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12 reviews, 113 user ratings

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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
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by Robert Flaxman

"Interesting idea, bland execution."
3 stars

Kerry Conran basically came out of nowhere. After producing a six-minute clip of CGI robots trampling city streets, Conran was snatched up by Hollywood and now brings us his first feature, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. A graduate of Cal Arts, Conran clearly has extensive CGI knowledge, but he was also allowed to write and direct the film, and this may have proven its undoing.

Sky Captain opens at breakneck pace. Even though we learn that giant robots have been turning up in various remote areas for the better part of three years, we don't find this out until after the sequence where they march through Manhattan, destroying a good portion of the city. We don't get a lot of information, in fact; Conran leaves the viewer to fill in a lot of the blanks, though at the same time there are scenes in which parts of the story are explained by the protagonists in checklist form. ("It says here the bad guy ran this program! And here's all the work they did! And now no one's seen him for years!")

Though the irritatingly quick transitions in the opening sequence let up soon enough, the film's pace remains quick, as it has to if the entire plot is to fit into a 107-minute box. Sky Captain plays like a handful of serials strung together, with cliffhanger-type shots demarcating the end of one chapter, after which Captain Joe Sullivan (Jude Law) and reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) move on to the next part of their adventure.

Conran appears to be going for as much of a duplication of the serial style as he can with a 21st century cast. What no one appears to have mentioned is that the serials of the 1930s don't translate especially well today. The relentless pace is better than a sluggish one, but it doesn't elevate the material. The plot is still pretty vague and the characters one-dimensional - certainly typical of a serial adventure.

It's possible to make a film in the serial style and fail to fall into this trap, however. One need only look at the Indiana Jones films, particularly the first and last entries, to see the process in action. Indiana Jones is actually realized in multiple dimensions, and the plot has a serial feel but is much more specific. Sky Captain presents us with a lot of robots blowing things up, and then a couple of "experiments gone awry" - we never really learn how things tie together until the last ten minutes of the film, which wouldn't be as much of a problem if we weren't asked to take so much of the explanation on faith that it makes sense.

The actors are game enough, but it's hard when you're just working in front of a blue screen. Paltrow is particularly flat at the beginning but regains her composure once she joins up with Law. Like a lot of 1930s characters, the always hinted at but never shown backstory seems more interesting from their standpoint than the story they're stuck in, but then it wouldn't have made a very good serial. Instead, dropping hints about previous adventures is just a half-hearted and mostly unsuccessful attempt at filling out the characters.

As for the CGI-driven style, the backgrounds are solid enough - frankly, I was expecting a slightly more cartoonish look based on the trailers. The actors don't always interact perfectly with things moving past them, looking on occasion like they're dashing around Toontown, but Conran does a pretty good job combining the actors and the environments. The whole film is also bathed in something of a light glow, presumably trying to be evocative of some vague notion of the past. It works fine, though it doesn't really add anything to the mix.

Of course, while it's theoretically innovative on a visual level, Sky Captain really proves why films shot on location will never go out of style. Interesting as the CGI can be, there's rarely a question that it is in fact CGI. It's not that it doesn't look good, but looking good and looking real are two different things. Just looking good is enough for the ambitions of Sky Captain, but other films would no doubt be unsatisfied.

Despite all this, Sky Captain deserves some points for never losing its watchability. The frenetic plot is distracting enough that the mistakes are rarely magnified onscreen, and the lack of lulls means that audiences aren't left with enough time to wonder if what they just saw made much sense. It isn't Shakespeare - not even with the insertion of a long-dead Laurence Olivier - but it could be worse.

