Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Robots and Scientists and Planes (Oh My!)

Jose here, to remind you of an underrated gem from 2004.

When I was a child I was addicted to Superman. Not the Christopher Reeve movies and obviously not the weird TV show with Teri Hatcher, but the classic animated shorts from the 1930s. We had a VHS tape which I could watch for hours and hours completely enthralled by the terrific stories, the foreign adventures and even the sense of menace and doom conveyed by Dave Fleischer in under ten minutes.

Years later I had the same feeling watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Kerry Conran's debut film was a tribute to this era which featured giants robots, timeless kingdoms atop the Himalayas, perky reporters and heroines with eye patches.
Everything in the film is CGI, except for the actors, which gives it a retro-futuristic air. With nods to Dave Fleischer, Flash Gordon, Indiana Jones (which is itself a tribute to serials) and The Wizard of Oz, the film is a treat for film buffs who will have a great time with all the references.

But the film's joy isn't only in its referential nature. It's also a heck of an adventure film in which plot has little relevance and over the top is always the way to go. Gwyneth Paltrow is wonderful as reporter Polly Perkins and for those who think she takes herself too seriously, you can see her having actual fun in this one!

Jude Law is glorious and dashing and Angelina Jolie is splendid in what amounts to a glorified cameo. Unsurprisingly the film was a box office failure and Conran hasn't made a film since. Laurence Olivier was the villain! Come on!

That's sad, because in terms of energy and pure love for the movies, not many films made in the past decade can be compared to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. In a perfect world the captain would be fighting the crab aliens from Méliès Trip to the Moon...


OtherRobert said...

I still love Sky Captain...The film is beautiful to look at and a whole lot of fun to watch.

I think it is one of the best performances Gwyneth Paltrow has ever given because she really let herself go in the character. If it wasn't for Proof, I'd probably call it her best performance. I wish she would take on just plain fun roles more often.

Beau said...


lylee said...

Thank you for this. I always thought this movie never got the love it deserved.

And I know this is a random association, but the movie put me in mind of my favorite Disney afternoon cartoon growing up, "Tale Spin"...which owed a lot to those 1930's serials, too.

Iron Knight said...

I really liked this film. Quite a lot. It was fun, well-acted and, well, it did deliver for me. But yeah, the best thing is Gwyneth Paltrow. I just love her.