“Skyscraper” Trailer Analysis

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I wanted to delve a little deeper into the full trailer for Skyscraper, the upcoming Dwayne Johnson movie, because it contains a few interesting cultural & symbolic tidbits of note. To recap the basic philosophy of this site: our pop-culture is a mirror of our world; sometimes an accurate mirror, sometimes a manipulative mirror, sometimes a “predictive” mirror—but always a mirror.

What is very interesting to me about Skyscraper is that though it features one of the most popular actors in America, Dwayne Johnson…this film is about a world where America is no longer a major force within it. I can’t underline this aspect of the film enough, in terms of its symbolic resonance. It’s a world where America, at least in terms of technological advancement and financial dominance, has been left behind.

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Note the scene in the trailer where the largest skyscrapers ever built are compared on a chart. We have One World Trade Center, which replaced the fallen Twin Towers, then the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai…and then the fictional Pearl, in China. In that one chart, we have the clear message: America has been left behind.

Please don’t get me wrong, this post is not a criticism of the movie for this message, as if the producers were purposely trying to diss America or anything. Rather, the movie is only reflecting back to us not only the current situation in the world, but a projection of its most logical outcome. The current sorry state of United States politics at the moment is only going to worsen an already weakened country in terms of technological advancement and ability to compete on the world financial stage.

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Of course, the other, more literal reality being telegraphed with this trailer is that Hollywood itself must go “global” in order to compete. Like a number of big-budget American productions, it is clear that Skyscraper incorporated elements of interest to a wider, global audience—such as setting the film in China—in order to better attract that global audience.

And another reality of a changing world is tucked into this trailer, in the very fact that it features an interracial couple & multiracial children. This shouldn’t be a big deal at all, but we are currently living in an America where merely a commercial featuring such a demographic set-up can be met with grousing and bigotry. But here we have a mega-budget major film with such a scenario.

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It’s because Skyscraper is made for a global audience; a global audience that is far more “futurist” and progressive than the current state of the United States at the moment.

The Hollywood Reporter recently released a list of the most popular actors and actresses, based on social media metrics from platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. Not surprisingly, Johnson was #1 on that list. Six out of the ten slots on that list were filled by actors who would be considered “non-white” or people of color. This is what the reality is of the global entertainment landscape. Much of what is considered current mainstream American entertainment culture is not in step with the global view.

And increasingly, a movie (or even company) that cannot encompass this larger view cannot compete financially.

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The reality is, a multiracial actor is America’s #1 actor. The reality is, the #1 movie in America for like the last month, Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle, is headlined by two people of color. Now, Jumanji is hardly what I consider a “political” movie. Skyscraper doesn’t seem to me to be a deeply intellectual meditation on anything, but rather a pastiche of The Towering Inferno and Die Hard. But these films simply reflect the face of a changing world. It’s a world America can choose to join, or abstain from; but if it chooses the latter, the world will move on.

And despite the divisiveness of America at the moment, it’s absolutely clear that Johnson is the hero the country at large wants.