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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

Advanced Review

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 “Sky Captain� 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, you’re either totally submersed in this futuristic, campy sci-fi world of the 40’s, a take on old b-movie serials just like Star Wars and Indiana Jones, or you’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. Conran’s goal “was to make a live-action film, but to use conventions of traditional animation.� 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 40’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., Schindler’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 memorableâ€â€


Jude Law proves here he can be a lead actor, and an action hero. While he made the transition from supporting roles to lead actor in Cold Mountain, he didn’t quite pull off some of the real emotional scenes in that film. In Sky Captain, he has made the transition into action star with his quick biting comments, and assured confidence. Paltrow, as always, just lights up the screen, and plays a good counterpart to our action hero, with her sometimes ditsy, jealous ex-lover role.

While the robots look cheesy, it works for the film. Even the ray gun that Dex Dearborn (Ribisi) designed adds to the campiness. Sky Captain is like a souped up Mars Attacks, with a story. Conran manages to capture the feel of yesteryear, of the late 30’s, early 40’s. There is even an homage at the end to The Wizard of Oz, which plays on the screen when Polly meets the doctor in the beginning.

The only special effect that doesn’t work is the fire. It just looks so fake when the flying machines are blowing up Joe’s base. But in a film like this, I can forgive the fake fire. As in other films, like Attack of the Clones, it’s very difficult to make good CGI fire.

Conran has created movie magic here; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is what we go to the movies for. This is big budget Hollywood at it’s best because it takes one man’s vision, and puts it up on the screen. It’s like the 1970’s again, and a young Spielberg is just starting out. Conran designed and put on the screen his visionary world, with a cliffhanger ridden story, that is sure to entertain.

Recommended Alternatives: Star Wars Trilogy (Original), Indiana Jones Trilogy, Minority Report, Mars Attacks, Cold Mountain, The Talented Mr. Ripley

Aww … come on: Naming an evil nazi-bastard Dr. Totenkopf is really weak … those details really ruin a lot of movies …

This movie looks pretty cool…except for Angelina Jolie being in it. She sucks.

This movie looks pretty cool…except for Angelina Jolie being in it. She sucks.

damn right she sucks. and i wanna be the one she sucks with…

Sho nuff. But I meant as an actress also.

I would normally agree about Jolie. Didn’t think she was deserving of the Oscar for that chick version of ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST. And Tomb Raider, blah.

But she’s actually really good in this. Bit part, but very good.

its boring… and a movie like this should never be boring… so yeah its horrible.

amen to that brother

fidelo, check our messages, man