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"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"

Directed by Kerry Conran.
Written by Kerry Conran.
Starring Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Giovanni Ribisi and Angelina Jolie.
Release Year:  2004
Review Date:  9/21/04


When this film got bumped from this summer into September, you knew trouble was a-brewin'.  "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow", the debut film of Kerry Conran, must be good at something, and those reviews were quite, naturally, I thought this was a near-total atrocity.

Sometime during World War II (maybe; we're never given the exact year), scientists are being kidnapped by some madman named Totenkopf to build some big freakin' robot army for some purpose akin to every other world takeover plot ever concocted.  Reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) links up with a guy that seems to be the only serviceable pilot in the galaxy, Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law), to find out why huge robots and some sweet-looking enemy fighters are shredding New York City.

The look of "Sky Captain", and really the first 30 minutes in general, are fantastic.  Conran has done a great job of capturing how those old-school adventure films used to look while doing a great job of using today's technology (and a shitload of blue screens) to match the light levels of some of the great noir of the past.  Sure, you take notice quite early that no one really seems right for their parts, and the dialogue is going to take a major beating by anyone that has to suffer through some of these poor lines.  But, in terms of PG-rated goodness, "Sky Captain" looks promising through a second airplane shootout about a half-hour into it.

Then, a plot advancement takes us to the Himalayas, and during this sequence you can literally feel the film beginning to die right in your nacho-laden lap.  Suddenly, "Sky Captain" is giving you the feeling that you are in for a long day, and that the trailer you think you saw with airplane follies and shootouts with fighter pilots and witty dialogue and thrilling surprises was all a big mirage.  The grating feeling that represents the Paltrow character--a witless blonde that is of the "I'm going to make every single mistake possible to make this adventure interesting" caricature (kind of like the little kid from "The Missing" last year)--makes you raise your hands every time she makes a mistake that nearly gets everyone killed.  Suddenly, we have a romantic angle to negotiate with a former flame (Angelina Jolie) that happens to be able to help Sky Cap take down Totenkopf.  Suddenly, the special effects become so prevalent that you find yourself asking your buddy,

"Man, couldn't he have just shot that outside without the fucking special effects?"

or, worse,

"Hey, isn't that Dagobah?"

when we get down the road in this film; "Sky Captain" has a script that can politely be called Delinquent at the Famous Script Library, because you can see it ripping from a few different blockbusters of the last 30 years in developing its near-empty pit of clichéd moments.  Its ending is so bad that I actually started booing (my friends Raleigh, Wes and Max can attest to this) before it was even over; the film's use of the hot Bai Ling is so inane that I'm damn near buying a plane ticket to see director Conran myself to assess what the fuck he was thinking.

The six people that saw this with me were as unhappy as I was when we left the theater, but again, no one can argue with the look of the film, especially early on as it sticks to a 1930's-style adventure flick.  But, the shit hits the fan often after that initial happiness, and when you drop $10 on something, you want to see some results.  "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is not worth the hype you might think you are seeing in your local newspapers.

Rating:  Rental


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09