Pillbox

Unsteady flying

This weekend, Paramount Pictures finally released Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow after six years of development. Is it being received by audiences the way first-time writer/director Kerry Conran intended? Visually, probably. As for, well, everything else ? not so much.
The year is 1939 and the place is New York City. Scientists throughout the world are disappearing. Hardened news reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) jumps on the story. While collecting evidence and information for her story, a band of robots attack New York. Perkins seeks out Sky Captain Joseph Sullivan (Jude Law), who happens to be a bitter old flame of hers. The two of them set their differences aside to search for the answers and put an end to all of the madness!
The fact that Conran has mixed Matrix-like action sequences with the 1930s setting throughout the entire movie can throw audience members off, and even make them a mite annoyed. This is especially true during the first half of the film, which is as slow as molasses. If you can get over the anachronistic juxtapositioning, the spectacular action scenes might win your heart. Thousands of computer generated animals plus a dogfight in the streets of New York City plus ... things blowing up equals lots of eye candy and much kudos for the artists behind the work.
As for Kerry Conran, he gets very few props. Sure, his insistence upon using a blue screen on which to shoot the entire film made for awesome digital effects manipulation. However, it must have been pretty difficult for the cast, as they were certainly not up to par. You may be thinking, ?Well, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow have never let me down: they must do something to engage me in the storyline....? Negative. They created the most awkward, hardly believable relationship with each other, and were clearly struggling for motivation. This is probably due to the lack of a set and little interaction with anything or anyone. The supporting actors, however, handled it much better. Angelina Jolie (who plays the eyepatch-wearing Captain Franky Cook) needs to work on her British accent, but she had a pretty good handle on her character. Besides, after the Lara Croft movies, she must be warmed up for these effects-driven films. Giovanni Ribisi was the most redeeming of the actors. He plays a technical mastermind and Sky Captain?s sidekick, like a techie/pilot version of Batman and Robin! Ribisi is the audience?s teddy bear, and he certainly does justice to the role.
The script plays a large part in the acting faults. Perhaps it is meant to resemble a comic book, but it is extremely hokey. The final problem with the writing is the subversion of all climactic potential in the movie. Every time the characters find themselves in a life-threatening predicament, the day is saved way too easily. You think they?re going to crash and then, oh my! the plane transforms into an underwater navigation vessel. Or a jet runs out of fuel and there conveniently happens to be a landing platform in the middle of the sky. Don?t forget about the hidden jet pack on your back that you can fire up when conflict occurs! These situations totally remove the viewer from the inside world of the movie to have a laugh and say ?Come on!? to the person sitting next to them. However, if you simply view the flick as a comic book in action, I guess it works.
Don?t get too upset: The film is hardly terrible. As previously mentioned, it is full of entertaining spectacles and scenes that obviously took years to produce. Also, the cheesy dialogue does have its moments. A few sporadically placed jokes are pretty clever. They also give the film some personality in between the heavy ?end of the world? encounters (kind of like Men In Black ? but, uh, not as funny?).
There is an intriguing scene near the beginning, where The Wizard of Oz plays in the background of an intimate conversation between Paltrow and Walter Jennings (Trevor Baxter) in a movie theater. Being the Wizard of Oz fan that Kerry Conran is, he chose a perfect scene to reflect the conversation. This is a beautiful example of the impressive camera work involved in the film, and a solid directing choice. The flick is undoubtedly more forgettable than the movie milestone it was supposed to be. Perhaps the crew behind Sky Captain should not brag that they spent six years on the film, but, rather about its outstanding cinematography .
Special effects and action buffs: run to the theaters. Writing and drama majors (unless you also fall in the first category): Wait until it hits Blockbuster, or don?t even bother. If you are somewhere in between, use your best judgment ... and bring popcorn.