|Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow |
Actors: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon
Director: Kerry Conran
Genres: Action & Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
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.
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Reviewed on 12/18/2018...
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'Tomorrow' and Yesteryear
Malvolio | Charlottesville, VA United States | 09/23/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I think I can say with some confidence that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is not quite like any other film you've ever seen. Whether that's a good or a bad thing depends on what you think a movie should be.
Sky Captain is set in the years between the World Wars. Ace big-city reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) gets wind of a shadowy world-domination plot involving a German uber-scientist, named Totenkopf. As she begins to investigate, the city is attacked by giant robot storm troopers, who wreak destruction and attempt to steal the municipal generators. (I am not making this up.) Polly and the city are saved by the timely arrival of Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law), who turns the tide in his trusty P-40 fighter plane. Polly and Joe, who have a bit of a history, reluctantly join forces to find Totenkopf and foil his evil plans. They are aided by Joe's whiz-kid sidekick, Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), and his old flame Francesca "Franky" Cook (Angelina Jolie), who is the commodore of an armada of flying British aircraft carriers. (Still not making this up.) The good guys brave sundry fantastical adventures involving many more mechanized henchmen before they finally locate Dr. Totenkopf's lair in Nepal. The ultimate confrontation that ensues between good and evil brings the earth to the brink of apocalypse.
Okay, so much for the plot, which is pretty negligible. And while we're at it, let's dispose of the acting; Law, Paltrow and Ribisi are capable actors with good range, but Sky Captain's script wouldn't overtax the thespianic skills of a wombat. All of which is beside the point, because this movie is about other things.
The first thing to know about Sky Captain is that pretty much everything you see on the screen, aside from the actors themselves, is created whole cloth out of CGI. That gives creator Kerry Conran almost unlimited license to do whatever he chooses - and what he chooses is very odd indeed, if rather intriguing withal. Conran goes to extraordinary lengths to make Sky Captain look convincingly like a very old science fiction movie; even the "film" stock seems aged, the color bleached, the images burred with slight haloes. The very conceit of a lone mad scientist developing technology to destroy the world as we know it is hopelessly antique (although admittedly the plot has rather a lot in common with 1979's Moonraker). And the gargantuan, bolted and riveted, bucket-headed robots look like they marched straight out of the 1950s.
Conran gleefully adopts the logic holes, discontinuities, and plot conveniences that were standard in movies before audiences developed a taste for realism. Early in the movie, for instance, Dex is grabbed by a robot and carried off, but somehow finds time to leave a clue stuck to the underside of a desk by a wad of chewed gum. Following the clue, Joe and Polly fly all over the globe (including an ocean or two) in his little P-40, managing to pack along a few cases of Vienna Sausages and an apparently inexhaustible supply of wardrobe changes. At one point, the plane gets a big rock lodged in its tail assembly, making it impossible for Joe to maneuver, but then a few moments later the rock is conveniently gone. And how the heck does Totenkopf build a monumental fortress, complete with armies of giant automata and a rocket launch complex, in the inaccessible wastes of Nepal?
What's significant is not that these implausibilities exist in the movie, but that the writer/director flaunts them and demands that you notice. Conran emulates even "flaws" like these from the old movies he evokes, because those flaws arose out of a romantic mindset that he is making every effort to recreate.
On one level, the film is a straightforward story about Joe and Polly and Dex and Totenkopf; but on another - and ultimately more important - level, it's about nostalgia. Not only nostalgia for old science fiction movies, I think, though Conran clearly delights in them; but even more for the innocence of a world view that made such movies possible. In a way, Sky Captain - with its indestructable hero, its moral certainty, and its inhuman, otherworldly menace - is more about Iraq and September 11 than it is about monster robots. It's about decisive, cinematic victories instead of messy, real-life quagmires. If your idea of a good movie is one that places complex characters in realistic conflict, go see The Door in the Floor. But if you'd rather suspend disbelief for a couple hours, flying your P-40 into the sunset of a happy ending, check out Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.
