Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (2004)
Main cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Polly Perkins), Jude Law (Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan), Giovanni Ribisi (Dex Dearborn), Michael Gambon (Editor Paley), Bai Ling (the Mysterious Woman), Omid Djalili (Kaji) Sir Laurence Olivier (Dr Totenkopf), and Angelina Jolie (Capt Francesca 'Franky' Cook)
Director: Kerry Conran
Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow isn't a movie as much as it is first time director Kerry Conran running around gleefully and inviting everyone to take a peek at his beautiful reenactment of a dime-novel adventure story. Filmed in a beautiful brown and white hue with only a little color allowed to slip through, this movie looks like a gorgeous slice of 1940s Hollywood romanticism captured onto reel. Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law seem like shoo-ins to play the main roles, given how their looks fit in just nicely with this movie's preoccupation with glamour and beauty. Even the late Sir Laurence Olivier's old acting footages are spliced together to create a new role for him posthumously in this show as the eccentric scientist Dr Totenkopf. So great is this movie's determined attempts to make sure that this movie is as lush a photo album reeking with nostalgia that it is easy for it and for me to overlook the fact that this movie has very little actual substance in terms of plot.
Set somewhere between the first and second world wars, reporter Polly Perkin is hot on the trail of a case of missing scientists, all involved in a hushed-up German project. Her clue leads her to the mysterious Dr Totenkopf and she decides that her ex-boyfriend Joe Sullivan (also known as Sky Captain, protector of America against danger) will be the one to help her solve this mystery and win her some pretty Pulitzer trophy. But before Joe can start reverting to shoolyard ponytail-pulling with Polly, giant robots start attacking the world and Sky Captain is called to save the day. But because Joe's "secret base" is for reasons only he will know located in an island wide open for anyone to locate, his base is bombed sky high and his earnest sidekick Dex Dearborn is captured. Eventually both Joe and Polly realize that they are after the same guy and an alliance is born. Don't expect love though as their relationship is three-parts kiddie squabbling and one-part ponytail-pulling.
This movie is actually suitable for kids apart from one discordant scene where Joe's buddy Kaji comments uncouthly on the fact that Polly's nipples are erect in the cold weather. Everything else about this movie is all about nostalgia of those science-fiction comics and movies of the 1930s and 1940s, from the design of the robots, vehicles, and other machinery to the role of Polly as a useless baggage whose function is to be pretty and to get into trouble so that Joe will have to save her. Angelina Jolie's brief appearance as the capable submarine captain that Joe cheated on Polly with before (which was one of the reasons why Polly broke up with him) is a welcome after Polly's ridiculous "I am an independent woman who doesn't need your - aiiiiiii, save me!" antics - why can't she be the heroine in this movie? The plot eventually dwindles down to a familiar save-the-world message that is actually the only thing contemporary about the plot.
From the obvious painted backdrops of Shangri-la to the final scene, this movie is so breathtakingly beautiful that I feel quite callous to find the movie lacking in any way. However, for all its beauty, Sky Captain And The World of Tomorrow focuses so much on being a visual feast that the barely-developed storyline and the lack of interesting characters means that I remain seated by the sideline merely admiring the scenery. Like a beautiful coffee table book, this movie is a striking example of digital beauty but completely forgettable once I move on to other things.
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