Movie Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Posted by Arlo on Sep 20, 2004 under Movie Reviews

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Movie PosterBack in May, I attacked my blog with renewed vigor and tried to post an entry every day. Didn’t work, but I did up the content (while simultaneously lowering the quality) of my blog in the process. One of the filler ideas I had was to post short movie reviews for the summer blockbuster season. So, I did.

This summer, the critical consensus seemed to be that the blockbuster season would be kicked off by Van Helsing and I set a goal to see and review as many movies as I could before Labor Day, four months later. Eventually I saw 14 movies (add two more for second viewings of Shrek 2 and Spider-Man 2) and spent somewhere north of $130 for ticket prices alone. When September 6th finally arrived, I was close to burning out and I couldn’t generate the interest level necessary to make it to the last few movies that I probably would have enjoyed. I’m thinking of Open Water, Hero, and Garden State, among others.

No matter. Taking a short break has rejuvenated my interest and I’m now looking forward to other movies like The Forgotten, The Incredibles, Shaun of the Dead, The Motorcycle Diaries, Shark Tale, The Life Aquatic, and maybe even some guilty pleasures like National Treasure, Team America: World Police, and Blade: Trinity.

While writing short movie reviews never really felt like work, they did always have the annoying habit of tumbling around in my mind after the movie was over. I felt like I had a responsibility, to myself if no one else, to write down my thoughts and post them online. I’m not saying that I won’t do that again in the future, but I think I might enjoy going back to irresponsible movie watching for awhile.

That being said, I just watched Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow a couple nights ago and thought I’d at least mention a couple things about it before packing up my movie critic bag.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was an interesting movie… from a technological standpoint. And by that, I don’t mean that the killer robots and submersible WWII airplanes were what made it interesting. Rather, SCatWoT (is that a great abbreviation, or what?) is the first movie to have been filmed entirely in front of blue screens. Every location was created with computers and matted in after the actors had already delivered their lines in what was, I suspect, a very blue room.

The director went for a decidedly noir-ish look to the “film” and everything had an ethereal, sepia tone look to it. Perhaps that glow around each character was to mask some particularly bad edges, I don’t know. I didn’t like it, but then… I’ve never gone in for film noir, anyway.

To make matters worse, I didn’t bite on the story, either. Comparisons to Raiders of the Lost Ark are inevitable, I suppose, but none of the characters in Sky Captain had any real depth. At times I felt like I was watching the sequel to some other movie. The characters were presented as if we should already know who they were, and there was no stage of the movie devoted to character development. Similarly, within maybe 5 minutes of the movie beginning, we were hurled headlong into a strange world with no background. There were familiar things — New York City and the Hindenburg docking with the Empire State Building – but we were only left to assume that it was some sort of Post World War I, comic bookish, alternate reality. I had no troubles picking up on the homage to the sci-fi movies of the 50s, I just got hung up on “Why?”

Despite not caring much about the world they had crafted, I have to admit that I was curious where they were going with the movie. I found myself quite bored with the paper-thin characters, but I must admit that I wanted to know what they were chasing. When the movie finally delivered, I must admit that the anagnorisis surprised me. I won’t spoil it for you, but there’s a neat little sci-fi idea buried beneath the script of SCatWoT. Too bad it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.

The final line of the movie almost saved everything, though. It was telegraphed like the worst (i.e., best!) of shaggy dog jokes, but it still made me laugh out loud.

Well, heck. Let’s stick to the format for one last review:

Trivial Thought: I caught a couple tip-o’-the-hats to George Lucas and to The Iron Giant. Makes me wonder what else I missed…
What did I find worthwhile about the movie? The proof-of-conceptness of it. It sure kept me guessing what was “real” and what wasn’t.
Would I recommend the movie? Depends. If you like deconstructing special effects, then yes.
Will I buy it on DVD? You know what? I just might. I’d love to see the behind-the-scenes of how they made this movie (and if I’d liked it more, I’d probably be scouring the Internet for that information right now).

And for the sake of closure, here’s my definitive list of the summer movies I saw – in the order of which I’d most like to see again. Looking over them with my stellar 20/20 hindsight, I’m not convinced I wouldn’t rearrange things a little bit, but it’s close enough for government work. (Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, opening after Labor Day, was not included.)

Overall Summer Movie Ranking
Spider-man 2
Shrek 2
The Village
I, Robot
The Bourne Supremacy
The Day After Tomorrow
The Terminal
The Chronicles of Riddick
Fahrenheit 9/11
Van Helsing
Aliens vs. Predator
The Stepford Wives