Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Ten years in the making, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow brings computer generated imagery to new levels of artistic achievement. It's equal parts Indiana Jones and James Bond, reborn in an art deco noir fantasy. Looking exactly like a vintage deco postcard come to life, the muted colors reminiscent of tinted black and white, director and writer Kerry Conran's artistic vision is the real triumph of this movie.

The plot is decent, although I think it may require another viewing to sort out whether this is simply innocent storytelling or intentional camp aimed at the Rocky Horror crowd; at times it cuts both ways. Basically, it's a detective/adventure story set in the 1930's with Jules Verne style futuristic science fiction elements. New York's deco archtecture is a perfect fit, especially the opening scene of the Hindenberg III docking at the top of the Empire State Building, followed by a movie theater scene in which Radio City Music Hall never looked better. You'll love it when the aircraft squadrons dive into the ocean and continue underwater.

Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are excellent in the lead roles, and in a development that gives new hope to dead actors everywhere (and maybe a chill to those still living), the long deceased Lawrence Olivier appears in holographic form as Dr. Totenkopf, the mad scientist at the center of the story. Angelina Jolie's lips might require their own category come Oscar time. Totally acted in front of a blue screen, everything you see in the movie other than the live actors was created in a computer. The endless list of companies who worked on the digital graphics looks more like the IBM annual report than movie credits. Ed Shearmur's period adventure style orchestral score works well, not unlike John Williams' Star Wars and Indiana Jones work.

Ultimately the acting and the story are good but they are secondary to the visual art which is stunning. While this will likely be a big seller on DVD and will indubitably look great on your new high definition screen, this movie does what movies do best, taking you somewhere you could never really go, and as such this needs to be seen on the big screen. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow uses the newest cutting edge technology to produce good old fashioned fun.

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