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Almost Famous

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Last Spring when I first saw the trailer for Sky Captain And the World of Tomorrow, I was immediately sold on the idea of the film. Being a visual person, I was taken by the dreamlike images of Art Deco skyscrapers, zeppelins, and giant robots bathed in searchlights and snowflakes.

Just saying that previous sentence is enticing but when you see the luminous quality to this film, you know it is a truly original and visionary work of art.

Art for the Masses

Giant killer robots smash the streets of the city
Giant killer robots smash the streets of the city

“Uh oh..” you are saying to yourself, ” an ‘original and visionary work of art’?... that’ll spell disaster at the box office.” But the great thing about SC is that it’s also a very accessible and fun film to watch. In fact, over the course of the movie, the look changes completely and it goes smoothly from Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark; there’s something in it for everyone.

As light as the gas that supports a zeppelin, the story-line carries us from one excitingly improbable scene to another. Gigantic flying robots appear in the skies of 1939 New York City. They’ve come to steal the huge power generators that lie beneath the streets of the city and the only thing that can stop them is the valiant Sky Captain (Jude Law) flying his Warhawk pursuit aircraft.

This must be the work of the diabolical Dr. Totenkopf (yes, that was my first guess too.) What in the world can he be up to? Will reporter Polly Perkins (Gwneth Paltrow) get The Picture and The Story for The Chronicle? Throw in some cloak and dagger stuff about disappearing German scientists, a mad dash to Shangri-La, a squadron of amazing flying airfields commanded by Angelia Jolie and there it is... the World of Tomorrow!

Maybe Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons might say that’s a lack of focus for first time director Kerry Conran but if we start to quibble over that kind of detail we’ve already lost the point of the film which is to relish the cool WWII P-40 airplanes, dirigible hangers the size of mountains, and brave pilots and the perky but determined gal reporters who love them.

Gee-Whiz Doozy

Much has already been said about the origins of Sky Captain, how the director slaved away alone, monk-like, for years, laboriously creating what became the opening sequence to the film, and how the actors have all been blue-screened into the computer generated sets. But dwelling on the CGI obscures the heart of this film. Conran has electronically created a playful and imaginative world that is as dense as a Persian carpet with film references and popular icons from the mid- 20th century. Saturday matinee serials, pulp sci-fi cover art, comic books, archetypical heros and villains are all present and accounted for. Consequentially this should keep those who like to tease minutiae from film and popular culture busy for some time to come.

The World of Tomorrow seems also to be scrubbed clean of irony. It is what it is so sit back and enjoy the ride; it’s a gee-whiz doozy, and if you can still say ‘gee-whiz’ and ‘doozy’ with out blushing, this film is for you.