A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

October 26, 2010

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

The closing credits of yesterday’s movie, which depicted the continuing adventures of Steamboy, reminded me very much in mood and feel of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. I’ve loved this movie since before I even saw it. I remember reading articles in Entertainment Weekly about how writer/director Kerry Conran started the project as a demo reel produced entirely on his home computer using publicly available computer design software. How his visuals captured the imagination of Hollywood producers and actors and how it made its way to the big screen. I love the idea of big adventure films made on an independent film budget. It gives me hope that some really wonderful and experimental movies that are nonetheless epic in scope could see the light of day.

This film itself, however, is not revolutionary. It is a loving homage to every cheesy thirties serial adventure and pulp science fiction magazine cover ever. The film geek in me was squeeling in joy almost through the entire movie. The iconic pointing fingers and flying robots attacking the city of New York come directly from the classic Max Fleischer Superman cartoons. The ray gun that Joe’s plucky gadget-friendly sidekick Dex toys with has a decidedly Flash Gordon feel to it. Every one of the robotic minions that plague Sky Captain look as though they come right off the front of Amazing Stories. Sky Captain himself reminds me of nothing so much as the brave scientist/adventurer Commando Cody.

Sky Captain is an elite English pilot who is sort of Batman but with a WWII P-40 instead of a Batplane. He has gadgets a plenty for his plane provided by gearhead and comic book fan Dex. When giant robots threaten New York City in 1939 the call for help immediately goes out to Sky Captain – the only man who can possibly save us! Accompanied by the hard-nosed Polly Perkins, a tenacious reporter who will not let go once she senses that there’s a story to be had, Joe must unravel the mystery of seven missing German scientists and attacks from giant robots that have happened all over the globe.

This movie is pure 1930s pulp fiction from beginning to end. It has exciting globe trotting (they follow the radio signals that drive the robots to Nepal.) It has fantastic technology (submersible planes and flying aircraft carriers (SHIELD anyone?) It has a brash hero in a leather jacket and a strong willed dame who trades quips with him throughout the entire adventure. The “other woman” is a completely badass female Nick Fury named Frankie who not only has an entire squadron of submersible planes at her command but has a jet pack. Played by Angelina Jolie no less. Dinosaurs! Robots! Tesla coils! And an ending that smacks of Moonraker.

There are very few actors here, and all of the extras were shot alone on green screen sets. Virtually nothing you see on the screen actually existed (with a couple exceptions.) It is entirely a digital creation, which works just fine for the film this wants to be. I must say that I was particularly impressed by Gwyneth Paltrow’s ability to act surrounded by nothing. She takes a whole lot of very corny dialog and manages to bring it to life somehow. Mostly just with a little smirk. Jude Law is fun as the eponymous Sky Captain; rakishly handsome and slightly misogynistic in a sort of 1930s way. And of course Angelina Jolie makes a fantastic Nick Fury – I would recommend her for the role if it weren’t already so well filled.

I loved every minute of this movie. It’s a fun romp and deliberately anachronistic. Funny that so much modern computer technology should be used to re-create such an ancient feel. In a strange coincidence I see that the trivia for this movie lists four other mostly-digital films done on green-screen stages in the same way. This, Sin City, Casshern, and Immortal. Wouldn’t you know that we own them all? I love our movie collection.

October 26, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , ,

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