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 ... Read allAfter 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.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.
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.
- Dec 2, 2004