The Barenaked Archives: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Sky Captain and the World of TomorrowStop right there. Yes, there at the door. Before continuing, you must ask yourself this question: Have you become too jaded to remember a time when anything was possible? When adventure waited around every corner, airplanes could become submarines, blimps could dock at the top of the Empire State Building, and giant robots could fly?

If you are scoffing or rolling your eyes, turn back now. However, if your inner geek is screaming in delight, continue reading, because Sky Captain is the movie for you.

An homage to the serialized films of the 1930s and ’40s, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is the story of Joe Sullivan (Jude Law), a.k.a. Sky Captain, an ace mercenary pilot, and his ex-girlfriend, spunky reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow).

When giant robots decimate the world’s major cities and the most renowned scientists vanish without a trace, the nations turn to Sky Captain to save the day, with Polly tagging along, determined to get the story, no matter the risk.

As of late, the television previews for Sky Captain have seemed more like they’re promoting the latest Bruckheimer action flick, and this is a misconception. This movie never takes itself as seriously as the latest previews have promised.

Serious movies do not start out with giant flying robots that are straight out of the old Superman comics descending on 1939 New York City. In keeping with the genre, radio signals emit from towers as white circles and a map is shown while the characters are traveling by air. At the risk of sounding unprofessional, this movie is so cool!

Sky Captain himself is daring and charismatic. No task is impossible for him. If he has any serious personality flaw, it is that he is far too attached to his airplane. Polly Perkins is reminiscent of Lois Lane, and she is far too attached to her camera.

Their past relationship provides for an interesting new one: almost constant bickering covering an underlying affection for each other, not unlike Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday, or more recently, Harrison Ford and Karen Allen in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Probably the most-discussed thing about Sky Captain is the fact that the entire movie – meaning everything except for the actors and a few props – is computer-generated. The colors on the screen are soft and blended, which helps to merge the actors with the backgrounds and it gives the movie an old-timey ’40s look.

On the other hand, the blending makes it difficult to distinguish exactly what’s in the background, especially in the darker scenes. It’s not a huge problem, but it is annoying during the first part of the movie, while you’re still trying to get used to it.

The score for the movie, composed by Edward Shearmur, is absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t stop humming it after we left the theater. There’s something adventurous and idealistic about it, especially the theme when we first meet Sky Captain. It fits the tone of the movie, just like John Williams’s score fits Star Wars.

If there was anything unbelievable about the movie, it would be Gwyneth Paltrow at the very beginning. She’s running down the streets of New York, trying to take pictures of the giant robots that are attacking the city, and she just doesn’t seem at all worried that she could get squished by a massive metal foot at any moment.

Maybe she just had trouble acting with the blue screen, I don’t know. But it seems that if giant robots with laser beams for eyes were wreaking havoc on your city, you’d be a little bit more freaked out.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a great homage to all the old films, and to all the brilliant, futuristic ideas of old Hollywood. For the duration of the movie, it feels like anything is possible. Three and a half out of five stars.

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