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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

PG  |   |  Action, Adventure, Mystery  |  17 September 2004 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.1/10 from 70,895 users   Metascore: 64/100
Reviews: 617 user | 196 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

After New York City receives a series of attacks from giant flying robots, a reporter teams up with a pilot in search of their origin, as well as the reason for the disappearances of famous scientists around the world.



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As a reporter covers a story on a missing scientist, giant robots attack New York City.

Director: Kerry Conran


Cast overview, first billed only:
Editor Paley
Mysterious Woman
Dr. Totenkopf (archive footage) (as Sir Laurence Olivier)
Trevor Baxter ...
Dr. Jennings
Julian Curry ...
Dr. Vargas
Peter Law ...
Dr. Kessler
Jon Rumney ...
German Scientist
Khan Bonfils ...
Samta Gyatso ...
Louis Hilyer ...
Executive Officer


In 1939, an intrepid reporter in New York City makes a connection between the story she's covering-- of famous scientists suddenly disappearing around the world, and a recent attack on the city by giant robots. Determined to find the solution to these happenings, she seeks the help of her ex-boyfriend, the captain of a mercenary legion of pilots. The two are investigating the case when the robots attack the city again, though in a stroke of luck, Sky Captain's right hand man is able to locate their source. They then set off on an adventure in search of the evil mastermind behind these schemes, who is bent on creating a utopia and destroying the current world. Written by Apster

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The Battle for Tomorrow is About to Begin... See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for sequences of stylized sci-fi violence and brief mild language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

17 September 2004 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The World of Tomorrow  »

Box Office


$70,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$15,580,278 (USA) (17 September 2004)


$646,403 (Australia) (11 February 2005)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the movie when they show all of the headlines from newspapers around the globe, you can see Godzilla's outline on the Tokyo newspaper. In one of the newspaper shots you can see an "Iron Eagle", which defines the Nazi regime to be in power in Germany, although there is no sign of a preparation for war. See more »


When on his P-40 plane, Joe and Polly are not wearing headsets. Wind on the fuselage, vibration and engine noise would make it impossible to talk to control tower and they'd have to scream to be heard inside the plane. Yet they speak normally, as if they were sitting in their living room. See more »


[first lines]
Hindenburg announcer: Attention. Please prepare for docking procedure.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Laurence Olivier is given a major on-screen credit, despite only being in the film through archive footage and having another actor voice his character's lines. See more »


Referenced in Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: The Midnight Zone (2012) See more »


Over the Rainbow
Written by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen
Performed by Jane Monheit
Used by permission of EMI Feist Catalog Inc.
Jane Monheit appears courtesy of Sony Classical
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Nice little action romp, short of plot but heavy on effects and adventure
2 December 2004 | by (Houston, TX) – See all my reviews

As computer graphics are becoming more and more a part of movies, it only makes sense that eventually a film would come along that is completely computer animated with humans just inserted into the footage.

That's the feel of "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow," a strange but fun fantasy/action movie inspired by the likes of classic sci-fi comics like "Buck Rogers" and "Flash Gordan." The characters are essentially live-action people walking in front of green screen images, but it does all mesh together nicely, if not too nicely.

The year is 1939, and several famous German scientists have wound up missing. When plucky New York reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is contacted by a scientist who fears that he's next, she discovers a diabolical plot by a mad scientist named Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier, thanks to some digital trickery).

Totenkopf has unleashed an army of massive robots on the world, and the call soon goes out to Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law), a well-known hero-for-hire fighter pilot, to come to the rescue. Fate soon brings Perkins and Sullivan together again, having once been an item but now bitter over a past incident that left Sullivan in a Japanese prison camp.

They soon discover that Totenkopf is using his machines to raid the world's power supplies, but to what end they don't know. Skeptical at first, Sullivan soon changes his tune when the robots raid his base and make off with his chief mechanic and friend Dex Dearborn (Giovanni Ribisi). Committed to the task of stopping the scientist and rescuing his friend, Sullivan goes after Totenkopf with Perkins in tow, smelling a story exclusive that's too big to pass up.

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a nice throwback to the old adventure serials of the 1940s, and the look and feel is certainly inspired by the Max Fleischer "Superman" cartoons of that era, particularly the 1941 short "Mechanical Monsters" whose title robots bear a striking resemblance to the ones in this film.

First time director Kevin Conran, also the screenwriter, clearly has respect for the source material of the era, and the movie certainly has a unique atmosphere to it. However, the problem is the visuals and production design command so much attention that the characters come off as ancillary at best.

As the "Sky Captain," Law gives a laid-back performance, not really in keeping with a world famous adventurer. He's certainly charming and handles the action scenes well, but he lacks the ambition necessary for the role.

As Perkins, Paltrow seems to be invoking the spirit of Superman's Lois Lane mixed with Underdog's Sweet Polly Purebred, and as such succeeds at being a nosy reporter who often get in trouble. But Paltrow never really brings Perkins to life, and she recklessly endangers countless numbers of lives and is never even berated for her actions.

Ribisi and Jolie both fair well though their characters just exist to advance the plot. It is Olivier's presence here that is the real eye opener. More than 2 decades after his death, the legendary actor is recreated for the movie in two scenes. It's a little disturbing to this critic however, sort of the digital equivalent of grave robbery. Along with the current plans to digitally insert the late George Burns into a new film as well, I don't think I agree with this usage of the technology.

Despite their shortcomings, the actors do give a nice try, but they're powerless against the scope of the film. "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a cornucopia of technical wizardry that's fun to watch and then instantly forget. If the plot had been tooled around with a bit more, it might have become something more classic like "Raiders of the Lost Ark." However, what we have here is a wonderfully conceived artificial world with no humans to inhabit it.

7 out of 10 stars. It's a fun little popcorn movie and a throwback to the serials of yesteryear, but it just can't come together as anything more than a series of interesting set pieces.

46 of 75 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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