Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow movie review, Kerry Conran, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Bai Ling, Michael Gambon. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'

A scene from 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'
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3 stars
107 minutes | Rated: PG
WIDE: Friday, September 17, 2004
Written & directed by Kerry Conran

Starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Bai Ling, Michael Gambon

Read our interview Writer-director Kerry Conran talks about building an entire CGI world around his stars.


Most special effects shots never look as realistic on the small screen, and this movie is all effects. It still looks cool, but the bigger screen you can watch on, the better.
First things first: Paramount has loaded the front of this DVD with six trailers, and made them immune to the Menu button on your DVD player. The only way to get past them is to fast-forward one-by-one. That's an automatic loss of one star in the rating of this DVD. Unforgivable.

Not surprisingly, the disc does not include any of the terrible trailers or TV commercials that helped kill this movie at the box office by making it look like a brain-dead, assembly-line action movie in black-and-white.

Once you get past that crap, this features-packed disc is a hit-and-miss affair. The two-part making-of begins with a self-congratulatory promotional tone, but soon settles down into some superb detail, following the film from its inception as a 6-minute short made on a Macintosh computer, through its cast shooting on empty blue-screen soundstages, to the post-production rendering of its incredible world. That 6-minute short is included on the disc as well, and it's easy to see what great bait it made for luring producers and major stars. But why no commentary?

Unfortunately - and quite surprisingly - both commentary tracks on the feature itself are snoozers. Conran and his animation/effects gurus drone on in one, without seeming to have much fun. They don't tell stories of the inspirations and homages, they don't talk about the groundbreaking effects. They pretty much spend the whole movie saying "There wasn't anything there in this scene. We were on a blue soundstage. Everything you see was added later." Some variation on this statement is made at least 20 times in just the first 30 minutes.

Producer Jon Avent's track is a little dry, but full of much better information and backstories than the filmmakers'. At least we get a laugh out of him when he tells a story of having to drag Conran into the readings and rehearsals because, being a computer guy, he was much more comfortable making effects than directing actors.

Gag reel with some line flubs, some goofball animation done for a lark, and a couple deleted scenes. Keep an eye out for Easter eggs.


1.85:1 (16x9 enhanced); 5.1 Dolby Surround
Both are pristine.


  • Jude Law
  • Gwyneth Paltrow
  • Angelina Jolie
  • Giovanni Ribisi
  • Bai Ling
  • Michael Gambon

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Stylized 'World' of giant robots and secret lairs was created by computer, but has authentic 1930s period pluck

    By Rob Blackwelder

    An imaginative spectacular of retro-futuristic adventure and mind-boggling special effects, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" so perfectly captures the silly sci-fi wonder of the 1930s serials which inspired it that watching this matinee marvel doesn't arouse a modern reaction of "wow!" or "cool!" -- it garners a genuine, awe-struck "golly!"

    The film is cinematically breathtaking, with sepia-toned semi-color photography, swooping Orson-Wellesian dutch angles, top-secret floating air fortresses and pre-War propellered fighter planes battling giant robots in the skyscraper canyons of Depression-era Manhattan. But what's all the more amazing is that, except for the actors and a few props, nothing on the screen -- not the city sidewalks, not the interiors of cars the actors drive, not even the carpets in the lush, film-noir-shaded interior sets -- is real.

    Beginning in college, first-time writer-director Kerry Conran spent 10 years on his Macintosh computer creating a six-minute sample of the opening sequence, in which a dirigible docks with the top of the Empire State building just as the riveted-steel six-story robots attack. When Hollywood producer Jon Avnet saw this clip, he raised $70 million and gave Conran free rein to hire himself a titular hero, played by a swashbuckling Jude Law, to come to the rescue and complete the director's groundbreaking dream -- a live-action movie set in an entirely CGI world.

    The effects blend seamlessly with Conran's talented cast, including Law as the dashing defender-of-good freelance flying ace Sky Captain, Gwyneth Paltrow as go-get-'em girl reporter Polly Perkins, Angelina Jolie as derring-do British aviatrix Franky Cook and Giovanni Ribisi as Sky Captain's gum-popping gadget-maker Dex. They all help make the world of "Sky Captain" entirely believable even though they shot every scene on an empty blue-screen soundstage.

    But you'd never know it to look at the film, which takes them from New York to Sky Captain's air-ship-hanger headquarters, to snow caves in Nepal, to the underwater entrance of a secret island where a rocket-ship-building "Wizard of Oz"-like megalomaniac (played, in another computer-effects coup, by the late Laurence Olivier) is bent on a rather original form of world destruction.

    Like the low-budget serials that informed its story and style, "Sky Captain" has its imperfections, not the least of which is the bickering banter between its ex-lover hero and heroine. The dialogue has plenty of 1930s snap -- it's just delivered with more bitterness than charm by Law and Paltrow, who otherwise wholly inhabit their cleverly archetypical characters.

    Another distraction (at first, anyway) is adjusting to the film's soft-focus look, which is meant to pay surrealistic homage to "Metropolis," "Flash Gordon," "King Kong," Max Fleischer's Superman cartoons (one was the inspiration for the giant robots) and other classics that influenced Conran (there's even a nod to "Star Wars"). A few minor gaffes of common sense in the plot are negligibly bothersome as well (if the villain's secret island has only just been discovered, how does Jolie know it has an undersea inlet?), and the finale is so over-the-top that it's hard to take our heroes' peril seriously.

    But none of this diminishes the brilliantly derivative way "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" re-captures the thrilling, anything's-possible air of the genre it emulates. It is to early science fiction movies what "Raiders of the Lost Ark" was to the period's pith-helmet jungle adventures.

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