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Overall Rating
3.59

Awesome: 26.49%
Worth A Look34.59%
Average: 16.22%
Pretty Bad: 16.76%
Total Crap: 5.95%

12 reviews, 113 user ratings



Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Sorry, but it deserved to flop."
2 stars

There's pulp and then there's bad pulp, and the extravagantly dull "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is like an old comic book that deservedly turned gray with neglect in someone's basement.

The movie is obviously a labor of love, but what it loves isn't the old adventure serials of the '30s and '40s -- it's the idea of them. Sky Captain is a fussy abstract ode to an ancient mode of storytelling, in which our heroes went from one death-defying encounter to another. But it genuflects so heavily and self-consciously to other movies that it never becomes its own movie. If there's any sensibility within the film other than a voracious geeky adoration of cliffhangers, I wasn't able to locate it.

Giant robots lay waste to much of New York, under the bidding of a remote madman named Totenkopf. This diabolical villain is killing off the world's top scientists. Why? To get rid of the competition, I guess. Anyway, ace fighter pilot Joseph "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law) is called in to save the day. His scientific-tinkerer buddy Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) has just been kidnapped by the robots, and his former flame Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), one of those spunky reporters you meet only in '30s movies, insinuates herself into the quest because she wants to get the Big Story. If she'd read the script, though, she'd realize there is none.

The backstory of Sky Captain is more compelling than anything on the screen. Writer/director Kerry Conran wanted to make this movie for years; he showed a six-minute demo reel to producer Jon Avnet, who set about securing a cast of actors willing to perform on huge soundstages and in front of green screens, to which computer-generated sets would later be added. But the passion it must've taken to get this project off the ground is nowhere evident in the film itself. I'd love to respond to Sky Captain as an idiosyncratic vision adoringly crafted by a guy who's smitten with '30s culture, but the finished product is very much a product -- cold, bland, as soulless as anything else rolling off the Hollywood assembly line.

Kerry Conran might be able to concoct a pastiche in a computer, but he isn't a director. The elaborate action set-pieces in Sky Captain have all the grace of a pile of pots and pans tumbling downstairs, and about as much visual interest. (Would it have killed Conran to sprinkle some color here and there? If you want to make a black-and-white movie, make one; don't make some fashionably desaturated, ostentatiously dreary mish-mash.) The movie has about a hundred climaxes, which cancels out whatever force any one sequence might have. Things blow up all the time; gray airplanes roar ear-splittingly over gray buildings. And Conran is most decidedly not a writer. It's no compliment to say that he may be another George Lucas. But Lucas, in the original Star Wars, went to Tunisia and sweated in the sand, and had all those sets built (this was before he went back and tinkered with them on a Mac, of course). Star Wars has a clunky tactility that Sky Captain can't get near. And the other Lucas pulp pastiche that Conran strains to duplicate, Raiders of the Lost Ark, was directed by Steven Spielberg, who knows how to pace and angle an action sequence for maximum adrenaline, and written by Lawrence Kasdan, who got some honest, resentful sparks going between Indiana Jones and his former flame, Marion Ravenwood.

Star Wars and Raiders, the two obvious comparison points, were equally head-over-heels in love with the old serials. But Lucas and Spielberg didn't take those oldies all that seriously (it wasn't until later that the dual weight of profits and fan worship compelled Lucas to treat Star Wars as a deathless reiteration of Joseph Campbell). Their pastiches were served with an affectionate wink. Sky Captain reads like an homage from a generation once removed -- Conran digs that old stuff, but he only gets the surface, which is why the movie devotes itself more to its look than to anything that might engage an audience, like character or story.

Like many another geek dream, too, Sky Captain is resolutely sexless; how do you hire Angelina Jolie as a one-eyed fighter pilot (paging Dr. Freud!) and then maroon her with no one to seduce? Few directors have quite known what to do with Jolie, who may be too hot for most directors to handle, but Conran just uses her for her Tomb Raider accent and smug insouciance. It's as if she's being punished for her bad-girl attractiveness; the movie seems to have eyes only for Polly Perkins, who's all about capturing a perfect image with the last two shots in her camera.

