SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
*1/2 (out of 5)
September 17, 2004
Jude Law as JOE “SKY CAPTAIN” SULLIVAN
Gwyneth Paltrow as POLLY PERKINS
Angelina Jolie as CAPT. FRANCESCA “FRANKY” COOK
Giovannit Ribisi as DEX DEARBORN
Michael Gambon as EDITOR MORRIS PALEY
Bai Ling as MYSTERYIOUS WOMAN
Directed by: Kerry Conran
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is being touted as a revolutionary film because the actors were all shot against blue screens, with all the sets, action and other elements added by a computer later. I don’t see the big deal, considering George Lucas has already been doing this with the “Star Wars” prequels. Still, for techno-geeks and hack indie filmmakers who think their After Effects plug-ins are going to allow them to make the latest sci-fi movie at their home PC, this is going to be a great film. But if you are like most of the movie-going populace, you’re not going to care about the technology. You just want a good movie.
Too bad for you. I remember listening to Robert Rodreguiz’s commentary on “Spy Kids 3-D,” and he gushed about how wonderful it was to shoot the actors separately as different elements and later composite them together in the computer. I’m sure it’s a great tool for filmmakers, and it does make a director’s job easier when he gets rid of all those pesky actors.
But there’s no soul in a film like this. Sure, “Spy Kids 3-D” was just a junk food movie, so acting and characters weren’t terribly important. (After all, when the biggest acting claim to fame in a film is to have Sylvester Stallone play five roles, who can take you seriously?) But for a big-budget blockbuster like “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow,” it makes the film empty. No amount of great acting can replace the magic when actors actually have a chance to work with each other and react to their surroundings.
Unfortunately, “Sky Captain” ends up collapsing under its own weight. The script is so huge and concepts so wild that nothing works right. As a writer and fledgling filmmaker, I often have people telling me about their own scripts. It’s not uncommon to find the would-be screenwriter who pitches their latest work like this: “It’s a huge movie! A masterpiece! The concepts are so enormous that it encompasses all of time and all of space. Sure, it’d take a budget of $100 million to shoot, but it’s all necessary. It is the ultimate script that would be so expensive, it just has to sell!”
This is exactly what “Sky Captain” feels like. There seems to be three or four movies swimming in the murky depths of what is passing for a story. Sure, “Sky Captain” does a fair job as an homage to the old 1940s newsreels, cartoons and serials. But it was just so busy trying to be an homage that it didn’t bother to spend any time on characters and good story.
I’d love to summarize the plot, but it’s such an aimless mess that it’s hard to explain. (sigh) I’ll give it a try. A fleet of giant robots attacks New York City. Of course the only one that can save them is Sky Captain (Jude Law). That’s right. One of the biggest cities in America has a single fighter pilot to help them out. Spunky reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), who happens to be an old flame of Sky Captain, wants an exclusive on these giant robots so she tags along with him for his mission.
“Sky Captain” is nothing but a huge special effect from start to finish. Sure, it looks slick as snot, but after you get past the first ten or fifteen minutes, you become numb to the whole process. And with cardboard characters and wildly ridiculous plot devices, you’re left with a big stinker of a film. Writer/director Kerry Conran shows us unequivocally that his forte is special effects and not script – or even the ability to pull a great performance from the actors, for that matter.
One of the scientist characters in the film is an expert in chemistry. Too bad he didn’t impart any of his wisdom to his co-stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law. There is no chemistry between them, and Paltrow alone gives an awful performance to match her counterparts in the old 1940s serials. Maybe that’s because all of their scenes were shot against a blue screen. I doubt the two were even on set together for half of their scenes.
There are utterly silly leaps of logic throughout the film, For example, Sky Captain and Polly fly his fighter plane from New York to Napal without refueling, but somehow on the way back, they’re gonna run out of fuel in the middle of the ocean. Or in another scene, Polly learns the background and history behind the mystery of these robots by rifling through an attaché case and looking at a few photos. Who wrote this garbage?
Taken without the benefit of special effects, the script is so convoluted and unbelievable that it makes the corny Saturday matinee serials upon which it is based seem like Shakespeare in comparison. There are lines reminiscent of the brain-dead writing of “Batman and Robin” and blatant exposition with no reason that reaches the level of Roger Corman’s worst films.
This movie is like Las Vegas in the morning (or, as a friend of mine says, like a hooker without her make-up). Oh, it looked great at night, but when the sun comes up, you see it for what it really is – in all its depressing, worn-out glory.