Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow review by The Grim Ringler

The hell of it is with this film is that I dont know that many people will get it. Not the plot or subtext but the film itself. Sadly, the American film audience as let itself become accustomed to quick cuts, big explosions, and plots hashed together from a team of people who seem to know more about marketing than they do filmmaking and story telling. Unfortunately for this film, that isnt what filmgoers are going to get here. What they get is a very sly, very well done homage to the old Hollywood science fiction serials of the thirties that influenced so many filmmakers of today. And it isnt that todays audiences arent savvy or smart enough to get the movie but that I just dont know that they will get this movie and will just find it silly and hokey. Which would be a shame since this is a completely heartfelt love letter to a style of entertainment that really is about as dead as you can get.

Sky Captain begins with the disappearance of several scientists known to have worked together on a secret project during the First World War. The last remaining scientist enlists the help of nosey newsy Polly Perkins, who uncovers more than shed bargained for when a fleet of robots fly into New York and begin stealing the citys underground power generators. Caught in the midst of these mechanical monsters, Pollys number looks to be punched when out of the sky comes Sky Captain, a for hire hero who has been called in to save the day. Unable to put much of a dent in the marauding army Sky Captain decides to slow them down by taking out one of the robots and in so doing, creates enough havoc amongst them for the rest of the behemoths and they leave. But the damage has been done. Polly and Sky Captain, having a past romantic entanglement, begrudgingly decide to share their information and join forces in the hopes of getting to the bottom of what is happening. No sooner do they agree to work together though than Sky Captains home base is beset by a fleet of fighters who wipe out the entire base and make off with Caps best mechanic Dex. Angered at his friend being kidnapped and wanting to get to the bottom of who is behind the destruction that is being perpetrated around the world Cap and Polly head out to Nepal, the source of the transmissions that controlled the robots and fighters, for some answers. What Polly and Cap find is that a scientist by the name of Totenkapf who had lead the missing scientists in their experimentation and who now seems to be set on finishing his doomsday weapon he had begun building so long ago. Can Polly and Cap find Toenkapf in time to stop his nefarious plan or is the world indeed doomed?

First off, if you cant get behind the fact that this is homage to a lost filmic art form then dont bother going to see it. Honestly. I adored this movie but then I get where director Kerry Conran is coming from and love it. No, this is not something new as far as story and the acting wont win any awards but what the cast and filmmakers have created is something startling nonetheless. Director Conran has created the kind of virtual world that could only be dreamt of before this film. Created entirely with CGI effects, the film has a surreal, nostalgic feel that captures the source inspiration wonderfully. The buildings that populate New York are enormous monoliths filled out with classical statuary. The sky is a world of blimps and dirigibles. And the world of Sky Captain is a world of old fashioned heroism and cutting edge weaponry. The idea behind Totenkapfs desire to create his doomsday machine is actually a very interesting one and works to create not a bland villain out for revenge or glory but one so maddened by the way the world is turning that his aspirations for utopia border on madness.

First, for a change, Ill give you the problems. The worst thing I can think to say about this movie is that it takes away some of the magic that was the world of the serialized film story and the radio play. By creating this world of robots, lasers, madmen, and doomsday plots some of the imagination is taken away. The brilliance of those old fashioned stories was that a lot of it was to be provided by the audience. You had no choice! And while I love the effects of Sky Captain, I do mourn the days when imagination was used to create these worlds. Another big hit the film will take is that the acting is bad. No, it isnt. There are too many good actors here to believe that they are all bad. Rather, what the actors are doing is capturing the era this film is set in, as well as the notion of acting used in serials. The actors in those old time serials were, many times, very blas and nonchalant, and to be honest, very monotone. I wish, as a friend said today after seeing the film, that there was more emotional depth to the characters but to be honest, that wasnt the thrust of the movie. I read in a message board that the visuals and art design were stolen from anime. Uh, no. if anything, the art evokes ideas of Gotham City and the city of Batman, but then, there are a LOT of nods to other films (I spotted Godzillas shadow and a room numbered 1138 and I wasnt looking) so this might be but another. And frankly, the visuals work. Lastly, a lot of people will be angered that this is a CGI film. Suck it up. The use of CGI in this film is an artistic choice as much as a practical one. There really isnt a way to make a movie this big and with this many effects shots without having an enormous budget. But Conran (a local boy from where I live, whoot!) also wanted to make a movie that was utterly and completely a world unlike what we are used to seeing. These are not sets - this is a world. Yes, you can tell that some of the things happening are effects, but I never really lost the connection to the film.

What did I like? I love the world the filmmakers have created. I love the depth you see and the dreamy quality the film has. I like that this is meant to be and becomes a classic serial. I loved that while watching this film all I could think was god, this is so much like Indiana Jones. I loved the way the film ramped up to a wonderful ending. I love that this is a fun movie, and that it doesnt mind that fact. Not everything has to save the world and not every movie has to make you re-think your standing in the world. Some movies are meant to be fun. This is one of those.

There are problems there are plot and logic holes but I got past them. And I will admit that this was a movie I was far from excited to see. I hoped it would be good but had no expectations. And I left the theater as happy as a bee. A lot of people wont buy into this world and a lot of people will hate it out of hand because of what it represents another nail in the coffin of traditional cinema and moviemaking. But thats an idea that, while fearful, is not an argument meant for this film. If you want to aim your guns at someone, aim them at someone like Lucas, not someone like Conran, who made a film not about money but about the love of other films and for a simpler time when a guy in a plane could shoot down giant killer robots dammit. Me, I had a blast, and I hope you do as well.


8 out of 10 Jackasses
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