Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Review by
Sunday Cook

Director: Kerry Conran
Writer: Kerry Conran

  • Michael Gambon — Morris Paley, editor
  • Angelina Jolie — Francesca "Franky" Cook, Captain
  • Jude Law — Joe Sullivan, Sky Captain
  • Bai Ling — mysterious woman
  • Laurence Olivier — Dr. Totenkopf  (archival)
  • Gwyneth Paltrow — Polly Perkins, reporter
  • Giovanni Ribisi — Dex Dearborn, super-tech

Universal: 2004

106 minutes October 2004

The world of tomorrow is indeed here, at least where movie-making is concerned. Last weekend I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow starring Jude Law (Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan), Gwyneth Paltrow (Polly Perkins), and Angelina Jolie (Captain Franky Cook). The cast alone was enough to get me into the theatre, but on top of that was the innovative way the movie was made by first time writer and director Kerry Conran. The entire background of the movie is computerized, while the actors filmed all of their scenes against a blue screen. The actors were then seamlessly and realistically added onto the computerized background. This resulted in a fantastical setting that simply could not be created in the real world. I infinitely prefer this technique to that of Final Fantasy, the digitally animated movie that came out a few summers ago where both the background and the characters were animated. Nothing can compare to seeing the actual Gwyneth Paltrow (and not just her voice) trade barbs and glares with Jude Law while fleeing giant robots.

The plot of the movie is more of a teaser than anything else. It matters, but not so much. After robots attack America and countries all over the world killing scientists and absconding with natural resources, Joe and ace reporter Polly (lovers, estranged for the past three years) reluctantly work together to find out who's behind it What this leads to is wonderful to watch but is definitely more Flash Gordon than 2001. The two reasons you want to see this movie are the visuals and the characters. It blends the best elements of the sci-fi and romantic-comedy genres. Not an easy task, but Conran makes it look easy in Sky Captain.

The film is so visually dense that a second viewing is demanded. Previews and posters give you an idea of what to expect — a Gotham-like city in the late 1930s where everything is just a little grander than it should be. Blimps hover in the air, art deco buildings scrape the sky, curvy cars glide through the streets. But there is so much more — a trek to Nepal and an unexpected visit to a mythical city, to name a couple.

Besides the amazing science-fiction visuals, Conran has obviously spent a lot of time watching screwball comedies and action-adventure movies from the 1930s and 1940s. He nails the witty banter of the era and the love / hate relationship between the two romantic leads. If you're a fan of His Girl Friday, you'll love Sky Captain for the interaction between Joe and Polly alone. Law is dashing but doesn't take himself too seriously — we finally have the true heir to Cary Grant's throne. And Paltrow, except for her Veronica Lake hair, reminds you of Lauren Bacall in her heyday. The two have a great chemistry, fabulous dialogue and are oodles of fun to watch. Jolie plays an eye patch-wearing commander whose past has crossed with Joe's, and whose role may surprise you.

The film has many humorous moments — Polly agonizing over how to use the last two shots of film in her camera as the visuals get more and more astounding, Joe and Polly's various reasons for breaking up, and the last line of the film — it's one that will go down in the record books and was the perfect cap to a wonderful movie. Sky Captain will definitely make you excited about just what the future holds.


© 2004 C. Brooks Kurtz

First appeared on
C. Brooks Kurtz's blog

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
official site


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