If the look of a film
was enough, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow would be a
classic. As it is, it is a very good film that is lots of fun until
it kind of runs out of steam just shortly before it runs out of film.
However, the stunning, haunting visual effects raise the movie at least a
peg or two. This truly is a film that has to be seen to be believed.
The story is really a
secondary pleasure. It is cute, wonderfully retro and more than a
bit corny. Sky Captain looks and feels like it was
filmed about the time that Winston Churchill was chomping on his stogie
and FDR was saying you have nothing to fear except fear itself. Oh,
yeah, that and giant robots.
These giant robots are suddenly attacking New
York and other cities all over the world. In the meantime, some of
the world's most brilliant scientists are disappearing. The story is
being investigated by Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), a femme fatale
journalist with flowing Veronica Lake hair and gams that won't quit.
When the giant robots
attack, the authorities call for Sky Captain (Jude Law), the local hero. Sky
Captain fights evil in a plane that can apparently fly all over the world
on one tank of gas (okay, it runs out once, but only to fuel a plot
point.) He is helped out by Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), a comic book addict
and brilliant inventor and Frankie (Angelina Jolie in a glorified cameo),
an eye-patched and tough captain of a flying airfield.
The bad guy is
Totenkoff, an evil scientist bent on destroying the world.
Interestingly, the character is performed by archival footage of legendary
actor Sir Laurence Olivier, who died in 1989.
This New York is a
slightly fictionalized version of the WWII-era city. Beyond the
obvious lack in history of giant robots, other quirky little touches like
a zeppelin called the Hindenburg III wink at the audience that this is a
strange alternate universe.
art direction is stunning in recreating the look and feel of 1940s movies,
to the point that it is almost fetishistic. The movie is full of
muted colors and grays making it feel black and white even though it is in
color. Occasional swashes of color, like the red of Polly's lipstick
and the green of a forest are all the more shocking because of this
The heroes are square and valiant, the heroines are plucky and gorgeous,
the bad guys are mysterious and one-dimensional.
Towards the end though,
this wonderful sense of nostalgia feeds into a climax where the good guys
show up in the evildoers' remote island lair and single-handedly take on
the hordes of enemies to undo the threat and save the world. After the freshness of
the film previously, (and yes, a film that is lovingly retro can still be
fresh), it's sort of sad that the movie falls into this old
hackneyed storyline. The whole evil lair thing has been done to death over the years in
the likes of
Raiders of the Lost Ark, all of the James Bond films, and even
the Austin Powers movies. If you want anyone to take your
movie seriously, you just don't even in the slightest way echo Austin
Still, despite the formulaic end, there is
enough that is original and visually arresting to make Sky Captain and
the World of Tomorrow well worth the trip.