Novice movie maker Kerry Conran's big time eye candy
Lawrance M. Bernabo | The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota | 10/12/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" represents the triumph of style over substance, the P-40 Tomahawk over mechanical monsters, and computer generated actors over death itself. That last part is actually the tip of an ethical iceberg that has the potential of being the biggest point of contention in Hollywood since Ted Turner broke out his box of crayons and started colorizing black & white classic films. But for now we can just enjoy director-writer Kerry Conran's tribute to both the decade and the serials of the 1930s done with enough digital magic to make going over the rainbow seem like an unnecessary journey.
The story begins in a New York City untouched by either the Great Depression or the madness of Hitler's Nazis. But there is still a Teutonic threat beginning to encroach on the civilized world courtesy of the brilliant, mysterious, and apparently evil Dr. Totenkopf (enjoy the surprise). Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), an intrepid reporter for "The Chronicle," stumbles upon the first significant clue about the good doctor only to be distracted by the legion of giant killer mechanical men walking down the streets of New York City. In defense of the city comes Joe Sullivan (Jude Law), the Sky Captain himself, whose P-40 Tomahawk with its Flying Tiger teeth has been souped up by his sidekick, Dex Dearborn (Giovanni Ribisi). Of course Polly and Joe had something in the past, so there is a lot of subtext to her backseat driving as they go merrily along.
In the grand tradition of the Saturday morning serial the hero and his gal get on the trail of the bad machines, fueled by Dex being kidnapped by a mysterious Asian woman (Bai Ling) and helped by a few old friends, most notably Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie), the commander of a most unusual British airship. The running gag for the second half of the film is that Polly has only two shots left in her camera and keeps bypassing visual wonders, such as the real Shangri-La, because there could be something better around the corner.
Visually, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a visual treat, filled in the same sort of sepia tones we associate with the first reel of "The Wizard of Oz," a film that is clearly a reference point for Conran. Much is made of the fact that the actors performed in front of a blue screen to which Conrad added all the dazzling images of the mechanical creations in the art deco style of a lot of the architecture we see in the film, all glowing with a blue light. But Law, Paltrow, Jolie and the rest of the cast get credit for playing these roles straight without ever getting too tongue in cheek. This is an earnest homage and not parody, and while the result might not be great cinema it is still as much fun as any of the Saturday morning serials it wants to emulate.
This film wants to be "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for a new generation of filmgoers weaned on computer generated images, but it is not up to that level. The difference can be simply quantified by saying Kerry Conran is not Steven Spielberg, but it would be more worthwhile to point out that in his first film Conran has a much better handle on the cinematic over the dramatic aspects of movie making. His next project is the long awaited adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's "A Princess of Mars," with a screenplay by Mark Protosevich ("The Cell"), which should help firm up the dramatic half of the equation. Given the stunning eye candy provided in his debut effort, whatever Conran does in the future will certainly be worth a look.
An exhilarating adventure that's much more than a gimmick
M. Burns | Columbus, Ohio | 10/26/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Within the first fifteen minutes of Sky Captain, I was in. Gigantic robots swarm New York City and stomp through the streets, Gwenyth Paltrow as Polly Perkins does a pitch-perfect emulation of those 1930's newspaper gals, and the whole movie has the feel of the best old sci-fi movie never made. I felt like a five-year-old again; not in that still-eating-paste sense, but because something on the screen was so boldly exciting I nearly leapt out of my seat and applauded. No freaking joke. Needless to say, the rest of Sky Captain never really reaches the level of invigoration that its slam-bang opener achieves (and yeah, it has a few slow moments), but it's still an accomplished, consistently interesting movie with enough in-jokes to keep film buffs satisfied (look for not only references to The Wizard of Oz, but a few Citizen Kane nods as well) and enough rip-roaring action for everyone else.
Sky Captain could have been an empty exercise just for the sake of a new filmmaking technique - I'm sure you know by now it was all done in front of a blue screen. What makes it so interesting, though, is how seriously everyone takes the whole endeavor. Jude Law effortlessly embodies the sarcastic, multi-talented everyman do-gooder; Gwenyth Paltrow delivers those one-liners in a way that Howard Hawks would be proud; Giovanni Ribisi steals his scenes like any faithful sidekick should; and the whole plot of the movie (which could have been a borderline parody) comes off as deadly serious. Don't let the blue-screen hesitation hold you back from this one; if you complain that they don't make 'em like they used to, here's proof that it's not always the case. B+