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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 17, 2023


Starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, Bai Ling, Omid Djalili, Trevor Baxter, Julian Curry, Peter Law, Jon Rumney, Khan Bonfils, Samta Gyatso, Louis Hilyer, Mark Wells, James Cash and Sir Laurence Olivier.

Screenplay by Kerry Conran.

Directed by Kerry Conran.

Distributed by Paramount Pictures. 107 minutes. Rated PG.

If the look of a film were enough, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow would be a classic. As it is, it is a very good film that is lots of fun until it kind of runs out of steam just shortly before it runs out of film. However, the stunning, haunting visual effects raise the movie at least a peg or two. This truly is a film that has to be seen to be believed.

The story is really a secondary pleasure. It is cute, wonderfully retro, and more than a bit corny. Sky Captain looks and feels like it was filmed about the time that Winston Churchill was chomping on his stogie and FDR was saying you have nothing to fear except fear itself. Oh, yeah, that and giant robots.

These giant robots are suddenly attacking New York and other cities all over the world. In the meantime, some of the world's most brilliant scientists are disappearing. The story is being investigated by Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), a femme fatale journalist with flowing Veronica Lake hair and gams that won't quit.

When the giant robots attack, the authorities call for Sky Captain (Jude Law), the local hero. Sky Captain fights evil in a plane that can apparently fly all over the world on one tank of gas (okay, it runs out once, but only to fuel a plot point.) He is helped out by Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), a comic book addict and brilliant inventor and Frankie (Angelina Jolie in a glorified cameo), an eye-patched and tough captain of a flying airfield.

The bad guy is Totenkoff, an evil scientist bent on destroying the world. Interestingly, the character is performed by archival footage of legendary actor Sir Laurence Olivier, who died in 1989.

This New York is a slightly fictionalized version of the WWII-era city. Beyond the obvious lack in history of giant robots, other quirky little touches like a zeppelin called the Hindenburg III wink at the audience that this is a strange alternate universe.

The art direction is stunning in recreating the look and feel of 1940s movies, to the point that it is almost fetishistic. The movie is full of muted colors and grays making it feel black and white even though it is in color. Occasional swashes of color, like the red of Polly's lipstick and the green of a forest are all the more shocking because of this effect.

The heroes are square and valiant, the heroines are plucky and gorgeous, the bad guys are mysterious and one-dimensional.

Towards the end though, this wonderful sense of nostalgia feeds into a climax where the good guys show up in the evildoers' remote island lair and single-handedly take on the hordes of enemies to undo the threat and save the world. After the freshness of the film previously, (and yes, a film that is lovingly retro can still be fresh), it's sort of sad that the movie falls into this old, hackneyed storyline. The whole evil lair thing has been done to death over the years in the likes of Raiders of the Lost Ark, all of the James Bond films, and even the Austin Powers movies. If you want anyone to take your movie seriously, you just don't even in the slightest way echo Austin Powers.

Still, despite the formulaic end, there is enough that is original and visually arresting to make Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow well worth the trip. (9/04)

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2004 All rights reserved. Posted: September 17, 2004.


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