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Sky Captain and the World of Tommorrow

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tommorrow

Starring: Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law
Director: Kerry Conran
Rated: PG
RunTime: 106 Minutes
Release Date: September 2004
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Action

*Also starring: Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Ling Bai, Omid Djalili, Laurence Olivier

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

"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 latter sections.

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

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