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I'll be the first to admit it. I went into 'Sky Captain and the World
of Tomorrow' with a lot of trepidation and even loathing. I didn't like
the direction that cinema was taking with this film, featuring a
backdrop that was mostly digital, because being a film purist, I used
to relish the feel of actual celluloid in my hands, so this 'fake'
creation was disturbing. I am still wary of this possible trend, but
after seeing 'Sky Captain', I found that art can be realized in this
'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' not only boasts one of the longest film titles in recent months, but a great cast: Jude Law as Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan, our hero, Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins, our intrepid reporter and Sullivan's former flame and Angelina Jolie as Capt. Franky Cook, a friend and ally of Joe's. There is an evil element threatening the Earth, and it is up to Joe and Polly to find out who is behind the threat, before Earth is destroyed.
One line is all it really takes to sum up the story, which is generally all it took to summarize the films 'Sky Captain' pays homage to. The story is good, and it certainly boasts one of the most entertaining endings that I can remember in recent years, but it is the presentation that is the biggest draw with 'Sky Captain'. The overall style is 1930's Art Deco mixed with bits of Neo-Futurism. The robots in the first half hour of the film look like something out of comic book, the clothes and character styles are most certainly inspired by the 1930's, and the backdrops and locations are very Deco. It's obvious that one of the advantages in producing a film in this manner is that the filmmaker can be as elaborate in design as possible, because the 'set design' was very rich and exciting.
As a lover of classic film, I found the numerous nods to the films of the 30's very refreshing. Several scenes or lines could have been construed as corny, but I found them to be presented with a giant wink at the audience. Because all of these aforementioned elements were done so well, this film was a huge success in my opinion. And despite my concerns (which are still prevalent in my mind) I can sincerely rave about and recommend 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' to just about anyone who appreciates both art and good entertainment.
This movie is somewhat the opposite of "Sin City". Sin City was a movie
liked by everyone and made me feel stupid for not liking it. Sky
Captain is the opposite I guess, despised by everyone and made me feel
immature by liking it. But the movie is just too good not to like,
It gives the great atmosphere of old cinema plus comic books, and it does so perfectly using flying funny looking evil robots, strange laser guns, and comic-book like dialog. And it was the first time I said to myself "wow, Angelina Jolie is actually a good actress". She's nothing like her boob-flashing movies.
And story? For me a story is good as long as it's not boring. And this is a comic-book adaptation, it was MEANT to be silly, and it didn't bother me at all since I was busy enjoying the film. If u're a stiff businessman with no shred of child imagination and if u even hated Star Wars saying "hey, this can't happen in real life", then don't watch this movie. If u're a comic-books fan, watch it and love it. It has a great atmosphere, great visual effects, and it's exciting. And it's fun to watch.
While my peers were racing to the movies to see such films as Pretty in
Pink and Say Anything I couldn't wait to visit my grandparents' farm in
southeastern Colorado. In my grandmother's antique cabinet in their
'playroom' were literally hundreds of tapes; movies staring the Three
Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and dozens of
cliffhangers such as Mystery Squadron and The Adventures of Red Ryder .
My love of serials is one of the few things I remember sharing with my
So when I was sitting in the theater and the first preview for Shy Captain and the World of Tomorrow came on I was transported back to the safety of my grandparents' home and the love I felt while watching old cliffhangers with my dad.
I was instantly in love with the movie, the beautiful quality of every frame that made the movie appear to be one beautifully illustrated comic book and, of course, the similarity to the campy sci-fi movies of the 1930's. I went home and immediately looked the movie up on the internet.
I was stunned to find out that this was the first film Kerry Conran had directed or written, and that Sky Captain was originally a six minute reel that producer Jon Avnet saw and wanted to turn into a feature length film. The movie itself was first storyboard with crude animation so that the actors would understand what was happening in their scenes since the entire film was shot in front of blue screen. Because there were no actual locations filming only took 26 days instead of an estimated 6 months.
When the movie opened on the 17th of September I was there for one the first showings. The theater was all but empty, only about twelve other people were there, all men, all in their thirties and all alone. I was truly shocked at the small turn out, what about this film had turned off so many movie goers?
