Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow

Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow is the perfect film to end this summer film season of discontent. The movie is an entertaining but flawed confection. When I look back over the genre movies of the past three months, this one is far from the worst and pretty close to the best. But then again, it hasn’t been much of a summer.

Much has been made about the way this film was shot-all in studio against green screens with the scenery added in later. My assesment is that the technique works. I’ve read a few reviews that said the actors looked lost when they had to react to something. I don’t agree; the effects were seamless. The look of the film was muted. The focus was soft and the colors were dimmed down to the point that when I bring them up in my mind now, I see them in black and white. The film is a stylish tribute to the 30’s, it’s look, it’s feel, and especially it’s storytelling style. This is your grandfather’s science fiction. It is very much in the style of the serials. This, of course has been done: Star Wars and Indiana Jones to name the top two examples. And like those, Sky Captain does it straight, with very little irony. Kelly Conran, the director/producer and costume designer has even captured that era’s worship of technology with loving shots of giant robots and rivited steel planes and boats. It’s an old school geekfest.

The emphasis is on the scenery and the characters suffer. As Sky Captain Jude Law is perfectly fine in an unchallanging role. The same goes for Gwyneth Paltrow who plays the reporter/love interest Polly Perkins, a role with as much psychological depth as Underdog’s Polly Purebread. At least she doesn’t scream as much. Actually she doesn’t scream at all, which is one of the best things about the film. Giovanni Ribisi earns extra notice for bringing geek charm to his comic book scientist role.

So there it is. The summer goes out on a high note, if a minor one. This isn’t the best movie of the year but if you’re a geek you should see it. It has giant robots, and if you can’t get excited about giant robots, you have no business calling yourself a geek.


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September 2004
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