Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

January 6, 2014
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By all accounts Sky Captain should be just another CGI adventure film woven together with cliche's. Instead Sky Captain soars above it's contemporaries on the wings of innovative art direction and attention to detail.

In pursuit of a pillaging robot army and their programmer, the heroes tour the world to find clues that will lead them to their ultimate objective; nothing less than rescuing their friend and saving the world. The heroes fly from a 1930's film noir New York to a Siberian mining facility as frigid and futuristic as Hoth. After a brief stop in Shangri-La, a mountain vacation spot to rival Rivendel, they land in a cross between Skull Island and Jurassic Park. The film climaxes in a bad guy hideout to shame even James Bond, complete with both rocket ship and countdown sequence.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow acquires these details from the scrapyard of space odysseys, and refurbishes them with the care of a nostalgic, but visionary science fiction enthusiast. In this world, World War I spitfires defend cities against robot invasions, and every animal on earth is led two by two onto a rocket ship. No one has ever witnessed anything quite like this before.

To provide depth to the CGI, the director painstakingly engraves his film with details specific to his era. As an homage to the films of the nineteen thirties, the director pretends his own film hails from that era. The film includes trinkets and hints to movies from the nineteen thirties, and details movies in the nineteen thirties would have included. Both the Titanic and the Venture make a cameo appearance. The characters read newspapers displaying the silhouette of Godzilla, and rendezvous in theaters showing the Wizard of Oz. In a miracle of modern technology, Laurence Olivier even plays the villain, posthumously.

Unfortunately Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow suffers from severe under budgeting. The CGI delivers an avant-garde cartoon, but a cartoon none the less. The characters boast quaint personalities all around, and even genuine charisma between Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law, but only the female lead displays any roundness of character. The film, for better or for worse, avoids the dark moral ambiguity filmmakers usually use to entertain the more mature viewers. However, Hollywood can use a straightforward hero every once in a while, and it has sure has been a while.

In the past twenty years, a new type of film has emerged. Hollywood has edited their scripts into smooth polished skeletons. They have whittled their characters into cliche'd points as sharp as incisors. The hollow skull of a theme wobbles on top. Almost always the mind of the movie will be hardwired to self discovery, moral ambiguity, crass comedy, or tolerance. Then the director simply computer generates everything else.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is product of its time, one of the many films hurled upon us in the avalanche of CGI adventure films in the last decade. However unlike Transformers or GI Joe or Star Trek or Man of Steel, Sky Captain soars into new waters (literally, he has a plane that transforms into a submarine), and pulls off a creative and original film. No one in the audience had seen anything quite like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.





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