Friday, September 24, 2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Vacuum Energy rating: one star
Background information on Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is available at The Internet Movie Database

Here is the perfect "Saturday afternoon" movie! "Sky Captain" has all of the necessary ingredients for carefree pulp-fiction in the style of the old "pulpies" from the Golden Age of comics: there is a hero and his sidekick, a "swell gal" tagging along, exotic locations, aerial dog-fighting, dinosaurs, energy rays, giant killer robots, a meglomaniac scientist and Germans. There's nothing better than a quick trip to the good ol' days when you didn't need superpowers to fight evil, just good people, backing you up.

The film starts with a conspiracy involving disappearing German scientists, one of whom just manages to contact plucky gal reporter Polly Perkins before vanishing into the chaos of a massive robot invasion of New York City. Of course, everyone in New York City knows that only a graduate of the Luke Skywalker School of Fighting Big Clunky Robots can win this battle, so the call to Sky Captain goes out within minutes. Sky Captain just happens to be in the area in his specially-modified propeller-driven fighter, and true to form he manages to force the robots to retreat within minutes of attacking them.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg since the entire world is under seige by killer robots stealing their natural resources. Only mercenaries like Sky Captain can get their own personal military forces destroyed in a robot sneak attack, thus forcing him to track down the robot headquarters alone. Or nearly alone, since Polly's brief conversation with that German scientist gives her an excuse for tagging along to aggravate the hell out of Sky Captain (aka Joe) for the rest of the movie (don't get me started).

The only real problem with "Sky Captain" is that it takes its comic book antecedents too seriously. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; no director in his right mind wants to make the sequel to "Batman: The Movie" from 1966 for example. But it tends to get a little annoying, especially when the 1930's radio sets have to send out visible spherical pulses of energy when they are transmitting signals. The movie even has an artificially grainy texture to suggest a cheap comic book printing, although it seems suspiciously more useful for covering up defects in the computer graphics. Perhaps the low point of the adventure is when Sky Captain and company end up in Shangri-la after a near-death escape from near-certain doom. For God's sake, Shangra-la is not a big deal anymore! Even MacGuyver has been there!

An interesting point that does pop-up in "Sky Captain" is the nostalgic appearance of the British Empire as that benevolent monarchy based on integrity, fortitude, and gravitas. The last third of the movie basically plays out like a propaganda film for Britannia, although it works here since this is exactly what we'd expect from something out of the 1930's in the first place.


Blogger William said...

Umm this movie looks bad.

8:25 PM  

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