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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow DVD Review

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Completely under appreciated, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” generated some buzz over the unique effects style and then seemingly disappeared. It’s one of those movies the critics and audiences alike just didn’t seem to “get.” That’s a real shame. It still has some hope that people will discover on DVD and it’s not a bad way to do it.

Giant robots have begun dropping down in a futuristic 1930’s New York. Reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) takes on the story. In order to get everything she needs to dig deep into where these metal monstrosities have come from, she needs help from the Sky Captain (Jude Law). Putting their past behind them, the mystery slowly unravels as their adventure takes them across the world.

To call “Sky Captain” shallow or without substance is missing the point entirely. It’s a direct spin-off of the serials of old, none of which were entirely deep or involving. They existed solely to enthrall their audiences with crazy scenarios, especially those of a sci-fi nature. That’s the reasoning behind the existence of this film, something audiences obviously failed to grasp.

The unique look must have kept people away too. It didn’t even make enough to cover the budget costs. Again, the public missed the point. It’s not supposed to look real, but fantastic. Needless to say, you have never seen anything like “Sky Captain.” The style is a perfect throwback with paper montages (look for Godzilla) and that “foggy” look.

There’s obviously a deep passion for the inspiration here. Countless times the filmmakers tip their hats to those films, icons, and comics that came before it. It’s a movie that needs to be watched numerous times to catch it all. It’s not just seen in little snippets either. Guns, planes, rocket ships, sound effects, dialogue, credit sequences, almost all of it comes from either serials or films. It’s not fair to call it unoriginal. It’s more of a re-imagining and a tribute.

The actors do fine, even if they take an obvious back seat to the visual aura the film provides. Jude Law is a good choice for the lead, while Gwyneth Paltrow’s character just sort of exists to provide some brief moments of comedy (including a running joke about the film in her camera). Giovanni Ribisi plays the second string hero, giving the heroes what they need to make it to their final destination before popping in again to save the day during the closing moments.

In the end, it’s just too amazing to look at. You cannot deny that the visuals make this movie, and in this case, that’s ok. If all of those serials had the technology available, this is exactly what they would have looked like. For some, it will be a nostalgic trip. For others, it will be an all-new experience. Either way, it’s great stuff. (**** out of *****)

It’s sort of hard to complain about “Sky Captain” on DVD. You really can’t see any flaws due to the fogging, and even then any grain could very well be intentional. You really have to look elsewhere for flaws, like in the black levels, but there’s nothing there to complain about either. Compression is not an issue (or at least not one that can be seen). It’s all, well, sort of perfect. (*****)

Same thing goes for the audio, a standard 5.1 mix that really couldn’t get any better. Each time one of those giant robots takes a step, you’ll feel it just like the characters would have (that’s of course assuming they were real). Dogfights are brought to life via outstanding sound, the movement captured perfectly in all available channels. It’s a track that makes the entire movie better. (*****)

The overall features are pretty solid, starting off with a solo commentary by Jon Aynet, the producer. The first-time director Kerry Conran gets to speak on the second along with some of the very tired visual effects team. “Art of World of Tomorrow” is an 8-minute look at the designs of just about everything featured in the film. Kevin Conran (Kerry’s brother) takes this one over.

“Brave New World” is the meat of the extras menu, split into two parts and totaling about an hour. It starts off detailing the very impressive 6-minute short Kerry put together ((which he spent over two years doing) in his apartment and moves on to how they got the green light to do the feature-length version. There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes footage, though it does get kind of boring seeing a few actors in front a blue screen after a while.

Next is that actual short in its entirety. Many of the shots here are used in the final film, just touched up and in color. That’s how great this short really is. Two deleted (and finished) scenes are included, both smart cuts. One would simply use the same rough dialogue in a different scene. The final extra is a short gag reel (about two and a half minutes) that not only features the cast screwing up, but some of the digital creations too. (***)

It’s unlikely we’ll ever see another entry into what could have become a franchise. This is a film that will develop a very strong cult following, and it has plenty of reason to do so. Conran’s next film looks to be just as interesting, the announced “John Carter of Mars.”

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.
  • I finally got to see this tonight. I had really wanted to when it came out in theaters but couldn’t.

    I knew the film would be beautiful having seen a lot of clips, but I figured they would totally blow the whole genre.

    I couldn’t have been more wrong.

    This is the best modern-day pulp inspired movie made since Raiders of the Lost Ark… and really IMHO is better, even, than Raiders.

    I seriously hope this gets some attention on DVD and gets a sequel and some merchandising outlets. I’m really surprised that there isn’t already a huge fan following.

  • This movie was definitely overlooked. I was interested in seeing it when it was out in theaters, but I never got around to it. So I checked it out a few days ago on DVD and I must say that it was awesome.

    I wrote up a quick review of my own on my blog. Basically, I thought the visuals were stunning and the story was really fun. The writing could have been stronger, as far as I’m concerned, but it still was a great movie. I just wish the characters had been fleshed out better.

    Jude Law, though, did a fantastic job. I thought he played the main character perfectly, injecting a lot of fun and sense of adventurism into him. It’s certainly the visuals, though, that really steal the movie. They are absolutely incredible and I think it speaks volumes of the type of creativity we’ll be seeing in films in the future.

    Sky Captain definitely is one of those overlooked films that I hope finds a second life on DVD.

  • Nutty

    Comic books serve as an inspiration too; Eisner’s ‘The Spirit’, and Talbot’s ‘Luther Awkright’. And also the Doc. Savage pulp novels and comics. A pity about the “Lost World/King Kong’s jungle bit”. That was superflous as an action scene, and a quiet/spooky version of a trip through the jungle could have been an opportunity to engage the audience with the characters more.