Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow


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Rating: PG

Jude Law as Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan
Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins
Angelina Jolie as Capt. Francesca ‘Franky’ Cook
Giovanni Ribisi as Dex Dearborn
Michael Gambon as Editor Morris Paley
Bai Ling as Mysterious Woman
Omid Djalili as Kaji
Trevor Baxter as Dr. Walter Jennings
Khan Bonfils as Creepy
Julian Curry as Dr. Jorge Vargas
Laurence Olivier as Dr. Totenkopf
Mark Wells as Technician

Special Features:
Commentary by producer Jon Avent

Commentary by filmmaker Kerry Conran and the VFX crew

“Brave New World” featurette

“The Art of the World of Tomorrow” featurette

The original 6-minute short

Deleted Scenes, a Gag Reel

Other Info:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French Language
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 106 Minutes

In the 1930’s, the world is full of amazing technology and retro-designs unlike anything ever seen before. Amid this world lives intrepid reporter Polly Perkins. When she doggedly investigates the murders of several prominent scientists, she discovers that they are all linked back to a mysterious evil genius, Dr. Totenkopf. All of the scientists held information that could jeopardize Totenkopf’s diabolical plan, so they were eliminated. Now Polly holds the key to the plan as well.

When Dr. Totenkopf sends an army of giant robots to attack cities and steal power generators, they call on the one man that they can rely on to save the day – Sky Captain. In his modified spitfire airplane, he foils the robot’s mission and rescues Polly, his old flame. Despite bad feelings towards each other thanks to a bad breakup, the two must team up in order to foil Dr. Totenkopf. Thus begins a quest across the globe to find Dr. Totenkopf’s secret lair and stop him before it’s too late.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is rated PG for sequences of stylized sci-fi violence and brief mild language.

The Movie:
Getting to the point, I loved the movie. The film had action, adventure, romance, comedy, cool special effects, a unique look, and a classic serial feel like Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, and others. It had everything I enjoy in a movie and it was right up my alley. If you liked The Rocketeer, Iron Giant, or “Star Wars,” you’ll like “Sky Captain”.

Initially going into this film, I had several worries. The first was that it would be all effects and no story. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case at all. The story takes a little while to develop, but once you figure out the rules of this new universe and get into it, it ends up being a fun adventure. The characters in the movie are also well written. They have some great dialogue and the romance / bickering between Polly and Joe (Sky Captain) is reminiscent of that between Charlie and Rose in “The African Queen” or Han and Leia in “The Empire Strikes Back”. The chemistry between Jude Law and Gwenyth Paltrow takes a little while to develop, but when it works it works well.

Jude Law was a great choice for the role of Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan. Not only does he have the rugged good looks, but he plays the action with total seriousness. There’s no campiness in his performance or winks at the audience. His reactions to the robots or monsters or planes help keep you grounded in that universe and pulled out of reality. He also plays well off of Gwenyth Paltrow as Polly Perkins. Her stubbornness and willingness to do anything to get a story (ala Lois Lane) makes her both appealing and annoying. You root for her to get the story, but at the same time you have to laugh along with Joe at the lengths she’s willing to go to in order to get the scoop. Paltrow and Law also weave a rich backstory for their character’s romance through comments here and there about their past. It helps make their relationship more interesting. A running gag about Polly Perkins and her camera is also one of the highlights of the film.

The supporting characters are also great. Dex, played by Giovanni Ribisi, is kind of like Q from the Bond movies with a little Jimmy Olsen mixed in. He shows off all sorts of cool gadgets in the film including an impressive metal melting ray gun. It doesn’t get more retro than that. Bai Ling as The Mysterious Woman is this film’s Darth Maul. She looks cool and does amazing stunts, but she’s barely in the film and has almost no lines. Meanwhile Angelina Jolie is a female version of Nick Fury as Captain Franky Cook. Despite getting top billing in this film, she’s barely in it. But she leaves quite an impression with what little time she has.

My other big worry with Sky Captain was that I wouldn’t like the retro look of the film. All of the shots are a bit fuzzy and sepia toned. It seemed OK in small doses, but I was worried that it would be a bit much to take for 2 hours. In the end, I think the fuzzy look added to the serial feel of the movie and it also helped make the effects look less fake. The sepia tone also helped cover up the blue haze that you often get in a blue screen movie. And while nothing groundbreaking was done with the effects, the unique imagery makes it impressive. The robots, vehicles, and cool environments are all fantastic. After a while you get so wrapped up in this world that you forget that almost everything in the movie is computer generated. The sound effects also really helped the visual effects. Every time a robot would stomp, my seat would rattle and I could feel it in my stomach.

