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.”