That, at least, Conran can identify with: Screen out everything except visuals.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10762&reviewer=416
originally posted: 12/25/06 04:43:19
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/26/09 Ganry41 These vocabularies, the syntax which structures them, and their set of speech sound units, 5 stars
10/26/09 Gangster90 Atlantic Yards project, the largest ever in Brooklyn, to build a basketball arena plus at l 3 stars
10/26/09 Mr.Carrot74 In effect, a dual-processor hyper-threaded machine provides four processors and ser 4 stars
10/24/09 Roy93 Well, this is a fantastic description, perhaps less becoming a scientist than a poet. , < 2 stars
10/24/09 Bob25 The plantings are chosen to be wind and drought resistant and modules can be rotated seas 5 stars
10/23/09 Loy62 In all likelihood, there is an archive or two that you know are critical for you to visit 2 stars
10/23/09 Crazy82 We need to find ways to remove c02 from the atmosphere. , 5 stars
10/23/09 Roy43 In some cases, our success at preventing fires for nearly a century has altered natural pro 5 stars
10/23/09 Arnold91 Therefore, using cache-aligned memory can reduce the number of cache updates necessary wh 3 stars
9/21/09 lopolongboards.com Even if there are less valued employees in the firm, the highly-valued ones will drive the 5 stars
9/16/09 xJNVqWokXRMFZKRA doors.txt;10;15 4 stars
9/14/09 www.apc.gov.ab.ca For the fitness that we are pursuing, every parameter within your control needs to be modul 2 stars
4/22/09 Dr.Lao Enjoyable homage to a nearly forgotten genre 4 stars
12/23/08 Popcorn muncher Great flick. Losers hated it because it went way over their heads 4 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner This is the kind of movie you fall asleep too. 1 stars
5/27/08 PAUL SHORTT AMAZING TO LOOK AT BUT NOT AS MUCH FUN AS IT SHOULD BE TO WATCH 3 stars
7/12/07 MaDmAN Very stylized look but soooooo boring 2 stars
5/23/07 dude stunning but overall boring 2 stars
3/27/07 David Pollastrini Great fx 3 stars
3/21/07 dude ggod 4 stars
2/04/07 William Goss A gloriously glossy and supremely superficial diversion worthy of a lazy afternoon. 4 stars
7/21/06 Anthony Feor BORING 1 stars
7/06/06 drydock54321 it's different. 4 stars
4/10/06 Thomas Semesky The actors interaction with the blue screened backgrounds lack emotion 2 stars
1/30/06 the laughing man Brings us back to the 50s in imaginative ways. 5 stars
12/06/05 Sir Spam-a-lot Coulda been worse 3 stars
9/04/05 Quigley i am so sick of jude law being in every movie, especially sci-fi. skip this movie, please. 2 stars
8/15/05 cristeen69 so so ,boring over budget film 2 stars
8/12/05 Renee is Gabby I has some cool inventiveness but is let down by scripting and application 3 stars
7/27/05 Indrid Cold At some point after Jurassic Park, CGI extravaganzas became no big deal. WAL though. 4 stars
7/04/05 Ben Baxter Cheesy, without being funny. 2 stars
7/02/05 sam bonner the acting is wooden, but the adventure and effects are exciting 4 stars
6/20/05 darick Good graphics, action, average acting, irritatingly tried and tested story 3 stars
6/18/05 chris. better than i exxpected. very pretty. 4 stars
5/05/05 Kristi Achilleos Cool movie! i;ll definitely buy this on dvd! its so cool! all the scenes had smthn special! 5 stars
5/01/05 J K Rowling overrated 3 stars
4/29/05 matt 10000 pounds of dynamite are about to blow. lets take cover behind this box of dynamite 2 stars
4/13/05 Quigley great science fiction with cardboard characters and horrid screenwriting. thats all it is 4 stars
4/09/05 B Kniprath Very intesting movie. Good plot, for 1940's. 4 stars
4/01/05 keithers.. a fun ride but totally cgi gets annoying 3 stars
3/31/05 hannaho Exciting adventure from this new filmaker. 5 stars
3/23/05 HL A Fun Ride..Entertaning...Well Made Romp. 4 stars
3/07/05 Charlie Dinosaurs were lame crap, but the rest of the movie was interesting and exciting. 3 stars
3/04/05 Mider nice stuff people!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 4 stars
3/02/05 David Tsung definitely unique...great actors to watch 4 stars
2/20/05 Alice Colwell not much of a story to it 3 stars
2/18/05 tatum One of the most beautiful looking films ever made 5 stars
2/09/05 Dr Hock Oh so pretty, yet oh so aweful. 1 stars
2/04/05 Barbara Long Really strange flick. Wasn't my thing. 3 stars
2/03/05 Clifford C Gardner Not great - but a nice change in style 4 stars
2/02/05 Sheila awesome effects, holds your interest 5 stars
2/01/05 Kenneth Hannan The cartoony style got old fast. 3 stars
1/31/05 Lisa Craven Hated it and couldn't watch more than 2 minutes. My kids thought it was okay. 2 stars
1/31/05 Brian The cinnematography was laid on so thick that I couldn't see or appreciate the juvenile pro 1 stars
1/30/05 bongeezer What is this? 2 stars
1/29/05 darlenecom Brings you back to long ago days when you were young and thought you could do anything. 4 stars