The movie began and I felt like a little kid falling in love with movies for the first time all over again. The shuttle references to classic sci-fi movies of the 1920's, 30's and 40's littered the screen. References to King Kong, Forbidden Planet, and the comic book Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. were everywhere you looked. At one point Polly Perkins the feisty reporter played by Gwyneth Paltrow is talking to her editor on the phone saying, 'They're reached Sixth Ave Fifth Ave . they're a hundred yards away', a direct quote from Orson Welle's radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Even Star Wars was referenced when Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan played by Jude Law is instructed to land on the air carrier's pad 327, the same number the Millennium Falcon lands on in Cloud City. By far the greatest reference to past greatness is the appearance Sir Laurence Olivier, who died in 1989, as the villain Dr. Totenkopf, using CGI and archival footage Conran brings back to life one of our greatest actors.
I was in movie geek heaven, for about the first hour, and then my attention started to wonder. In a society of attention deficit the constant motion and flying from one scene to another and the quick, panicked, pace of this movie should have fit in, however I felt teased, as if I was only watching part of a movie, the part that would never have a conclusion. We receive through the dialogue what little character development the movie has to offer, which isn't much, and in the end no one grows, or changes, or even becomes deeper than a character in a commercial.
Looking back at the old serials I realize that the characters remained the same generic, two dimensional characters they were at the beginning, but the lack of development goes unnoticed in an action film less than twenty minutes long. Today the only programs we watch that are less than twenty minutes are situational comedies that parade a host of cardboard characters through redundant stories lines. A two hour long episode is too much, perhaps Kerry Conran should have stuck more closely to the serial format and released the movie in smaller segments, maybe then I would have remained entertained and in love with his homage to old cinema. We are a country that seems to forever be moving forward with little room to go back and even though we sometimes get nostalgic for a simpler film, or movie hero, it's not always possible to pull off with today's intellectual needs.
I read through some of the other comments on here... I can't imagine
who went to this movie expecting it to be full of philosophy or deep
thinking, it's just a fun thrill ride type of movie and it is one of
the best of those types of films to appear in decades. I knew the film
would be cool looking because I caught a few minutes of it at a
drive-in, but when I watched the whole movie it really blew me away as
a well-conceived well-executed whole. I liked the characters, I didn't
think they were "realistic" but they were fun in the old-school movie
kind of way. It reminded me somewhat of a Howard Hawks film, actually.
I like the love triangle here and wish it had been developed more. The
visuals are just amazing. This movie is in every way better than the
new Star Wars movies.... it has the great futuristic dogfights that
were so great in the first 3 SW movies but are missing in the new
films, and its effects are better thought out and better done than
"Attack of the Clones".
Everybody who likes science fiction or just who likes good old-fashioned movies should see this film. It is suitable for kids and for adults. Very good photography and direction, I think this one will be appreciated by film fans looking to the new fronteirs of filming also. This film gave me some hope, at long last, that Hollywood will not become a wasteland of effects without good story, so I am indeed surprised that many posters here consider it to be just that. To me, this film is a gem.
You won't find many movies with the look of 'Sky Captain', the film has
a style that is all its own.
Apparently set in the 1930s yet featuring technology most of us associate with a time in the 2030s, 'Sky Captain' does a good job of blending the old generation with the new. I really did like the glossy look of the visuals.
The story is not overly deep and I would have loved to see some more backstory development for some of the main players, but for what it is,the plot is easy enough to follow along too.
Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow have great chemistry together here and I'm glad things between them stayed constant through the film. I could write more here, but I won't spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it.
Despite the fact I enjoyed "Sky Captain", I am still thankful these films are the exception rather than the rule. I still prefer films with real (or at least partially real) sets and shooting locations. I've read comments here about the quality of the acting in this film and that's a pitfall for so-called "Blue screen films". Even a great actor has a challenge when standing against a blue screen and pretending to respond meaningfully to something that's not really there. The acting here isn't down right corny, but I believe if the key players had more real surroundings to play off of, the performances would have improved. I also think Angelina Jolie's "Frankie" character deserved more screen time.
'Sky Captain' is an interesting experiment and certainly a movie that will hold your attention for 90 or so minutes (the movie is pretty short in comparison to other blockbusters).
So, if you're curious, check it out, you likely will get something enjoyable out of it.
I had not read about the movie before watching it and was fascinated
within the first several minutes and continued to enjoy it through to
the end. This movie's unique look and feel is its primary vehicle.
If you are looking for a sophisticated plot, this movie was not made for you. The plot and acting were adequate enough to avoid ruining the visual picture. The makers applied a comic book feel to the movie that allowed for softer edges and sepia tones, both with the animated sets and the human characters. If a set does not look completely realistic, the viewer is not troubled because the set is consistent with everything you see in the movie.
