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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (Frank's Take)

02/11/2004. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in the USA - or Buy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow in the UK

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In the stylistically ambitious sci-fi fantasy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Conran concocts a colorful creation dripping with cheerful arty set designs armed with a refreshing old-fashion storytelling sentiment that drives this opulent noir to its creative core.

Writer-director Kerry Conran doesn’t mind mixing the imaginative with the whimsy in his eye-popping nostalgic narrative ode to the escapist wartime serials of the 30s and 40s.

In the stylistically ambitious sci-fi fantasy Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Conran concocts a colorful creation dripping with cheerful arty set designs armed with a refreshing old-fashion storytelling sentiment that drives this opulent noir to its creative core.

As a dashing and daring presentation that’s visually rich in its presentation, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow cleverly combines the elements of surrealistic cinema that pads the excitement of this polished fanboy flick far beyond its expectations. Conran takes a big gamble here because his digitally enhanced dynamo is an elaborate 107-minute dream sequence thanks to the spiffy CGI-inspired makeup of this slick produced project.

With the exception of the human factor on screen, Sky Captain is all imaginary technological imagery set against a resourceful blue screen. This flowing film could have backfired as an overdone glorious gimmick. Instead, it ultimately results in being considered one of the most eagerly intriguing and resonating films of the vanishing summer of 2004. Well-acted and easily perceived as a robust celluloid comic book come to life, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow radiates with silky charm.

As dazzling and meditative as Sky Captain is in its delivery, the film has its notable flaws to consider. Conran serves up a sensational story that’s saddled in its frivolous flair but occasionally the movie stumbles with patches of dull lapses here and there. Plus, contemporary movie buffs may grow tired of Conran’s yesteryear salute to the golden age of glossy B-movie Hollywood where the copied prototypes of Sky Captain’s blueprint was a dime a dozen. And some may argue that the crafty special effects outweigh the depth of the capable performances. Still, there’s no denying the celebrated impact of Conran’s animated spectacle because it does its job effectively—to whisk the moviegoer to a certain time and place that is nostalgically engaging.

Conran is very skilled at establishing a generous portion of paranoia in this grand excursion. Interestingly, his impressive modern-day super-imposed computer-generated flourishes are a stark contrast to the quaint era some 60-plus years ago where Buck Rogers/Flash Gordon serials were cheesy yet captivating nevertheless.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is an extended period piece that boasts a top notch cast of who’s who—charismatic Oscar nominee Jude Law, Academy Award-winning cutie pies Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, reliable character actors Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, etc. Hence, the stimulating execution of Sky Captain is extravagant and designed to invoke an appreciation for booming blockbusters that indulge the adventurous minds of giddy filmgoers out for a big screen thrill.

We are caught up in the sinister times that was hectic 1939 New York some six-plus decades ago. The topsy-turvy world is turned upside down in a panic and nobody is able to make sense of the lingering turmoil that persists regarding the city being hounded by pesky high-flying metal monsters.

These creaky cretins are determined to make the bewildered Big Apple their personal whipping ground for doom and destruction. And as if that’s not enough to be concerned about, there’s the current dilemma involving the shady disappearances of the globe’s most influencing scientists. With these two major newsworthy events going on, who’s courageous enough to tackle these daunting mysteries with a keen sense of curiosity?

Meet Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow). She’s the fearless female news reporter from the New York Chronicle. Polly is conveniently cut out of the same cloth from another heroic yet headstrong contemporary—Superman’s perky Lois Lane. Anyway, the intrepid journalist is forced to inquire about the missing scientists and havoc-wreaking robots and wonders whether these two simultaneous events are tied together at all.

With the robotic rabble-rousers taking the urban setting by storm in reckless fashion, Polly is in the middle of the mayhem and manages to snap pictures and come up close with disaster. She’s willing to dance with disaster even if it means pleasing her worrywart editor (Michael Gambon) by landing these juicy stories.

As resilient as Polly Perkins is at her job, she’ll still need some specialized assistance in tracking down these menacing metal misfits in her quest for getting the story behind the story. How devoted is Polly to getting down to the real nitty gritty? Well, she’s willing to turn to her ex-beau in hotshot aviator Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan (Jude Law). Apparently Polly and the Sky Captain had a nasty break up but this doesn’t stop the nifty newswoman from gaining an edge on these tin-canned terrors that are invading Gotham City. With Joe’s help (courtesy of his beloved transportation—a P-40 plane), Polly can try to have inside access as to what makes these mechanical adversaries tick.

Because these roguish robots have a tremendous tendency to demonstrate aerial assaults with their fighter planes, Joe is called upon to tangle with them in a boisterous battle against a helpless but breathtaking skyline. After the jolting cat-and-mouse approach to the sky level antics against their misbehaving metal-bound antagonists, Joe and Polly roam off to Nepal in search of the tactical Dr. Totenkopf (played by the late Sir Laurence Olivier through old reference materials such as photographs and talking heads images, etc.). It is believed that the diabolical Dr. Totenkopf is the major figurehead responsible for unleashing his hideously rowdy robots on an unsuspecting New York City.

Besides the tempting tandem of Joe and Polly, there are a handful of interesting characters that figure into the hedonistic happenings. British babe Frankie Cook (Angeline Jolie) is on board as Joe’s eye patch-wearing curvy co-pilot (and former love interest). Joe has a trusty comedic sidekick in baby-faced Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) whose loyalty is instrumental to Joe’s confident ego. And adding to the mischief behind Totenkopf’s agenda is his exotic aide played by Ling Bai.

When viewing Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, one can almost feel the aura of German filmmaker Fritz Lang’s 1927 classic Metropolis. Poetically, the film echoes the moody brush strokes of a gothic utopia with clunky skyscrapers serving as a languishing landscape for a claustrophobic community looking to escape its gloomy outside sinister forces. Cinematographer Eric Adkins oversees a hypnotic touch to this film as its vibrancy and lavish look methodically gives Sky Captain its authentic allure.

Overall, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is an inviting time at the movies where its big-budgeted opulence is a must-see bonus for movie fans. Observers will straddle between the comfort of old-time and outdated sappy film serials and the progressive tics of advanced frothy filmmaking that’s a common practice in the millennium age of moviemaking.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2004

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