Movie Review: Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow

  • Director: Kerry Conran
  • Rating: PG
  • Starring: Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow,
  • Screenplay: Kerry Conran
  • Music By: Edward Shearmur
  • Cinematography: Eric Adkins
  • Running Time: 106 Minutes
  • Premiered: September 17, 2004
  • DVD Release: January 5, 2005

Synopsis: After New York City receives a series of attacks from giant flying robots, a reporter teams up with a pilot in search of their origin, as well as the reason for the disappearances of famous scientists around the world. (From IMDb)

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Review: Be warned, the future looks a lot like 1939. For director Kerry Conran, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is the culmination of a lifelong ambition come to fruition.  In this movie, Conran puts his computer skills to work by placing all the actors in front of a green screen and filling everything else in digitally. The rest is a visually intriguing movie that is faintly reminiscent of serial movies from the 1940s and 50s. Sky Captain is a sentimental throwback to the noir film style popular in the 1930s. But it is not really a live action film; instead it is a cheaply constructed animated film with some confused actors spliced into the semi-convincing CGI. While Sky Captain is not a bad movie, it is far from being a great one. If the film had a larger budget or a more experienced director, than it could have been exceedingly more successful.

In an alternate 1939, famous scientists suddenly begin to disappear and New York City is recovering from a giant robot attack. Polly Perkins, an intrepid reporter, puts all the pieces together and is determined to find a solution to the problem. During her investigation, she links all the disappearances back to the mysterious genius Dr. Totenkopf. In order to stop the Doctor from putting his plan into action, Polly seeks out her suave ex-boyfriend, the captain of a mercenary legion of pilots. However, the robots attack the city while they are in the middle of their investigation. This sets them on the path of an adventure to find the mastermind who is bent on creating a utopian society and destroying the current world. And all that stands in the way is a reporter with perfect hair, a confused pilot, and a captain with an eye patch.

Sky Captain tries to be grandiose on a miniscule budget and does so by replacing everything that is not an actor with a detailed CGI rendering. This is hardly an innovation in filmmaking, George Lucas was making fake looking movies years before hand. What is the actually interesting is that Conran and his crew animated the entire film first and then weaved the actors in later. So in one sense, Sky Captain is a landmark in the world of computer generated imagery, but everything just looks a little too fake. All the actors are depicted against a synthetic and overly retro-styled alternate future that looks like a weird mish mashing of Art Deco, Futurism, Metropolis, and a 1939 aesthetic. However, any visual elegance is lost in the over-the-top pulp fiction storyline. In one sense, the shadowy and washed out color scheme makes the actors appear slightly less than human. After a while the visual concepts succumb to fairly typical science fiction clichés.

Acting wise, Jude Law does his best to infuse some life into his poorly written character. Joe Sullivan, aka Sky Captain, is meant to come across as some kind of devil-may-care captain along the lines of Indiana Jones. However, Sullivan is represents what the Marvel superheroes would look like if put in the hands of a rookie screenwriter. Sullivan is cocky, intelligent, and just a little too good to be true. There is little to no humanity or relatable aspects to the character. Law adds some charm to the character but it is not enough to raise the captain out of caricature territory. Also, Law and Paltrow have no chemistry and this makes the on screen romance hard to watch. If Jude Law is meant to be Superman, than Paltrow is Lois Lane. While she plays the intrepid reporter with extreme confidence, she just does not make the character pop of the screen. Though this is more the fault of the way the character was written, the screenwriter wrote Polly as a Katharine Hepburn type character but did not give her any witty dialogue. Angelina Jolie put in the most believable performance as Franky Cook, a fearless British air commander and former fling of Sullivan. Giovanni Ribisi is great as Lieutenant Dex Dearborn, the wise cracking tech genius who keeps the planes in the air.  

Perhaps the most disappointing part of Sky Captain is the wasted potential. The screenplay contains a lot of potential but the characters are poorly developed and characterized. However, several things just went wrong. The CGI effects were too over-the-top and looked cheap, the casting was just slightly off, and the screenplay dived into the realm of comical once-too-often. This movie never reached Blockbuster status because it comes across like a slightly higher quality SyFy channel movie. What makes modern Superhero movies so successful is that the action is mostly set in the present day and the characters are given relatable qualities. Sky Captain overly relies upon visual effects and nostalgia instead of story. Overall, this is not a movie I will ever buy but I would probably watch it if I stumbled upon it while flipping television channels.

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Life of Chaz

Welcome to My Life

The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

What's She Reading?

Because the only thing better than reading is more reading.

Unabashedly Poetic

A blog about life

In A Bookish World

Reviews, wrap ups, giveaways, cover reveals and much more!

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