Anyone who has ever edited video or worked with animation would have to appreciate the visual art and quality of this movie. Otherwise, it contains a decent story that would be worth watching at least once.
In a 1940's of the future, scientists are mysteriously going missing
and only plucky journalist Polly Perkins has a lead. Meeting with a
scientist in a secret rendezvous, mere minutes before he disappears,
she is horrified by the sudden appearance in New York of a horde of
giant robots. Luckily Sky Captain Joe Sullivan comes to the rescue in
his customised Spitfire and prevents the robots robbing the city's
central generators. With further attacks around the globe, Sky Captain
and his group team up with Polly to track down the source of the robot
menace, uncover the plot involved and stop it before it is too late.
All the interviews around this film have talked up the visuals and the possibilities of making movies entirely on blue screen etc and, to be honest, the marketing behind the film reflects it really well because it is all about the visual style and effects with very little else. The film starts immediately with a really great visual feel that harks back to the old sci-fi serials of the 1930/40's where the future is based on the present with knobs on. The lighting and delivery is all fitting this period and it works pretty well on this level. The scale and nature of the effects are impressive, they are all retro and look great and only occasionally is it obvious that the actors are staring at things that aren't there. Of course after this we have problems, because looks enough aren't quite enough to make it all work. The period feel will make it a cult film with time but at the moment it is not enough to just sell me a computer generated yarn with no substance to it.
I suppose in a way the writing and delivery is all in keeping with the genre that it is homaging but this is a thin excuse for material that is slightly dull and lacks the twinkle and wit it really needed. Wooden acting and clunky dialogue can be fun if served up with the tongue in the cheek but that never really happens here to the degree it should. Thinks looked good at the start with Godzilla making an appearance on a Japanese newspaper but aside from this and a handful of other comic touches the film is played pretty straight meaning we feel we should treat it so, something I found too hard to do. The dialogue is fun at times but is mostly as stiff as much of the delivery. The cast are not to blame because they are remote from the action, secondary to the visuals and trying to match the acting of the genre, which is traditionally wooden. I'm not totally sure that bringing back Olivier was a good idea but it was such a small part of the film that it didn't really matter and left me wondering why they bothered in the first place.
Law is boyishly handsome and works pretty well with the material, looking very British in his beautiful Spitfire. He has fun with his character and he at least seems to be in on the joke. Paltrow has some comic moments but mainly she plays it pretty straight and is a little dull. Ribisi is all at sea, he plays it straight and looks bad as a result. Jolie is a nice addition but has little time to make an impression she never has a character and is really nothing more than a set of lips! Support from Gambon and Ling Bai is wasted and neither makes an impression especially disappointing from Ling who is really the main baddie for the majority of the film. None of them are good enough to make the plot engaging or bring out characters in their genre clichés but they try their best and at least fit into the period quite well.
Overall this is eye candy but it is candy that will develop a cult following based on how well it captures those old serials and the scale of the visual designs and effects. Many viewers will lament that Conran didn't move away from his computer for longer and put more heart and wit into the script because this has little or no substance to it and, when backdrops are not stunning and robots are not stomping it can get dull (and does). Worth seeing for the effects and the visuals, this is a very expensive sci-fi serial that is fun but sadly lacks any substances, characters or real humour.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've said this in other reviews, without a story, you can give the
audience all the smoke and mirrors you want, still no one will give a
The director seems to have a great eye for 30s art deco (which I love), and I think the idea of using all digital backgrounds and such could indeed be the wave of the future in movie making. However, it's obvious the director got so interested in the digital rendering of his movie, he forgot to film many scenes which would have enormously helped this surprisingly thinned-plotted film. (SPOILER) For crying out loud, they forgot to have a villain in this thing! OK they have one, but he's been dead for 20 years by the time the movie takes place. Conran misses the point of HAVING a villain. As far as action goes, well let's see, Sky Captain (Law) shoots down ONE robot, two or three of the flapping wing airplanes (before Dex (Ribisi) tells him to stop shooting them down!!!), and a couple robots, but mostly spends his time looking dashing and getting others to fight his battles for him. Paltrow as Polly or Peggy or Punky or whatever is totally wasted in this movie (the reviewer who comments on hers and Law's lack of chemistry is so right) and I for one got a little sick of seeing repeated shots of the top of her camera, showing she ONLY HAS TWO SHOTS LEFT, both of which she wastes subsequently in the movie, one uncomically, one quite funny, although I saw it coming from 70 years away. No one except Law and Paltrow have any significant time on screen, and that's the movie's real flaw. An audience doesn't identify with robots, they need a hero to root for, and a visible, despicable villain to hate. Without that, plus a good engaging story, all the CG in the world won't help.
