The World of Tomorrow (2005 Video)
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I did love the feature for its effects, style and generally very well done blend of 1930's but futuristic at the same time – it was very pleasing to watch but just a shame that the plot and performances were not up to the same level, ultimately seeing the film underperform and not progress. With the short film the stakes are lower, the need for full plot is less and by presenting it as a chapter in a 1930's serial, it doesn't matter that it doesn't complete the full story because the short is all about the style of these serials but mixed with the sci-fi content. It is very cleverly done with very good effects and very good eye for the style and camera angles of the time – perhaps it is more familiar of films aping that period, but either way it does it very well.
Of course it is lucky to be free of the need of exposition and plot and characters and just get by on style, and unfortunately the full film indicates that it couldn't make that leap, but for a short film it works very well, with cool design, effects and delivery.
4/5 or 8/10
It's interesting to me because I remember going to Cal Arts in Valencia, where director Kerry Conran went to film school, to tour their campus after I was accepted into film school there, and the short films that they showed us were of a very obscure, artsy variety, many of them literally abrasive and unpleasant to watch, and it's odd to consider that this film may have been shown to prospective students at some point as well. Maybe if this had been one of the ones shown when I toured the campus I would have accepted the invitation to attend!
While it seems that the film ends right about when it seems to be beginning, it is a clearly competent film with an interesting story, almost like it's a pitch for a feature film. Well, in my experience in script analysis working for film production companies, I can tell you that I wish we had more things like this to choose from, because the vast majority of the scripts that I read are unbelievably bad. And when talent like this comes along, it's nice to see that someone is doing something about it.
"The World of Tomorrow" is Kerry Conran's brainchild, and the original version of his first feature film, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" (2004). Presented in black and white, the short is entirely CGI with the exception of its actors and falls nothing short of impressive. Of course, to fully enjoy it, one must watch it knowing some of its back-story: around 1994, Conran decided he wanted to independently make a film in the style of 1930s sci-fi serials (a la "Buck Rogers" (1939) or "Flash Gordon" (1936)). Only with the help of a few friends and family, he set up a blue screen in his own apartment and shot friends as the actors of the film. He then animated and rendered all of the visual effects (in other words, everything else that is seen in the short) alone, on his personal Macintosh computer. Painstakingly working through morning, noon and night for 4 years, Conran had only completed 6 minutes of footage by 1998, until he was discovered by Jon Avnet, who agreed to finance the project that was eventually to become "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow." The film, while it has A-list Hollywood actors and uses considerably more advanced technology, retains the style and spirit of the short as well as uses the same process of filming the actors alone on blue screen and animating everything else. The short itself was not shown to the public until the DVD release of "Sky Captain" in early 2005.
Essentially, the short is nearly shot-for-shot the first few scenes of its offspring. While some may seem a bit turned off hearing this having already seen the final film, watching the short is still a completely different experience. The real effect comes when one thinks about how this was all done on a single computer; merely as a labor of love. It is clear that Conran is enthusiastic for what he does. While it is also clear that this isn't a professionally-done film some of the effects are a bit hokey-looking, many cheap sound effects are used, etc - the visual and sound effects are overall quite impressive, as well, given the circumstances and the period of time in which they were done. It is also interesting to see how much of the short survived in the final film; with the exception of a few added sequences, it's pretty much there in its entirety.
The short ends with old-style title overlays, making the short a promotional trailer of sorts for a presumed full series. Unfortunately, however, Conran never got to complete this particular project, after working on "Sky Captain" and his upcoming feature films. In some ways, however, it's satisfying enough that the short is left unfinished and the reason for the elements of the story remains left to the imagination.
Overall, "The World of Tomorrow" is groundbreaking, perhaps even more so than the much more popularized "Sky Captain." Even if you weren't a big fan of the film, you should give this short a chance, if only to see the result of long hours of dedicated work with limited tools. Aspiring filmmakers who are interested in making their own independent film should also check this one out, and who knows, some day they might find themselves following in Conran's footsteps.
I particularly like the montage sequence with the people raising their hands in the air, a sequence I believe was "inspired" by several other films. Regardless of the source, the effect is both thrilling and nostalgic. I also particularly enjoy the scene with the radio waves introducing "Sky Captain". This scene was shortened considerably for the feature version; perhaps audiences would have found it odd but I think the way Conran did it here is quite interesting and unusual.