of heartwarming. Again, I am not a fan of wrestling, and I don’t follow organizations like the WWE, but I enjoyed this movie. “Fighting with My Family” shows what happens when you pit people against each other in a heated, dramatic competition, and also what happens when you aspire to be the very best you can be. I’m going to give “Fighting with My Family” a 7/10. Thanks for reading this review! I’ve got some more content coming soon, including another review which will be in the works soon, specifically for the new DreamWorks animation, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” Also, I just watched the Academy Awards this previous Sunday, so stay tuned for future content related to that. Some of you might wonder why I didn’t do a prediction post this year like I’ve done in the past couple of years, and the reason is simple. Life is short, and college cares more about me killing my brain cells with endless work as opposed to balancing my life with brief periods of relaxation. I would have loved to have done a prediction post, in fact, I would have loved to have posted this review earlier, but the fact is, my brain was fried. There were points where I almost couldn’t help but crawl into the fetal position. So that’s the story of my life for the last few days, how about you tell me yours? Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! I want to know, did you see “Fighting with My Family?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie where a celebrity plays him or herself? Let me know down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!

Skyscraper: Die Hard Without Christmas (2018) *PLUS RANT ON OBNOXIOUS MOVIEGOERS*

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Before we aim high and go into my “Skyscraper” review, let me just say that this film revolves around a family. This family’s relationship seems to play out in a significant amount of runtime for this film. Speaking of family, a new family is bound to form in California. A couple by the name of Paul and Genevieve at one point thought they’d never see the day the dream of starting a family would ever come true. Not because they didn’t try starting a family due to a lack of motivation or something, but because they endlessly tried and had no success. This is all explained… in “What the IVF?!”

“What the IVF” is a YouTube series starring the recently mentioned couple. These two explain their journey to conception. Every Monday, a new story is told, and usually the story that’s told is never one that’s all that happy. When it comes to the story of the couple’s journey to conception, many unfortunate realities occur throughout. Experience the ride alongside Paul and Genevieve as they face the misfortunes of math, exams, anger, sex, crying, pain, needles, and pain from needles! You can find the latest episodes of “WTIVF?” on the show’s personally dedicated YouTube channel, but if you want to watch one right now, check out the latest episode that goes over the past events of the couple’s IVF journey. I’ve watched it, and trust me guys, it’s a good one, check it out. Speaking of checking things out, be sure to take a gander at the “What the IVF?” YouTube channel, subscribe, ring the bell, click whatever button will make Paul and Genevieve happy! Aside from YouTube, you can also find stuff related to the series on other forms of media, be sure to check all of that out and follow those pages. Also don’t forget to check out the website to “WTIVF?” which is included in the links below. And be sure to tell them that Jack Drees sent ya over!

WTIVF? WEBSITE: http://www.whattheivf.com/

WTIVF? YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCILXSidkzWgwrQ5Oa1py78w/featured?disable_polymer=1

WTIVF? TWITTER: https://twitter.com/WTivF

WTIVF? INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/wtivf/

WTIVF? FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/What-The-IVF-288868031634125/

“Skyscraper” is directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence, Easy A) and stars Dwayne Johnson (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Fast Five), Neve Campbell (House of Cards, Scream), Chin Han (Ghost in the Shell, The Dark Knight), Roland Møller (The Commuter, Atomic Blonde), Noah Taylor (Vanilla Sky, Shine), Byron Han (Altered Carbon, The Big Short), Pablo Schreiber (13 Hours, American Gods), and Hannah Quinlavin (Moon River, The Shanghai Job). This film mostly takes place in or around what this movie’s universe considers the tallest building in the world. Unfortunately, this building eventually gets to a point where it’s on fire, and now it is up to a man by the name of Will Sawyer, a caring father, who also used to be a US military member and FBI Hostage Rescue Team leader, to save his own family, and survive against certain individuals, not to mention, time.

My first exposure to something related to “Skyscraper” came around the time of the Super Bowl. To be more specific, I read a tweet from The Rock calling the film original. Just from that alone, I was intrigued. We’re getting as many sequels, adaptations, and reboots as we are getting news reports of someone we know or happen to like being called out for something terrible. Once I heard about this film’s “originality,” I was intrigued. But then the advertising started, and everybody started comparing it to “Die Hard.”

F*CK.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen “Die Hard” and I enjoyed it. It’s been forever since my experience watching it, but I found pleasure in what was on screen nevertheless.  However, if you’re advertising yourself as an original film, although in this case, an actor from the film is doing the advertising, and a good number of people see this as a “Die Hard” wannabe, that’s not good.

And you know what? One of my biggest problems with the film that doesn’t necessarily have to do with whatever is in the final product is the marketing. Now that people are calling “Skyscraper” 2018’s “Die Hard,” apparently there was a poster inspired by “Die Hard” made for it! Not only that, but there was also a “Towering Inferno” inspired poster. What does this movie want to be? And you know what? This might be an even more important statement: What does The Rock want this movie to be? Months ago, he was saying that this is an original production, and now he’s talking about other films that were basically inspirations for “Skyscraper,” which kind of therefore makes “Skyscraper” feel less original than maybe it once was. I will say though when it comes to tone, as I watched the movie, the tone was rather clear, it was trying to be an edge of your seat popcorn action thriller. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. And in some ways, “Skyscraper” succeeded at doing such a thing, but I wouldn’t say it was enough. Sure, it’s summertime, so big, explosive, expensive movies are to be expected, but overall the story at times is somewhat cliche and the script is predictable. There are some moments I didn’t expect, but if you don’t dive into specific detail, you might as well say the script is predictable.

