Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner29/09/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 100 mins

Exciting, beautifully designed, retro adventure flick that’s a treat for fans of old movies and pulpy sci-fi serials such as Flash Gordon.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has clearly been a labour of love for writer-director Kerry Conran. Aside from cramming the film full of movie references, it has a stunning visual look that was entirely digitally created – the actors performed against a blue screen and the backgrounds and effects were all added afterwards.

It sounds like a crazy CGI experiment, but it looks beautiful and works brilliantly. As such, the result is an exciting, pulpy sci-fi thriller that will delight fans of old movies and of adventure serials in particular.

New York Under Attack From Flying Killer Robots

The film’s stunning opening scene sets the tone for the rest of the film: it’s the 1930s and New York is under attack from a squadron of Giant Flying Killer Robots. Only one man can help – ace fighter pilot Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan (Jude Law). He manages to take out one of the blighters and transport it back to his secret headquarters so that loyal science whiz Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) can take a look at it.

Meanwhile, Sullivan’s ex, plucky reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) discovers that the world’s top scientists are disappearing and makes a deal with Sullivan to let her help him in return for the story. Together they track down the fiendish Dr Totenkopf, played by, er…the disembodied head of Laurence Olivier, circa 1940.

The look of the film is extraordinary, combining film noir style photography with art deco design work. There are movie references galore, both explicit (one crucial dialogue scene takes place against a screen showing The Wizard Of Oz) and implicit – film geeks everywhere will have a field day attempting to list them all.

Good Casting And Witty Script

Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are both well cast, despite reports to the contrary: Law’s square-jawed charisma makes him a perfect hero in the Flash Gordon mould and Paltrow is both feisty and sexy (note the scene where she rips her skirt so as to run better…on her heels). There’s also great support from Ribisi and also from Angelina Jolie as Franky Cook, the leader of an amphibious squadron that Sullivan turns to for help. (No-one comments on how her eye-patch might affect her depth perception).

The script is witty and inventive, containing several amusing running gags (Polly saving the last two shots in her camera) and getting maximum mileage from Sullivan and Polly’s bickering, wise-cracking, screwball-comedy style relationship. It has some great lines and some really lovely little touches – it’s obvious that a lot of affection has been poured into the film.

If there’s a problem, it’s only that the film never really manages to top the astonishing opening scene, but it has a lot of fun trying. In short, this is firmly in the tradition of the likes of Indiana Jones and Star Wars and while it may not be quite in their league, it’s still enormously enjoyable and likely to send you out of the cinema with a big grin on your face. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (12A)
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Content updated: 23/10/2017 23:21

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