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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

The World of Tomorrow

Join the Resistance. The Battle for Tomorrow is About to Begin...

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 107 minutes

US Certificate: PG UK Certificate: PG

If you’ve seen any of the promo stuff for ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’, you’ll know it’s a film that’s pretty chuffed with itself. It’s one of the first ever movies to be shot entirely against a plain blue screen, with the backdrops all added by computer later – a bit like the weather forecast, actually.

The other reason for writer-director Kerry Conran’s crowing over the film is its largely successful attempt at recreating the look and atmosphere of those gone-but-not-forgotten sci-fi series of the 1940s. It’s filmed in a bright, glowing, semi-sepia which really nicely captures the comic-booky ideals of the period, yet at the same time its use of digital technology allows Conran to introduce sumptuous backgrounds and ambitious sets that could never have been possible all those years ago. So big slaps on the back for all concerned, then – or at least there would be, if the finished product was any good.

The story itself is a messy and inescapably dull tale of giant robots invading the Earth’s major cities, top scientists going missing, a rip-off ‘Island of Dr. Moreau’ and a giant, space-bound Noah’s Ark. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Polly Perkins, the scoop-hungry journo who’s determined to get to the bottom of all these far-fetched goings-on. Jude Law is title character Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan, a perennial do-gooder who flies around in a supped-up Spitfire, saving the world and doing a damn good job of it thank you very much. It’s not long before the pair of them have teamed up and formed what would appear to be an unspoken pact to keep the entirety of the screen time to themselves.

I was blown away by the opening scenes, where the sheer graphic splendour of what Conran and his team have put together really hits home. The problem is, once you get past all that and the novelty of the visuals has worn off, there’s just nothing else to be impressed by. It’s a fantastically unengaging story, skipping from one outlandish setting to the next with neither rhyme nor reason. You get the feeling it’s all intended to come across as deeply tongue-in-cheek, but the script doesn’t have the wit to pull it off, and the performers just aren’t good enough to excite us. Law is basically ‘Red Dwarf’s Ace Rimmer without the humour, and Paltrow is Lois Lane without the spunk. Angelina Jolie pops up as a cycloptic leather-clad pilot whose character shows some promise, but she’s barely in it – and that only made me think she was the lucky one.

I was looking forward to seeing this movie and really wanted to enjoy it. It’s one of those films like Who Framed Roger Rabbit or Jurassic Park which comes along every few years with something genuinely different to offer in the looks department. Unfortunately, unlike those two excellent films, it’s the ultimate exercise in style over substance, playing more like a graphic design portfolio than a piece of cinema. If I was marking it as a graphic design project I’d undoubtedly give it an A – but I’m not, so I won’t. As a movie, ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ can only get one grade, and that’s a fail.

It's Got: A tiny elephant in a glass case, a briefly-revived Laurence Olivier, and an all-expenses-paid trip to Shangri-La.

It Needs: To have spent as much time on the story as it has on the backdrops.


Great visuals… shame about the story.