Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

  • Film
  • Action and adventure
Conran’s disappointing ’30s/’40s-set comic-book adventure is an innovative amalgam of live-action/digital-generated design, a technological breakthrough and something of an artistic disaster. Jude Law, as the Biggles-like flying ace, Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan, and Gwyneth Paltrow, as pretty US reporter, Polly Perkins, signed up to follow in the chalk-marked footsteps Bob Hoskins trod in the vastly superior ‘Roger Rabbit’, gesticulating to thin air – the so-called ‘blue screen’ – awaiting the backgrounds produced by the new generation of sfx boffins.
‘Sky Captain’s’ fascinating production history is a story in itself, involving Conran’s six years of solo flights as a one-man/one-computer outfit, before the Hollywood machine lumbered in. The idiosyncratic plethora of period imagery – inspired or captured from, notably, the William Cameron Menzies ’30s sci-fi designs for ‘The War of the Worlds’ and the gargantuan architectural compositions of ‘Metropolis’ period Fritz Lang, but also adopting the work of Humphrey Jennings, wartime adventure books, Hitchcockian close-ups, Saturday serials and the like – are a testament to the magpie nature of Conran’s graphic imagination.
The finished product, however, is simply bewildering. The anachronistic, simplistic plot – involving the duo’s efforts to save New York City from giant robots orchestrated by a Germanic Dr Evil (re-used ’40s footage of Laurence Olivier, no less) – neither plays as witty hommage nor nostalgic Boys’ Own adventure. Worse is the cramped, presumably knowingly clichéd, dialogue which doesn’t even aspire to camp. The clincher is how the actors are reduced to puppets and ciphers; Paltrow straight-jacketed in her Hildy Johnson-style two-piece and the evidently bored Law reduced throughout half the movie to giving the gimlet eye through flying goggles. Save us, indeed.

Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday October 1 2004
Duration: 107 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Kerry Conran
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow
Jude Law
Michael Gambon
Angelina Jolie
Giovanni Ribisi
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