Sometimes it almost seems like there’s a whole genre of “INDIANA JONES-TYPE” pictures – movies that look back nostalgically to those golden days when George Lucas looked back nostalgically to those other golden days. THE MUMMY is one example of this horrible type of picture.
I bet some individuals consider SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW to be in that same category, but I think it’s different. It doesn’t have that same third generation xerox feel, because this movie actually feels alot more like the old serials and pulp novels and crap that influenced the genre than the STAR WARS pictures and what not do. The technology used is very modern (apparently it was all shot with actors in front of blue screens and everything else is computered in there) but there’s not a whole lot of modernizing going on here. It takes place in some alternate 1930s where THE WIZARD OF OZ exists but the Hindenburg never blew up and some British fighter jet hot shot named Joseph Sky Captain defends America and the world from evil science with his “army for hire” and wacky inventor sidekick.
I know what you’re thinking: what the shit kind of dumbass 2004 idea is it to do a whole movie with actors and bluescreens. Well I thought the same thing but watching the movie, you don’t really think about it that much. I think what makes it work is that it’s not trying to look completely real, it’s trying to look old fashioned. So you don’t really care that it looks artificial. It’s like the modern equivalent of a movie shot all on a soundstage, like MARY POPPINS but flying in jets instead of umbrellas. It doesn’t have to look real, it just has to look good.
And because the whole movie is computers, they are able to cram alot of things in there. I mean this movie has every single god damn thing little boys like. We’re talking giant robots left and right, an island of dinosaurs, jet planes of course, a rocket ship, some monsters, some capes, a jetpack or two, a laser gun, a tough lady with an eyepatch, some underwater business. Okay there might not be cowboys in there or pokemon. Or pizza and gameboy. But there’s everything else. All done with the computers.
And it’s so sincere about its corny old fashionedness. It’s not fuckin around. When an army of robots attacks New York, they don’t shoot it like ARMAGEDDON or AMERICAN GODZILLA would. They shoot it like the old days. When Gwyneth Paltrow is walking underneath the robots, she doesn’t turn into Linda Hamilton or the gal from THE MATRIX. She just waddles along on her pumps like Lois Lane on the old spider-man cartoons or whichever one she was. But somehow she gets away.
The opening of the movie, which involves zepellins and a mysterious unseen villain following a scientist with a heavy accent, is so retro it’s almost like they hired Guy Maddin to do a summer event movie.
There is no bullet time in this movie. There is no pop music in this movie. There are no celebrity cameos except for Laurence Olivier, which I can forgive since the dude is dead. Not every day you see a zombie of Laurence Olivier’s caliber.
Now I gotta be honest, there are things I don’t understand about Sky Captain. Like, how is one guy in a jet supposed to be such a great hero. I know he punches people once or twice, and figures things out occasionally, but it seems like his main thing is flying a jet. But that’s part of why it’s so cool, because it’s so uncool, the guy is just a plane flyer. Flying a plane. That’s his whole thing.
[review never finished – SUCKERS!]
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.