Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is that rarest of movies - a hybrid of the past and the future, of action and romance, with comedy and wit tossed in for good measure. Its greatest asset, however, is that it is a visual feast, sweet eye candy for all manner of moviegoer. While the story may be rather predictable, it is forgiveable, because you have never seen a film that looks quite like this one.
In 1939 Manhattan, scientists have been disappearing, with no likely reason in sight. An army of stories-tall robots flys in and attacks, rampaging through the city streets and collecting whatever it is they are looking for. Newspaper reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is hot on the story, putting herself in danger to get the scoop and take some front-page-worthy photographs, while Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law) is called in to do combat with the robots and save the city.
We learn that the scientists are being gathered together by Dr. Totenkopf, who is responsible for the robot invasions. But why? Sky Captain enlists the help of his sidekick Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) to find out what is going on. Polly, in the great tradition of classic strong females in the cinema, insists on tagging along with Sky Captain as he does battle with the machines in search of the evil Totenkopf. She wants the story, and she's gonna get it, even though there is bad blood between Joe and herself, due to a previous relationship.
I dare say there has never been an action movie of this ilk. The story of the making of the film is quite fantastic: the director Kerry Conran managed to sell this film to the studio after putting together a 6-minute short film. Producer Jon Avnet then managed to convince Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow to sign on based on the merits of the short. The actors were filmed entirely in front of the green screen, and the backgrounds were added later digitally. This film is a feat of technical mastery, but what makes it work is that it in spite of all of the special effects, it never loses sight of the characters, and it makes reference to the great history of Hollywood cinema, everything from Metropolis to Strangers on a Train to THX 1138.
And did I mention the visual style is stunning, with its combination of 1930s pulp and futuristic sci-fi? While watching this, I felt as if it was not just a movie, but an experience, which was what it must have felt like back in the golden age. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a great success, and a fine achievement for everyone involved.
September 18, 2004