Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (2004)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 9/17/04
Written and Directed by: Kerry Conran
Cast: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Bai Ling, cameo by Laurence Olivier (deceased)

In the reimagined world of the late 1930's (or early 1940's), famous scientists are disappearing while strange robots attack cities around the globe. Only one man can stop the mechanical menace, and that's the dashing renegade mercenary, Sky Captain (Jude Law). Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow wearing WAY too much garish lipstick) is a headstrong journalist investigating the story of the disappearing scientists, and she's also Sky Captain's part-time sweetheart. Against insurmountable odds, they team up and fly around the world searching for the source of the robot armies.

It's not the film I was hoping for, but it's a wonderful piece of entertainment nonetheless. The ultimate expression of style over substance, the film is a visual feast and is breathtaking to behold. Shot entirely on virtual sets and utilizing a muted palette of blues and browns, "Sky Captain" is unlike any movie I've ever seen before. The film looks like a Max Fleischer "Superman" cartoon, and the story reads like a golden age adventure comic book. The movie is basically a science fiction geek's dream come true. Unfortunately, the story tends to derail the outstanding visuals and the film works better as a collection of set pieces than it does as a cohesive narrative. This is partly due to weak writing and the fact that the two leads (Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow) are so incredibly dull and boring, and never have anything interesting to say. While I could argue that their wooden acting and stiff delivery purposely tries to mimic the films of the 1940's, their performances are inconsistent with the rest of cast. Secondary characters like Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) and Frankie (delicious Angelina Jolie) actually breathe life into the film, and have much more emotional depth than the attractive, but shallow leads. In particular, Angelina Jolie is wonderful and tears into every scene with relish (which almost makes up for her participation in the awful "Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life" (2003) ). Asian hottie Bai Ling gets a throw-away role as a mysterious assassin, but even she is more interesting than the main characters.

As I mentioned before, as far as visual effects are concerned, the film is gorgeous and fascinating to watch. The only criticism I can offer is that the elements in some shots are spatially inconsistent. The music score is innocuous and unmemorable, and more than anything just sets or mirrors the tempo of the film. The pacing of the film is very lively, rarely giving you a chance to relax or to think too hard about what's been said and done. Ultimately, the film is a visual thrill ride, full of imagination and childlike wonder, paying homage to the great science fiction pulp adventures of a time long past.