In the end, Sky Captain is just forgettable fluff, but better light than leaden.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10762&reviewer=385
originally posted: 10/09/04 18:19:10
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/25/09 Ganry41 These vocabularies, the syntax which structures them, and their set of speech sound units, 5 stars
10/25/09 Gangster90 Atlantic Yards project, the largest ever in Brooklyn, to build a basketball arena plus at l 3 stars
10/25/09 Mr.Carrot74 In effect, a dual-processor hyper-threaded machine provides four processors and ser 4 stars
10/24/09 Roy93 Well, this is a fantastic description, perhaps less becoming a scientist than a poet. , < 2 stars
10/23/09 Bob25 The plantings are chosen to be wind and drought resistant and modules can be rotated seas 5 stars
10/23/09 Loy62 In all likelihood, there is an archive or two that you know are critical for you to visit 2 stars
10/23/09 Crazy82 We need to find ways to remove c02 from the atmosphere. , 5 stars
10/22/09 Roy43 In some cases, our success at preventing fires for nearly a century has altered natural pro 5 stars
10/22/09 Arnold91 Therefore, using cache-aligned memory can reduce the number of cache updates necessary wh 3 stars
9/21/09 lopolongboards.com Even if there are less valued employees in the firm, the highly-valued ones will drive the 5 stars
9/15/09 xJNVqWokXRMFZKRA doors.txt;10;15 4 stars
9/14/09 www.apc.gov.ab.ca For the fitness that we are pursuing, every parameter within your control needs to be modul 2 stars
4/21/09 Dr.Lao Enjoyable homage to a nearly forgotten genre 4 stars
12/23/08 Popcorn muncher Great flick. Losers hated it because it went way over their heads 4 stars
9/02/08 Shaun Wallner This is the kind of movie you fall asleep too. 1 stars
7/11/07 MaDmAN Very stylized look but soooooo boring 2 stars
5/22/07 dude stunning but overall boring 2 stars
3/26/07 David Pollastrini Great fx 3 stars
3/20/07 dude ggod 4 stars
2/04/07 William Goss A gloriously glossy and supremely superficial diversion worthy of a lazy afternoon. 4 stars
7/20/06 Anthony Feor BORING 1 stars
7/05/06 drydock54321 it's different. 4 stars
4/09/06 Thomas Semesky The actors interaction with the blue screened backgrounds lack emotion 2 stars
1/29/06 the laughing man Brings us back to the 50s in imaginative ways. 5 stars
12/06/05 Sir Spam-a-lot Coulda been worse 3 stars
9/03/05 Quigley i am so sick of jude law being in every movie, especially sci-fi. skip this movie, please. 2 stars
8/15/05 cristeen69 so so ,boring over budget film 2 stars
8/12/05 Renee is Gabby I has some cool inventiveness but is let down by scripting and application 3 stars
7/26/05 Indrid Cold At some point after Jurassic Park, CGI extravaganzas became no big deal. WAL though. 4 stars
7/03/05 Ben Baxter Cheesy, without being funny. 2 stars
7/02/05 sam bonner the acting is wooden, but the adventure and effects are exciting 4 stars
6/20/05 darick Good graphics, action, average acting, irritatingly tried and tested story 3 stars
6/17/05 chris. better than i exxpected. very pretty. 4 stars
5/05/05 Kristi Achilleos Cool movie! i;ll definitely buy this on dvd! its so cool! all the scenes had smthn special! 5 stars
4/30/05 J K Rowling overrated 3 stars
4/29/05 matt 10000 pounds of dynamite are about to blow. lets take cover behind this box of dynamite 2 stars
4/12/05 Quigley great science fiction with cardboard characters and horrid screenwriting. thats all it is 4 stars
4/08/05 B Kniprath Very intesting movie. Good plot, for 1940's. 4 stars
3/31/05 keithers.. a fun ride but totally cgi gets annoying 3 stars
3/30/05 hannaho Exciting adventure from this new filmaker. 5 stars
3/22/05 HL A Fun Ride..Entertaning...Well Made Romp. 4 stars
3/07/05 Charlie Dinosaurs were lame crap, but the rest of the movie was interesting and exciting. 3 stars
3/03/05 Mider nice stuff people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung definitely unique...great actors to watch 4 stars
2/19/05 Alice Colwell not much of a story to it 3 stars
2/17/05 tatum One of the most beautiful looking films ever made 5 stars
2/08/05 Dr Hock Oh so pretty, yet oh so aweful. 1 stars
2/03/05 Barbara Long Really strange flick. Wasn't my thing. 3 stars
2/02/05 Clifford C Gardner Not great - but a nice change in style 4 stars
2/01/05 Sheila awesome effects, holds your interest 5 stars
1/31/05 Kenneth Hannan The cartoony style got old fast. 3 stars
1/30/05 Lisa Craven Hated it and couldn't watch more than 2 minutes. My kids thought it was okay. 2 stars
1/30/05 Brian The cinnematography was laid on so thick that I couldn't see or appreciate the juvenile pro 1 stars
1/29/05 bongeezer What is this? 2 stars
1/28/05 darlenecom Brings you back to long ago days when you were young and thought you could do anything. 4 stars
