Director: Ji-hoon Kim
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Film Pulse Score: 3/10
In the 1970s disaster was king. Irwin Allen was one of the orchestrators of the golden age of the disaster film with his genre classics The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure. Other films such as the Airport franchise and Earthquake really brought the genre to the forefront. Of course, later everyone was looking to churn out disaster films of any sort. Who could forget The Swarm or even Meteor? These films pretty much established the genre, good and bad, and what audience expectations would be Your typical Hollywood disaster film features characters in a catastrophic event which is then followed by the struggle to survive. When done right with great characters, great action sequences with the right amount of spectacle and it could be a tension filled thrill ride. When done poorly you get The Tower.
The film is clearly inspired by the classic The Towering Inferno. During a Christmas Eve party in the upper floors of a twin towers high rise, that bears a striking resemblance to the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, something goes terribly wrong and a raging fire breaks out that traps countless citizens in the raging inferno. The fire department arrives to stage a rescue attempt. Now before we even get to that you are left to sit through a good half-hour of introductions to paper-thin, cookie-cutter characters that those thirty minutes felt like an hour. You have the father and his young daughter. The old couple in love. The young couple in love. The jerk of a manager and so on. You are only given a sliver of character development that you aren’t emotionally invested with anyone that you could care less who lives or dies even the main characters. Then you have the heroic Fire Chief, the probie and the other firefighters. When the Fire Commissioner arrives I was expecting him to be the McQueen but nope, nobody of consequence but to be the stereotypical face of the evil bureaucracy. The characters are thread bare and you can pretty much guess their fates well before they meet them.
Okay so you have bad characters but do the action sequences at least make up for the bad characterizations? That would be a resounding no. The action sequences were very dull. You can see the countless films that they seek to emulate and immediately realize this movie is out of its league. While Backdraft is not a classic by any means the fire fighting sequences put this one to shame. They even go so far as to have a loose fire hose doing a slo-mo dance after a fighter takes a fall. There is a twist on the elevator shaft sequence that I thought was clever but a water tank blowing sequence really defies all logic when you give it some thought. If you have 800 tons of water in tanks why would you design them to allow all that water to just surge out at the touch of a button and flood all the floors below? Another sequence that could have worked is the attempt to cross a glass-floored sky bridge that is cracking like crazy. However the scene plays off so predictably it becomes laughable.
The Tower is so excessively melodramatic and overtly sentimental to the point that it was truly trying my patience. It doesn’t hide its allusions to 9/11 either. Some shots evoke that day but the one scene that I found preposterous was where people were putting up a “Missing Persons” wall with countless photos of lost loved ones. Ummmm…this fire has only been raging for several hours and there are still people evacuating how would you know they’re missing? There are numerous lapses in logic like the one I just mentioned. There were some very irritating moments of comic relief that feels very out of place considering the subject.
I guess about the only good thing about this movie were the visual effects. That being said, 2012 had great effects but at least there cookie-cutter characters were better developed and dare I say performed. This one was about as visually exciting and inert as Meteor. Now that I think of it, Meteor was better.