Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

“Just once, can we die without all this bickering?”

Kerry Conran uses computer technology to bring Hugo Gernsback’s wet dream to the screen.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director/Writer: Kerry Conran

Features: Jude Law…Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan
Gwyneth Paltrow…Polly Perkins
Angelina Jolie…Captain Francesca Cook
Giovanni Ribisi…Dex Dearborn
Laurence Olivier’s Ghost…Dr. Totenkopf

Premise:

Heroes battle to save the world in an alternate 1939 where many conventions of and elements from period serials, pulp fiction, SF, and comix really exist. And so we get giant killer robots, an Art Deco rocket, flying platforms with bigass propellers, characters with alliterative names, and heroes and villains with access to unlimited expense accounts.

High Points:

1. The way things look, especially in the final sequences, where the film delivers some unexpected visual surprises– though it misses no plot cliché.

2. Angelina Jolie does quite well in what amounts to a significant cameo, and it won’t hurt her appeal for certain viewers that she wears a retrofuturistic military fetish outfit.

Low Point:

The assholes sitting behind us in the theatre. I said, “be quiet.” You are not in someone’s damn rec room. Shut the hell up.

That’s not, in fact, a fair criticism of the movie, but I wanted to get it off my chest.

For me, it wasn’t a single moment, but the culminative effect of the fact that so much effort went into making a film which has little depth beyond its pop/pulp culture in-jokes. I enjoyed this film, but I left wanting more than pretty pictures and passable cliffhangers. I don’t mean it has to be thematically deep, but more character, for example, would have been a good thing.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Is it original to be so deliberately derivative? Alas, not anymore, though this film looks great.

Effects: 5/6. Most are exceptional. During the early New York attack, I found the disconnect between the CGI events and the humans slightly off-putting.

Story: 3/6: This doesn’t try to be much more than an extraordinary-looking serial-style action movie. The twist has been used before– but I must admit, I didn’t see it coming, and it destroyed an objection I might otherwise have raised to a specific aspect of Totenkopf’s plot.

Acting: 4/6: Law and Paltrow have the deadpan humor down pat, but they lack sufficient chemistry. Ribisi is dead-on as the technowizard sidekick, while Angelina Jolie handles her cameo expertly.

Production: 6/6

Emotional Response: 4/6 It’s fun, though it lags somewhat in the middle. See “Additional Comments” for, uh, additional comments.

Overall: 4/6.

In total, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow receives 29/42.

Final Comments

A major studio backed a film which is essentially a serial with an ontological headache. Nerds with a historical bend will really enjoy the references; much of the population will have to get by on videogame-style action and stunning visuals. Conran’s next film will be A Princess of Mars.

Perhaps, given the widespread disatisfaction with Eps I and II, and the widespread praise of Lord of the Rings, they ought to put the money and effects behind SF and fantasy with a little more depth.

8 replies on “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”

  1. mbourgon says:

    I’d say…
    that compared to Eps 1 & 2, this thing is the Marianas Trench. No, it’s not the philosophical movie that The Matrix was, but it never claimed to be. Merely a damn fun movie.

    Looking forward to Princess of Mars, and hoping that this will bring a revival of the pulp genre. But then again, having seen Spiderman 2, Chronicles of Riddick, Shrek 2, Van Helsing, Hellboy, Hero and a couple of others, I’d say this one was right up there with Spiderman 2. While Spidey was a bit deeper, this was one helluva ride.

    Again, compare it to Indiana Jones. Neither was terribly deep, but they were a buttload of fun.

  2. Mr. Vapor says:

    Fun, fun film
    This was a great film to watch. I very much enjoyed the pulp elements, and
    the humor was pretty good.

    Bonus for me was the Incredibles trailer that was shown before the movie,
    that looks goooood.

    One nitpicky, and not serious question. Is World War 2 going on in this movie
    (it can’t be over if it’s 1939, right?). If WW2 isn’t going on then they shouldn’t
    be calling World War 1, World War 1 since there is no second war for
    comparison. My understanding is that people called War World 1 “The Great
    War” until they the even greater second world war came along.

    Of course, not like anybody would know what they where talking about if they
    called it the great war.

    Like I said nitpicky, and I don’t actually care that much but I had just read a
    History of World War 1. Which reminded me of an old Encyclopedia Brown
    story about a fake WW1 antique rifle, that Brown proved was fake because it’s
    inscription mentioned WW1 as WW1. ahhh memories.

    • nkuzmik says:

      Re: Fun, fun film

      (it can’t be over if it’s 1939, right?). If WW2 isn’t going on then they shouldn’t
      be calling World War 1, World War 1 since there is no second war for
      comparison. My understanding is that people called War World 1 “The Great
      War” until they the even greater second world war came along.

      Of course, not like anybody would know what they where talking about if they
      called it the great war.

      Like I said nitpicky, and I don’t actually care that much but I had just read a
      History of World War 1. Which reminded me of an old Encyclopedia Brown
      story about a fake WW1 antique rifle, that Brown proved was fake because it’s
      inscription mentioned WW1 as WW1. ahhh memories.

      All I remember from Encyclopedia Brown is the one where… aw never mind. You remember the better case. You win.

    • y42 says:

      Re: Fun, fun film

      If WW2 isn’t going on then they shouldn’t
      be calling World War 1, World War 1 since there is no second war for
      comparison. My understanding is that people called War World 1 “The Great
      War” until they the even greater second world war came along.

      Of course, not like anybody would know what they where talking about if they
      called it the great war.

      I guess dumbing it down to refrain from confusing everyone is acceptable…

  3. BuellBoy says:

    Angelina Jolie, Agent of SHIELD
    Hmmmm… a character with an eye patch in command of a giant helicarrier… where have I seen that before? I also enjoyed the quick little visual pun involving the giant monster destroying Japan…

    It was a FUN movie. It wasn’t meant to be deep.

    • nkuzmik says:

      Re: Angelina Jolie, Agent of SHIELD

      Hmmmm… a character with an eye patch in command of a giant helicarrier… where have I seen that before? I also enjoyed the quick little visual pun involving the giant monster destroying Japan…

      It was a FUN movie. It wasn’t meant to be deep.

      DOH!!!!!! And here all I thought was, “Why is he calling Lara Croft ‘Frankie?'”

  4. Kaki says:

    Been looking forward to it…
    … for a while. Mostly because I’m a sucker for giant robots that look like giant wind up toys.

    I too found the contrast and color effect to be distracting at first, but I soon got past it and into the film. More distracting in the long term was the sort of, well, for lack of a better term, simple feel to the plot and characters. It was a little like watching a kids film.

    Still, overall I liked the movie and it was plenty of good fun. The retro-looking props and special effects were quite nice looking, like Dex’s ray gun.

    I wasn’t disappointed at all.

  5. Alexius says:

    SCatWoT
    I Loved This Movie. I Also Saw A Few Other Nods, Like The Rodent Sized Elephant Was The Thing As In Jurassic Park (The Novel). Also, The Professor’s Lab’s Street Number Was 1138.

    I’m Sure If I’d Listened Harder, I Would Have Heard Wilhelm, too.

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