1/25/05 Bobby da Squid Visually incredible but ultimately nonsensical and dull 3 stars
11/10/04 angelina jolie A revolutionary film 5 stars
10/28/04 Alex different indeed 4 stars
10/27/04 Kathleen Not very entertaining but ok...."Special" effects? 3 stars
10/25/04 John intriguing concept but has NO story NO charachters, bad effects and sub standard action 1 stars
10/18/04 Misty De Meo There's no real innovation in the plot, but it didn't need it - it was just plain fun. 4 stars
10/16/04 Aaron Smith Amazing visuals, the airborne aircraft carrier scene alone is worth the price of admission! 5 stars
10/10/04 Tom vision imaginative, but Law,Paltrow not as good as Jolie 3 stars
10/10/04 Steve It was different and that's what made it a great movie. 4 stars
10/06/04 your worst goddamn nightmare pretty, entertaining, silly little adventure flick that I liked 4 stars
10/05/04 Chris A film not afraid to do something different, looks great and has an awesome imagination. 4 stars
10/04/04 Jim Looks so good you almost don't notice the script is kind of crummy. 3 stars
10/04/04 vickie pretty to look at, boring after a few minutes. Dialogue was terrible. Ugh. 2 stars
10/03/04 Margaret Picture shot in sephia except for Polly's red lipstick, slow story, ugly art deco. 2 stars
10/02/04 Zai Sorry ..I had to walk out it was so boring. My husband and I BOTH fell alseep watching it. 1 stars
9/29/04 Jimmy Wanted to love it for it's style. But after the first 30 mins the film turned to shit 2 stars
9/29/04 irene did they even read the script before signing up? 2 stars
9/29/04 Freddie Visually stimulating 5 stars
9/27/04 mkuntz A terrific entertainment: visually stunning, exciting, funny and good natured. Great! 5 stars
9/26/04 Whatevr It was cool 5 stars
9/26/04 J. Bethancourt An unpretitious, purely entertainment romp. I loved it. 5 stars
9/26/04 LB If you are a fan of pulp adventure, run right out and see this immediately. 5 stars
9/26/04 Dog Lips completely boring. lame dialog, gratuitous explosions 2 stars
9/26/04 Koitus Fantastic figher sequences, in the city. But .. exactly "who" was controlling the robots? 4 stars
9/25/04 Heather This is the director's FIRST movie, WTF??!! 5 stars
9/23/04 Al Guy Robots- Great! Effects - Good! Characters - eehhh. 4 stars
9/23/04 Marcia Lartz Slow start, more compelling resolution. Gwyneth's poutiness grows a little taxing. 4 stars
9/23/04 Clock It's aight 3 stars
9/22/04 el burro Completely retarded beginning to end. 1 stars
9/21/04 KingNeutron Unique look, but I hope they do better with the plot +char. interaction next time. 4 stars
9/21/04 drfardook Average acting but its a visually stunning film. Its a fantastic pulp film. 4 stars
9/21/04 chimpy121 Extremely fun with great eye-candy. 5 stars
9/21/04 nick2k i liked it alot...nice retroesque adventure movie. been awhile... 4 stars
9/19/04 Eric Herman Utter nonsense. Never has there been a film more damaging to the 'steampunk' genre. 1 stars
9/19/04 T.J. Wood Clever vintage comic book adventure -- but the use of the image of Olivier was jarring. 4 stars
9/19/04 YSBEE See You in Last Era! 5 stars
9/19/04 BrianWilly Beautiful and witty as hell 5 stars
9/19/04 Naka Glorious, visually brilliant fun. 5 stars
9/19/04 dredphul all sfx, bad acting, no plot 1 stars
9/19/04 Kris no. Gwyneth, eat something. PLEASE. 1 stars
9/18/04 Jiz Cheesy, weird, but entertaining overall. 4 stars
9/18/04 Vicious Lovely visuals with a cool adventure story. 5 stars
9/18/04 Rooktoven Great eye candy and humor, dialogue a bit stiff 4 stars
9/18/04 CharWar I loved it! Can't wait to see it again. So different and fun! 5 stars
9/18/04 Heidi Shanklin The renderings are stunningly beautiful. A wonderful little movie 5 stars
9/18/04 Bill Very beautiful to look at, but superficial and predictable. Paltrow was very irritating. 2 stars
9/18/04 Titus So much fun! 5 stars
9/18/04 asdf Fun movie. I liked the Classic Pulp style. 4 stars
9/17/04 Kris The whole time, I was thinking "Blue screen, greeen screen, we all scream for ice cream" 1 stars
9/17/04 Naka FANTASTIC! Wonderfully original and brilliant all around. 5 stars
9/17/04 Sarcastro Derivative and hokey. Feels like something the Japanese would make. Actors wooden as well. 2 stars
9/16/04 Matt Seaver Amazing. A treat for the eyes. Early screenings make me happy! 5 stars
9/15/04 Jeff Incredible retro sci-fi flick. Something different. See it! 5 stars
9/10/04 Ray Good 4 stars
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  17-Sep-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2005



Directed by
  Kerry Conran

Written by
  Kerry Conran

  Jude Law
  Gwyneth Paltrow
  Angelina Jolie
  Giovanni Ribisi
  Michael Gambon

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