Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
Not everyone is going to love Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. There will be many reasons for this (4 of which are discussed in the Rolling Stone Review). People won't like that it's the first completely computer generated movie with the actors inserted later into the scenes. People won't like it's old timey look and setting and the soft focus resolution of the film that takes a few minutes to get used to in the theater. People won't like that they used old film footage of deceased actor Laurence Olivier to play the villain.
On the other hand, I see all these issues (except the fuzzy resolution) as the cool new frontier of movie making. The fact that this entire movie, except for some of the human performances, was created on a computer is one of the neatest things I've ever seen. It looks so awesome that watching it is akin to viewing fabulous art. I assumed that the development of CGI would progress one day (Gollum, Jar Jar Binks, Final Fantasy, etc) to the point where living breathing actors were no longer necessary but I did not realize that this technology was just around the corner.
The story of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a tale of giant killer robots who are traipsing around the world collecting certain items. They were created by an evil scientist named Dr. Totenkopf who believes that the world is too evil for it's own good and must be destroyed. Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan is an adventurer whom the world calls upon (like Batman) to save the day when it looks like all is lost. Polly Perkins is the reporter who will go to any length to get the story and has had a past relationship with Joe. The two team up with Joe's wiz-kid mechanic Dex Dearborn and another old flame of Joe's, British Air Command's Capt. Franky Cook, to stop Dr. Totenkopf before Earth is destroyed.
The director of the film, Kerry Conran, a Flint, Michigan native, spent 4 years working on his computer to complete a 6 minute demo reel to show investors. He eventually found some who could see the amazing potential of his dream and were willing to finance his computer generated experimental film. Shot entirely on Blue Screen, the actors costumes and some of the items they physically touch are the only parts of the film that are "real."
Since the entire movie is basically one giant continuous special effect I cannot draw attention to any one in specific. I loved all the robots, from the Iron Giant type city destroyers to the alien tentacled recon droids, to the huge underwater Starship Trooper like defense bots. I also loved the automated wing flapping fighter planes that would dogfight with the traditional fighters. The huge dirigibles were also awesome, especially when they were blown up. And just when you thought the film has everything, they threw in some dinosaurs to punch up some action sequences.
Speaking of action, the action in the film is near non-stop and that's just fine with me. I've seen a lot of comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark but aside from the time period and the tone and energy of the film I don't really see the similarity.
The few actors in the film are all great. Jude Law as Sky Captain is excellent. His sly British wit and piercing eyes are perfect for the time and feel of the role. Gwyneth Paltrow does a fine job as Polly. She's playing the Ingrid Bergman type role and she does a serviceable job of it. I'm not a huge Paltrow fan but I did like her in The Royal Tenenbaums. Giovanni Ribisi is funny as the super genius mechanic and side kick. And finally Angelina Jolie is looking cooler than ever in the uniform for the British Air Defense Force.
Also, although it is a non-speaking role, Ling Bai was great as the Mysterious Woman who seems to control all the robots and of course, Laurence Olivier's performance from beyond the grave was neat too.
I suppose in essence all the actors were almost literally phoning in their performances so at best I congratulate them for adding their names and talents to such a cool new movie project.
If you are going to go see this film the only advice I have is to be patient with the soft focus that I mentioned earlier. It will take your eyes about 10 minutes to adjust to the resolution and then you won't notice it anymore.
Sky Captain and
the World of Tomorrow is a great movie. I highly recommend it if
only to see the remarkable technical and artistic achievement that it
truly represents. It's a great adventure that the whole family,
including little kids, can and will enjoy.