Look for some amusing Easter Eggs all through the film. It took seeing the movie twice for me to catch a number of them. You’ll spot the silhouette of Godzilla in one picture. Look for the Venture, the ship from King Kong, sunken in the ocean in another scene. There’s also a Star Wars reference (remember 327?) as Sky Captain prepares for a landing. Then there’s a more obvious reference on a mad scientist’s door – the number 1138. But there’s other eye candy as well. In a giant spider’s web, you’ll see a man wrapped up in webbing in the background. In an underwater battle you’ll notice Atlantean architecture quietly sitting behind the action. It’s little touches like this that make it so much fun to see. The music by Ed Shearmur was also impressive and it helped add to the serial feel of the film.

This movie was a pleasant surprise and a lot of fun to watch. I’m also glad to say that the trailers only show the first 1/3 of the film. There are a lot more surprises in store for you. I also walked out wanting to see a sequel.

Considering that “Sky Captain” is Kerry Conran’s first movie, the film is quite an achievement. I have to say that I think Conran has out-Lucased George Lucas. He did an all blue screen film using a smaller budget and smaller sets than Lucas. He had a better script than the “Star Wars” prequels. The actors also came across better than they did in the “Star Wars” prequels. And finally, the film has successfully captured the feel of the old serial films, something Lucas hasn’t done since the “Indiana Jones” movies. All in all, I can’t wait to see what Conran comes up with in his next film, “A Princess of Mars”.

To be quite honest, there’s nothing that I really didn’t like in the movie. Anything I would point out would be nitpicking. If I had to say anything, it would be that Sky Captain occasionally went a little TOO retro here and there. For example, early in the film when the city calls Sky Captain for help, you see a giant radio antenna over a cartoon map. That drew snickers from a couple of the non-believers in the audience behind me. And throughout the movie, Sky Captain says, “Good boy, Dex!” It starts coming across as a little cheesy towards the end. I think this film really requires audiences to go in with an open mind and an appetite for retro / serial style filmmaking, otherwise they’ll laugh at it.

The only other thing I’d mention is that I wish they had dropped a couple of the mild profanities and sexual innuendo. If they had done that, Sky Captain would have been a movie I’d be 100% comfortable showing to young children. As it is, I’m just going to have to make sure they don’t repeat a couple of the lines.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow may be the first installment of a fun new franchise or at the very least a cult classic. With action, adventure, amazing effects, humor, and romance, it’s a movie that everyone can enjoy.

The Extras:
Here are the highlights of the bonus features from this DVD:

Commentary by producer Jon Avent – Avnet provides an interesting commentary, but it is weighted more towards the production details of the movie rather than the artistic details. He provides a first hand look at how the film was made, but the most interesting parts are also mentioned in the “making of” documentary.

Commentary by filmmaker Kerry Conran and the VFX crew – This is the more interesting of the two commentaries. Conran, his brother, and two effects supervisors provide the discussion. They talk about the stylistic choices made, the little things hidden in the picture, who did what effects, and more.

“Brave New World” featurette – This is your standard “making of” documentary, but what sets it apart is the extraordinary story behind how the film was made. Kerry Conran went from being a guy creating a movie on his home computer to directing a major motion picture with big name stars. It’s quite a journey and this details it all. There’s raw blue screen footage, bloopers, behind the scenes footage, and other goodies here. This 50 minute (or so) documentary is broken up into two parts – one focusing on the production and the live action footage and the other on the effects house specially made for Sky Captain. This is one of the better “making of” featurettes I’ve seen in a while.

“The Art of the World of Tomorrow” featurette – Rather than having a simple boring gallery of artwork, Kevin Conran actually walks you through the designs of the robots and characters from the film. It’s some really cool stuff and well worth checking out.

The original 6-minute short – The original short film that sold everyone on making this movie is included here. It’s less polished than the final film, but it’s almost identical to the earliest parts of the movie in every way. It’s no wonder people decided to make Sky Captain based on this.

Deleted Scenes – There are only two deleted scenes included here. One shows Polly and Joe discovering the evil Doctor’s old torture chamber. It’s a bit grotesque and it doesn’t reveal much more than what is in other scenes of the film. A second deleted scene is an alternate version of Dex, Polly, and Joe meeting back up. Dex uses a large robot to free our heroes from a cage, then they race to confront Dr. Totenkopf. It’s really just an alternate way of providing exposition.

Gag Reel – This is your standard gag reel with flubbed lines, funny faces, and silly special effects shots. It is a lot of fun, of course.

The Bottom Line:
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is a fun movie for both kids and adults. With impressive effects, humor, romance, and lots of action, it has something for everyone. Kerry Conran makes an impressive cinematic debut directing Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Giovanni Ribisi.