"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a technological
marvel whose major flaw is that writer-director Kerry Conran has
pulled out all the stops to appeal to every cinematic taste yet may
wind up delighting few. He calls up virtually every genre and
subgenre. If you're of a certain age, i.e. 60 or older, this picture
will make you think of those black-and-white serials that used to
appear weekly along with a main movie, a B film and a newsreel.
Kids would be sure to show up every Saturday to get cartoons
thrown in a well–all for two bits. If you're an Indiana Jones fan,
you'll think of Steven Spielberg's 1981 pic "Raiders of the Lost
Ark," which also rekindles the spirit of the Saturday matinee
serials, featuring Harrison Ford as the title character who goes
globe-trotting in search of a unique religious artifact and runs into
danger every step of the way.
Many of the women in Kerry Conran's audience will prefer to
relate to the romantic text, as Sky Captain (Jude Law) takes up
after a three-year hiatus with jouralist Polly Perkins (Gwyneth
Paltrow), ultimately meeting up with another old flame, Franky
(Angelina Jolie) to position the movie into the romantic triangle
sub-genre. Pre X-men comic book fans are targeted as "Sky
Captain" elicits comparisons with Flash Gordon and Buck
Rogers. Sci-fi addicts will dig the hint of the 1950s movies that
sometimes ended with the aphorism, "Maybe we were not meant
to toy with Mother Nature."
The movie is self-consciously technological, given that the live
actors perform before a blue screen only to be filmed by Eric
Adkins against a computer-generated cacophony of airplanes,
iron monsters, bird-like evil forces that could have come out of
"Lord of the Rings," and even an evil Dr. Totenkopf (played years
after his death by Laurence Olivier–don't ask). As a result, while
the initial part of the movie will treat its audience with shock and
awe, the technology becomes annoying and redundant during the
Despite their working without a conventional set and without a
sense of location, the performers appear to be having a ball.
Gwyneth Paltrow takes on the role of a fearless reporter for a
New York newspaper (think Lois Lane) who is warned by her
boss (cameo by Michael Gambon) to avoid risking her neck.
Eager to capture photographs of evil iron monsters trampling
mindlessly through midtown traffic, she hooks up with Sky
Captain Joseph Sullivan (the ubiquitous Jude Law), boarding his
contemporary 1939 propellor plane to save the Earth from mad
scientist Dr. Totenkopf–who dreams of destroying our greedy,
violence-prone planet in favor of a utopia high above the world.
Assisted by techie Dex Dearborn (Giovanni Ribisi), they meet up
with Joe's other ex, Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie), all working
against the ticking clock to prevent Dr. Totenkopf from having his
way with us.
With writer-director Conran eager to show off the latest in 21st
century movie technology, he leaves with us little character
development and only a rudimentary, derivative story. Some of
the CGI is staggering, particularly a digital illusion of Manhattan's
Radio City Music Hall. "Sky Captain" is a groundbreaking
imaginative trip down memory lane absent an effective narrative
and characters we can relate to. This makes a good deal of the
film, however innovative, simply mechanical.
Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten