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Novice movie maker Kerry Conran's big time eye candy,
This review is from: Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow [VHS] (VHS Tape)
"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" represents the triumph of style over substance, the P-40 Tomahawk over mechanical monsters, and computer generated actors over death itself. That last part is actually the tip of an ethical iceberg that has the potential of being the biggest point of contention in Hollywood since Ted Turner broke out his box of crayons and started colorizing black & white classic films. But for now we can just enjoy director-writer Kerry Conran's tribute to both the decade and the serials of the 1930s done with enough digital magic to make going over the rainbow seem like an unnecessary journey.
The story begins in a New York City untouched by either the Great Depression or the madness of Hitler's Nazis. But there is still a Teutonic threat beginning to encroach on the civilized world courtesy of the brilliant, mysterious, and apparently evil Dr. Totenkopf (enjoy the surprise). Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), an intrepid reporter for "The Chronicle," stumbles upon the first significant clue about the good doctor only to be distracted by the legion of giant killer mechanical men walking down the streets of New York City. In defense of the city comes Joe Sullivan (Jude Law), the Sky Captain himself, whose P-40 Tomahawk with its Flying Tiger teeth has been souped up by his sidekick, Dex Dearborn (Giovanni Ribisi). Of course Polly and Joe had something in the past, so there is a lot of subtext to her backseat driving as they go merrily along.
In the grand tradition of the Saturday morning serial the hero and his gal get on the trail of the bad machines, fueled by Dex being kidnapped by a mysterious Asian woman (Bai Ling) and helped by a few old friends, most notably Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie), the commander of a most unusual British airship. The running gag for the second half of the film is that Polly has only two shots left in her camera and keeps bypassing visual wonders, such as the real Shangri-La, because there could be something better around the corner.
Visually, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a visual treat, filled in the same sort of sepia tones we associate with the first reel of "The Wizard of Oz," a film that is clearly a reference point for Conran. Much is made of the fact that the actors performed in front of a blue screen to which Conrad added all the dazzling images of the mechanical creations in the art deco style of a lot of the architecture we see in the film, all glowing with a blue light. But Law, Paltrow, Jolie and the rest of the cast get credit for playing these roles straight without ever getting too tongue in cheek. This is an earnest homage and not parody, and while the result might not be great cinema it is still as much fun as any of the Saturday morning serials it wants to emulate.
This film wants to be "Raiders of the Lost Ark" for a new generation of filmgoers weaned on computer generated images, but it is not up to that level. The difference can be simply quantified by saying Kerry Conran is not Steven Spielberg, but it would be more worthwhile to point out that in his first film Conran has a much better handle on the cinematic over the dramatic aspects of movie making. His next project is the long awaited adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's "A Princess of Mars," with a screenplay by Mark Protosevich ("The Cell"), which should help firm up the dramatic half of the equation. Given the stunning eye candy provided in his debut effort, whatever Conran does in the future will certainly be worth a look.