Wow, what an amazing visual film. Being someone who loves
cinematography and artwork in general, I acquired this film quickly
after hearing about it. I wasn't disappointed, except for the story
which was just so-so.
Almost the whole film is computerized and almost has a painting-like look to it. In fact, many scenes look as if Edward Hopper had painted them. Yet, it is a live-action movie with real actors whose faces aren't altered, except for Gywneth Paltrow's hair which is made more blondish and shimmering.
Story-wise, it's nothing special, just a corny old-time serial story about someone using high-tech robots and spaceships to take over the planet. The time period, however, is pre-World War II so to see this futuristic type of robot is a bit of a stretch. Nonetheless, it's a strictly old-fashioned sci-fi story with little profanity and, except for the robots, a great retro look.
Going back to that "look," this film is still very worthy of viewing because it's absolutely stunning to see. There truly is nothing quite like it. I'm sorry it didn't do well at the box office because that won't encourage others to make more of these visually-inventive kind of films. This must look beyond incredible on an expensive plasma TV set!
Also notable is the sound. The better the sound system you have, the more you will be blown away with the audio here. It's as good as the visuals. If only the story was as good!
Computer generated special effects have been around for quite some time
now, and often questionably so, but they come into their own with Kerry
Conran's SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW--an innovative film that
failed in theatrical release but which now makes a big splash in the
home market. And whether you love it or hate it, SKY CAPTAIN is likely
to cast a very long shadow indeed.
As a concept, the film seems to be based on the popular serials of the 1930s and 1940s. This is not limited to the use of an improbable plot fueled by special effects and cliffhanger action sequences, but it extends to the dialogue and characters as well, all of which are typical of such celebrated serials as BUCK ROGERS, CAPTAIN MARVEL, SPY SMASHER, and THE CRIMSON GHOST. The film also draws specific plot elements from such diverse sources as KING KONG, LOST HORIZON, THE WIZARD OF OZ, and WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, to name but a few.
The story is typical of serials. "Girl Reporter" Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is doing a story on missing scientists--and when giant metal robots attack New York she unexpectedly holds a clue to their origin. She and Sky Captain (Jude Law) form an uneasy alliance to get to the bottom of things. With an assist from Sky Captain's faithful sidekick Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) and the disconcertingly military Frankie (Angelina Jolie), the two search the world--and finally track the wicked Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier, resurrected via CGI) to his secret lair.
The look of the film follows suit. The live cast worked on a blue screen set, and with the exception of a single set, the costumes, and items the live actors had to handle, everything you see on the screen was created in the computer and added after the fact. A great many people have described the look of the film as "deco," an arts movement associated with the 1920s; this is misleading. It would be more accurate to describe it as a mixture of pre-WWII arts movements filtered through a 1950s sensibility, and the result is like nothing so much as a pulp science fiction magazine cover unexpectedly come to life.
Now, how much you like this will depend to a great extent on how clearly you recognize the film styles and specific films that have clearly influenced it. If you know nothing about serials, for example, you are likely to be appalled by the flatness of the script and Paltrow's one-note performance; on the other hand, if you are a serial fan, you'll immediately recognize that the script is reflective of such serials as SPY SMASHER and that Paltrow echoes Linda Sterling, famous for such serials as THE CRIMSON GHOST. It wouldn't be too much to say that in many respects SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW is akin to an inside joke.
But most particularly, your liking for this film will depend on how you react to the visuals. I am not a great fan of CGI when it is used to bolster live action films such as GLADIATOR or TITANIC; I can usually spot the CGI and I find it distracting. But I have to come down in favor of SKY CAPTAIN: this isn't an effort to "make it look real;" this is an effort to make a totally artificial world, and whether it be giant robots, Shangri-La, or Radio City Music Hall the designs are stunning and remarkably well executed. Whatever other shortcomings it may have, SKY CAPTAIN has incredible visual "WOW!" The film is currently available in a DVD release that is visually handsome with superior sound, and the package contains a fair number of bonuses. Unfortunately, the two commentary tracks are less interesting than you might expect, but two short documentaries ("Brave New World" and "The Art of the World of Tomorrow") are quite good--and the original six minute short that inspired the film is fascinating. Not every one will get it, so I recommend you rent before you buy, but on the whole this is a show truly worth the money. Recommended.
Gary F. Taylor, aka GFT, Amazon Reviewer
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