An Advanced Review from Bill the Butcher.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) -PG-
Written and Directed by: Kerry Conran
Starring: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Ling Bai, Laurence Olivier (archive footage)
August 12, 2004
A Little Indiana Jones, A Little Star Wars, and a Unique World of Yesteryear
By Bill the Butcher
I went into Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow with very low expectations tonight. It looked very cheesy from the previews, including the washed out look. Boy was I wrong. I always like the experience of going into a film not knowing what to expect, and coming out pleasantly surprised. In the case of Sky Captain, first time writer-director Kerry Conran has created a unique vision that is a little Indiana Jones, a little Star Wars, and a distinctive futuristic world of yesteryear.
Sky Captain opens in a WWII era New York City as reporter Polly Perkins (Paltrow) meets with a doctor who tells her he was part of an elite group of seven scientists working for a mysterious Dr. Totenkopf. The other six have been murdered, and he fears he is next. Soon thereafter, an invasion of flying robots begins destroying the city. A signal is sent out, and Joe Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sky CaptainÃ¢â‚¬? Sullivan is called to save the day. In his WWII fighter plane, he flies into the city, and in a sequence reminiscent of the opening of The Empire Strikes Back, takes down one of the robots.
From this point on, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re either totally submersed in this futuristic, campy sci-fi world of the 40Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s, a take on old b-movie serials just like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re going to miss the entire point of the film and probably hate it. I for one, was the former. The cheesy campiness, played straight by the actors, along with the stunning visuals and cliffhanger set ups won me over rather quickly.
Kerry Conran created new technology to get the look he wanted for Sky Captain. The actors mainly acted in front of a blue-screen, with not much else, save for a few props. ConranÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s goal Ã¢â‚¬Å“was to make a live-action film, but to use conventions of traditional animation.Ã¢â‚¬? He used some archival footage of New York City, and dead actor Laurence Olivier.
The look is quite distinct, about 10 times the washed out look of Minority Report. But it really works for establishing the time period, and for trying to look like a 40Ã¢â‚¬â„¢s film. There was one scene though, when Polly and Joe first meet each other, it keeps going in and out of focus. The bright washed out look, along with the loss of focus, was really hard on my eyes. It continues to the next scene where they enter the large warehouse with all the robots.
The other small critique is the score is forgettable. The studio really needs to hire John Williams to compose a decent score. Even if his fee is like $1 million, it would be worth it. Williams wrote some of the best scores in film history: Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, E. T., SchindlerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s List, and Jaws. A film like Sky Captain, that has the potential to be huge and spawn sequels, needs a decent score.
Other than those two small points, Sky Captain is utterly spectacular. The action is exciting, the characters memorableÃ¢â‚¬â€