“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 surprisesРthough 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.