1/26/05 Bobby da Squid Visually incredible but ultimately nonsensical and dull 3 stars
11/10/04 angelina jolie A revolutionary film 5 stars
10/31/04 JOE KENNEDY A GREAT SYTLISH FILM, WHAT THE ROCKETEER SHOULD HAVE BEEN, WEAK STORY AWESOME FILM MAKING 4 stars
10/29/04 Alex different indeed 4 stars
10/28/04 Kathleen Not very entertaining but ok...."Special" effects? 3 stars
10/26/04 John intriguing concept but has NO story NO charachters, bad effects and sub standard action 1 stars
10/19/04 Misty De Meo There's no real innovation in the plot, but it didn't need it - it was just plain fun. 4 stars
10/17/04 Aaron Smith Amazing visuals, the airborne aircraft carrier scene alone is worth the price of admission! 5 stars
10/11/04 Tom vision imaginative, but Law,Paltrow not as good as Jolie 3 stars
10/10/04 Steve It was different and that's what made it a great movie. 4 stars
10/06/04 your worst goddamn nightmare pretty, entertaining, silly little adventure flick that I liked 4 stars
10/06/04 Chris A film not afraid to do something different, looks great and has an awesome imagination. 4 stars
10/05/04 Jim Looks so good you almost don't notice the script is kind of crummy. 3 stars
10/04/04 vickie pretty to look at, boring after a few minutes. Dialogue was terrible. Ugh. 2 stars
10/03/04 Margaret Picture shot in sephia except for Polly's red lipstick, slow story, ugly art deco. 2 stars
10/03/04 Zai Sorry ..I had to walk out it was so boring. My husband and I BOTH fell alseep watching it. 1 stars
9/30/04 Jimmy Wanted to love it for it's style. But after the first 30 mins the film turned to shit 2 stars
9/30/04 irene did they even read the script before signing up? 2 stars
9/30/04 X DON'T GIVE AWAY THE ENDING TO SUCH A KICK-ASS MOVIE! 5 stars
9/30/04 Freddie Visually stimulating 5 stars
9/28/04 mkuntz A terrific entertainment: visually stunning, exciting, funny and good natured. Great! 5 stars
9/28/04 NICE GUY THE FIRST OF ITS KIND NICE 1 HOLLYWOOD 5 stars
9/27/04 Whatevr It was cool 5 stars
9/27/04 J. Bethancourt An unpretitious, purely entertainment romp. I loved it. 5 stars
9/27/04 LB If you are a fan of pulp adventure, run right out and see this immediately. 5 stars
9/27/04 Dog Lips completely boring. lame dialog, gratuitous explosions 2 stars
9/27/04 Koitus Fantastic figher sequences, in the city. But .. exactly "who" was controlling the robots? 4 stars
9/26/04 Heather This is the director's FIRST movie, WTF??!! 5 stars
9/24/04 Al Guy Robots- Great! Effects - Good! Characters - eehhh. 4 stars
9/23/04 Marcia Lartz Slow start, more compelling resolution. Gwyneth's poutiness grows a little taxing. 4 stars
9/23/04 Clock It's aight 3 stars
9/23/04 el burro Completely retarded beginning to end. 1 stars
9/22/04 KingNeutron Unique look, but I hope they do better with the plot +char. interaction next time. 4 stars
9/22/04 drfardook Average acting but its a visually stunning film. Its a fantastic pulp film. 4 stars
9/22/04 chimpy121 Extremely fun with great eye-candy. 5 stars
9/21/04 nick2k i liked it alot...nice retroesque adventure movie. been awhile... 4 stars
9/20/04 Eric Herman Utter nonsense. Never has there been a film more damaging to the 'steampunk' genre. 1 stars
9/20/04 T.J. Wood Clever vintage comic book adventure -- but the use of the image of Olivier was jarring. 4 stars
9/20/04 YSBEE See You in Last Era! 5 stars
9/20/04 BrianWilly Beautiful and witty as hell 5 stars
9/20/04 Naka Glorious, visually brilliant fun. 5 stars
9/20/04 dredphul all sfx, bad acting, no plot 1 stars
9/19/04 Kris no. Gwyneth, eat something. PLEASE. 1 stars
9/19/04 Jiz Cheesy, weird, but entertaining overall. 4 stars
9/19/04 Vicious Lovely visuals with a cool adventure story. 5 stars
9/19/04 Rooktoven Great eye candy and humor, dialogue a bit stiff 4 stars
9/19/04 CharWar I loved it! Can't wait to see it again. So different and fun! 5 stars
9/19/04 Heidi Shanklin The renderings are stunningly beautiful. A wonderful little movie 5 stars
9/19/04 Bill Very beautiful to look at, but superficial and predictable. Paltrow was very irritating. 2 stars
9/19/04 Titus So much fun! 5 stars
9/19/04 asdf Fun movie. I liked the Classic Pulp style. 4 stars
9/18/04 Kris The whole time, I was thinking "Blue screen, greeen screen, we all scream for ice cream" 1 stars
9/18/04 Naka FANTASTIC! Wonderfully original and brilliant all around. 5 stars
9/18/04 Sarcastro Derivative and hokey. Feels like something the Japanese would make. Actors wooden as well. 2 stars
9/17/04 Matt Seaver Amazing. A treat for the eyes. Early screenings make me happy! 5 stars
9/16/04 Jeff Incredible retro sci-fi flick. Something different. See it! 5 stars
9/10/04 Ray Good 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  17-Sep-2004 (PG)
  DVD: 25-Jan-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  03-Feb-2005


Directed by
  Kerry Conran

Written by
  Kerry Conran

Cast
  Jude Law
  Gwyneth Paltrow
  Angelina Jolie
  Giovanni Ribisi
  Michael Gambon



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