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This is the original 6 minute short film which the film "Sky Captain
and the World of Tomorrow" is based on. It is shot in black and white,
and it is constructed to simulate the first chapter in a 12 part serial
like the ones from the 30s and 40s. Much of the visual style of the
film is based on the old serials; in this respect the 6 minute short is
much closer to the "source material" than the feature film. I found
myself wishing they had simply made the remaining chapters in the same
style as the short, though I also enjoy "Sky Captain". Considering that
this film was made on home PCs by dedicated artists who expected no
pay, this film looks pretty darn good, the quality is comparable to the
old 1940s features which were quite expensive at their time. Those who
think this is easy to accomplish should try making a film on their own
and see if they can convince their local cable access station to
broadcast it, much less Paramount to finance a film version.
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.
I thought that the original 6 minute short film was the story we saw in
the feature film told in six minutes, so I was surprised when we were
still aboard the Hindenburg III almost halfway through the film.
Interestingly, almost every shot in the short film is in the feature
film, almost identically, and this short film draws on both anime and
classic pulp comic book animation. The result is lovely, and it is
great to see something that is so clearly put together independently
and not intended for wide release (although still incredibly well
made), especially when you consider what the film eventually became.
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.
When I bought Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on DVD, I was
awaiting a poor short, nothing really to write home about. But when i
selected it in the special features, I fell in love with it. I actually
think they should have made the full-length movie a special feature,
and the short the movie lol! We open on a very recognizable picture
(for movie buffs really) is the crackly graded picture of old movies of
the silver screen, such as Frankenstein, or The 39 Steps. It's in
wonderful black and white, an unusual feat these days. But then again,
the whole process was shot in front of blue screen, so there's nothing
to be surprised at. It's quite similar to the full length version, but
I actually think the actors in this piece, though unknown, and hardly
speak a line each, are better choices for the roles of Polly Perkins
and Joe Sullivan. Don't get me wrong, I liked Jude Law and Gwyneth
Paltrow in the movie, but Gwyneth was slightly wooden in the movie, as
this actor wasn't. Sorry Gwyneth, she was better. Even though this was
only about an eighth or tenth of the actual movie, I liked it better
because, as Kerry Conran wanted, it would have been in chapters, making
you believe it more.
4/5 or 8/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In 1930's New York, its leading newspaper, The Chronicle, prints an
article written by ace reporter Polly Perkins reporting the
disappearance of a scientist. As Polly clicks away on her typewriter,
air raid sirens go up - the city is being attacked. Desperate to get
another good story, she goes to the center of the panic when the
attackers, which are revealed to be giant robots, hit. As they march
down Fifth Avenue and all hope seems lost, there's only one to call for
help...Sky Captain and his Flying Legion!
"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.
Although IMDb lists this film as released in 2005, I guess this is the
first time it was on a DVD because in reality this short film preceded
the film Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow by some 7 years. The
plot of the short is essentially the starting point for the feature
film, with a journalist looking into the disappearance of a scientist
when suddenly New York City is attacked by flying metal robots. Indeed
it is very like the full film but with one very key difference this
short is all of 6 or 7 minutes long, and this makes a great deal of
difference to how well it works.
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.
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