In fact, some of you might be asking how predictable the script to “Skycraper” actually was. It was SO predictable, that a few audience members had a number of moments where they would say something out loud, and in a split second, that thing would happen. First off, if you’re going to the movies, PLEASE DON’T TALK! IT’S RUDE! I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR THIS! Seriously, these audience members to my left, they just couldn’t stop making noise! Granted, I talk during the movies, but only on occasion, and when I do it, I whisper. These hooligans showed up about thirty to forty minutes after the scheduled showtime, which in terms of seeing the movie, is about fifteen or so minutes through the runtime. I knew something was going to happen when I heard loud laughing from the back of the theater. Then they came into my row, and all of them were sitting to my left. DID “A QUIET PLACE” TEACH ANYTHING TO PEOPLE?! DON’T! TALK! DURING THE MOVIE! Gosh, I hate my life.

In all seriousness, the characters in “Skyscraper” weren’t really all that interesting. Sure, there’s The Rock’s character, but then again, he’s The Rock, everybody likes The Rock. I bought into his relationship with his wife, not to mention his kids. I also bought into him as a guy with a prosthetic leg. Although at the same time, I feel like a lot of people, regardless of whether or not they actually have a prosthetic leg can play this character. Maybe they can’t do it as well as The Rock, but there are times that I can probably imagine another actor in The Rock’s shoes. If you ask me, I still think The Rock is actually a fine choice for this character, but my thought still stands.

I recently mentioned that the script is a bit lackluster for this film, and when it comes to specification on that sort of thing, some of it has to do with poor characterization. If you ask me, I think when it comes to the protagonists, I don’t have too many complaints, especially when you compare that to the antagonistic side. The script spent a lot of time focusing on the main family and treating the tall building as if it was its own character. Seriously! It’s possible that the skyscraper in “Skyscraper” has more character development than the Transformers in the “Transformers” movies! As I watched this film and noticed the antagonistic side of things, I thought I was watching a film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, because of how cliche or underwhelming or underdeveloped their villains happen to be. I wouldn’t say I thought the main villain was bad at what he was trying to do, but I just probably won’t remember him.

You know how I mentioned the mixed messages I got from the film’s marketing? This film at times did feel like “Die Hard” to me. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve never seen “The Towering Inferno” so I can’t say much about it. But there is another film I saw that I didn’t even realize would click into my mind at a certain point. Specifically, “Enter the Dragon.” If you’ve seen “Enter the Dragon,” chances are you’d know that there’s this climactic fight that takes place in this hall of mirrors. There’s a fight in “Skyscraper” that doesn’t seem to be exactly like that, but it’s very similar to it. Much like “Enter the Dragon,” this scene is competently shot and edited. There’s not a moment where I look in a mirror and notice a camera or a cameraman, then again most of this movie is on a green screen so I doubt they had actual mirrors on set. I’ve seen a number of reviews for this movie, and one comment that stuck out to me is that this movie borrows something particular from a lot of other titles, and usually that other title would do that particular thing better than “Skyscraper.” When it comes to this mirror scene, I can’t agree more. Not only was this sort of thing done better in “Enter the Dragon,” I’d say it was done better in “John Wick: Chapter 2!”

I also feel like a big problem in this movie may be because of the guy helming it. “Skyscraper” is written and directed by Rawson Marshall Thurber, and most of his work is in the comedy genre. Granted, there is comedy in “Skyscraper.” There wasn’t much, and not all of it landed for me, but it was there. This is not his first action film however, it’s not even his first film with The Rock either. One of the better movies I’ve watched during 2016 happened to be “Central Intelligence,” an action-comedy starring Kevin Hart and The Rock. I haven’t watched it since seeing it in the theater, but I had a really fun time with it and I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it again. This movie however, not so much. I wouldn’t say “Skyscraper” needed more comedy, if anything that would have killed the movie unless they were going for an R rating. It just needed a different director and better writing.

Another problem I had with “Skyscraper” is that while it was technically written and directed by the same person without cooperation from others, it almost feels like a film that a bunch of stereotypical cigar-smoking studio executives would come up with. I was exposed to a podcast recently where two guys were talking about this movie, and I actually know of these guys from YouTube too, shoutout to Chris Stuckmann and John Flickinger! They thought of “Skyscraper” as a pitch movie. It’s almost like the pitcher gave a list of movies that this can be compared to, and all of those elements can be easily implemented into the final product. And when some people think of The Rock, the phrase “big money” might possibly pop in their heads. After all, he’s a big name in current Hollywood based on the number of projects he takes on, including “Fast & Furious.” I don’t know, this just feels more like a corporate product than a movie. I saw that coming upon seeing more and more advertising, but I just can’t help but point that sort of thing out.

In the end, I wouldn’t say “Skyscraper” stands tall. Sure, the movie may be doing well overseas, but that doesn’t mean I’m seeing something of quality here. The Rock is very charming, I bought into the chemistry between him and his family members, and I do think the building had an interesting design to it. Although when it comes to overall positivity I can give, there’s very little I can give towards this sometimes badly paced, cliche, and predictable thing that some may call a film. But one thing’s for sure, this is not gonna spark any “Christmas movie or not a Christmas movie” debates. I’m going to give “Skyscraper” a 4/10. Thanks for reading this review! Be sure to stay tuned for upcoming content, including my “Mission: Impossible: Fallout” review, and I do have some other films in mind when it comes to future reviews. These films include “Eighth Grade,” “Sorry to Bother You,” or if I have an excuse to do an older film review series like I did with “Mission: Impossible,” I’ll be sure to get that going sometime as well. Stay tuned for more reviews and other great content! I want to know, did you see “Skyscraper?” What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite movie starring The Rock? Mine is “Fast Five,” let me know yours down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!