In doing my research prior to writing this review I discovered that Kerry Conran originally wanted to do this movie with unknown actors and break it up into â€˜chaptersâ€™ and present it as if it were a lost serial from the 1930â€™s that had recently been discovered. I would really have liked to see that version of SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW since I think he could have pulled it off. As anybody whoâ€™s read my work knows, Iâ€™m a full out geek when it comes to the blood and thunder pulps of the 1930â€™s and 1940â€™s and Saturday morning serials and 90% of my work is written in the tradition of the pulps. As I watched SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW I realized that I had a spiritual brother in Kerry Conran. Much of what I was seeing on the screen is what is going on my head when I write my â€œDillonâ€ stories in terms on the look and feel of the great pulp adventures and serials. I donâ€™t often recommend that people see a movie just for the way it looks but SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW is one of those movies. Itâ€™s an out-of-body experience that truly takes you into another world and despite what I think are some major flaws that prevent it from being quite as good as such great pulp inspired films such as The Indiana Jones Trilogy, â€œThe Rocketeerâ€ â€œThe Phantomâ€ and â€œBuckaroo Banzaiâ€ itâ€™s an astounding adventure movie that proves what Iâ€™ve been saying for years: pulp action adventure is alive and well and if presented in the right way, people will eat it up.
The look of the movie is achieved through the means of almost total CGI. Except for the actors, their costumes and some of the sets, nearly everything else is a digital creation and the results are simply astounding in evoking a 1939 that only existed in the pages of pulp magazines and serials and could only be realized now. Thereâ€™s a certain irony in the fact that the best way to visualize a world of the past is by means of a futuristic technology but it works. Boy, does it ever work.
SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW takes place in an alternate Earth where the Second World War has obviously never happened. We can tell that right from the beautiful opening sequence where The Hindenburg III docks at The Empire State Building. That huge tower on the top was designed exactly for that purpose in our reality but after it was built it was discovered that the high winds would make dirigibles move around too much and make it impossible for passengers to disembark. But in this world theyâ€™ve obviously overcome that problem. Aboard The Hindenburg is Dr. Vargas (Julian Curry) who is on the run from sinister forces who have been kidnapping the worldâ€™s leading scientists and heâ€™s next on the list.
Heâ€™s come to New York to warn his colleague, Dr. Jennings (Trevor Baxter) who in turn contacts the crack reporter of The New York Chronicle, the wonderfully named Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and informs her that he was once a member of a mysterious group known as Unit 11 who worked for a Doctor Totenkopf (Sir Laurence Oliver in archival footage) who worked on projects that were â€œtoo horrible to speak ofâ€ Itâ€™s during their meeting that New York is attacked by an army of giant flying robots that proceed to steal the cityâ€™s generators. Thereâ€™s only one chance for the city to survive and the call goes out for Joe Sullivan aka Sky Captain (Jude Law) to come and save the day in his customized, pimped-out P-40 Warhawk which he does in a breathtaking sequence which kinda reminded me of the sequence in Tim Burtonâ€™s â€œBatmanâ€ where the Caped Crusader does battle with The Joker in his batplane.
Turns out that Sky Captain is the last hope of the world to find out where these giant robots are coming from and why theyâ€™re attacking cities all over the entire world for their generators. Sky Captain is ably backed up by his own private army and his faithful sidekick, Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) who judging from his speech patterns and technological genius must be an ancestor of Stark Trekâ€™s Mr. Spock. Polly insists on going along the adventure and it turns out that she and Sky Captain had a wild romance in the past that resulted in her sabotaging his beloved plane that led to him being held in a Nanjing prison for six months so thereâ€™s a certain amount of friction there that leads to some entertaining banter between the two as they go off on a world-wide quest for Tontenkopfâ€™s secret base to stop his mad schemes. Theyâ€™re followed by The Mysterious Woman (Bai Ling) who is Totenkopfâ€™s enforcer and seeks to stop them. Along the way Sky Captain and Polly get the help of Franky (Angelina Jolie) the eye patch wearing commander of a fleet of aerial aircraft carriers who was the reason Sky Captain and Polly had a falling out and together they assault Dr. Totenkopfâ€™s island fortress in a last ditch effort to save the world.
SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW is a great movie for those of us who love the pulps and those of us who have no idea of what the pulps were and want to know. Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie do an absolutely bang-up job in their roles considering they were working on sets where they had to imagine what they were seeing 90% of the time. I totally love Angelina Jolieâ€™s work in this movie and I bet if you ask her sheâ€™d admit that sheâ€™s a fan of Jim Sterankoâ€™s â€œNick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.â€ since her role is practically a 1930â€™s female version of that character. Thereâ€™s a fantastic scene where she and her squadron of ace pilots dive into the ocean and we see that their planes can also become submarine fighters that had me jumping up and hollaring like a maniac. And I wonâ€™t even tell you the scene that happens after that when she has to take out a giant robotic crab monster protecting Totenkopfâ€™s island.
But SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW does have some major flaws. First is that even though Sky Captain is the hero he never has an enemy to play off of. Dr. Totenkopf is played by Sir Laurence Oliver who died before the movie was made and so only appears either in footage that has been CGIâ€™ed. And The Mysterious Woman looks as if she might be a formidable enemy but she and Sky Captain never have a real emotional or physical conflict. Near the end of the movie, The Mysterious Woman and Sky Captain square off in a battle that looks as if weâ€™re going to get some real ass-kicking action but it doesnâ€™t happen. Itâ€™s resolved in a manner that had me saying; â€œThatâ€™s IT?!â€
Another thing that had me puzzling over is that early in the movie itâ€™s said that the nations of the world have to rely on Sky Captain and his private army to find Totenkopf since their armies are engaged in other conflicts. Well, if in this world thereâ€™s no World War II then what conflict is going on? Perhaps Japan decided to bumrush on their own? Perhaps thatâ€™s the reason thereâ€™s no Asians in the film? And I also didnâ€™t like how near the end where Sky Captain and Polly have been busting their asses to save Dex for nearly 30 minutes of the movieâ€™s running time Dex shows up to save them and he offhandedly explains how he escaped.
And the movie doesnâ€™t have the headlong adrenaline rush of the Indiana Jones Trilogy or â€œThe Rocketeerâ€ or â€œThe Phantomâ€. Itâ€™s a good movie, donâ€™t get me wrongâ€¦but itâ€™s obvious that the director is more in love with getting the look and feel of the movie right more than the action elements. But you just canâ€™t beat the scene in New York with Sky Captain fighting the robots and that simply incredible underwater scene with the amphibious planes. Stuff like that is what a pulp fan like me lives for and I certainly got it. But thereâ€™s a curious lack of headlong action that doesnâ€™t carry you along in a rush that I attribute to the director. Kerry Conran is good, yeah, but heâ€™s not a major action direction on the level of a Steven Spielberg who could have torn up the screen with material like this.
The performances in the movie are also worth mentioning. SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW was part of the Jude Law Film Festival of 2004 where it seemed as if every other movie that hit the screens that year starred Jude Law. Heâ€™s really good in this one as he plays it absolutely straight. His daredevil pilot Joe Sullivan would have been right at home in a Howard Hawkes movie like â€œOnly Angels Have Wingsâ€ and I loved how during the underwater fight scene Angelina Jolie was grinning like a kid on Christmas while wearing a helmet Iâ€™m positive was inspired by Wally Wood.
So should you see SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW? Without a doubt. Itâ€™s an excellent movie simply on a technical level in that it brings to life a world that I love with my whole heart and I try to recreate in my work. I would advise you to see The Indiana Jones Trilogy or â€œThe Rocketeerâ€ or â€œThe Phantomâ€ if you want to know what the action and energy of the pulps and Saturday Morning serial felt like but see SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW if you want to know what the pulps and Saturday morning serials looked like.
WORLD - CULTURE
Copyright © 2010 DLFerguson
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow: Movie Review
Copyright © 2010 DLFerguson
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