Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) [PG] ****

This is a classic story of good versus evil. Mad scientist Dr. Totenkopf (archival footage of Sir Laurence Olivier), has given up on humanity, and has decided to destroy the Earth and all of its inhabitants. Determined to foil his devious plans are Sky Captain Joe Sullivan (Jude Law) and his assistant Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), along with intrepid news reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and British air ace Franky (Angelina Jolie).

The use of contrasting retro and futuristic elements in technology, architecture and fashion, along with the high-contrast, muted-color lighting, serve to create a strange environment, as though the viewer has entered a parallel world. Joe carries a retro six-shot revolver, while Dex wields a futuristic, metal-melting ray gun. Joe pilots a retro propeller-driven, amphibious fighter aircraft, while Dr. Totenkopf's evil minions fly sleek, futuristic, movable-wing jet aircraft. Polly wears a retro suit, trench coat and hat, while Dr. Totenkopf's evil female assistant (Bai Ling) wears futuristic black garb and carries a death-dealing staff.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow uses features from a number of other films that successfully combined retro and futuristic elements. The dark, threatening urban scenes are reminiscent of Gotham City in Batman; the fetid jungle swamps with their mechanical monsters conjure up memories of the planet Dagoba from The Empire Strikes Back; the snowy Himalayan peaks and the valley of Shangri-La are straight out of Lost Horizon; Dr. Totenkopf's rocket ship pays homage to Destination Moon; and the entire serial-adventure, globe-trotting, evil-Nazi feel of the film is reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Roger Ebert, film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, described the film thusly: In its heedless energy and joy, it reminded me of how I felt the first time I saw 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' It's like a film that escaped from the imagination directly onto the screen, without having to pass through reality along the way. If you enjoy highly stylized visuals, and are not demanding where plot, dialogue, soundtrack and romantic chemistry are concerned, you will likely find this film very entertaining. 

Labels: action, adventure, mystery, sci-fi, thriller

Internet Movie Database
Metacritic 64/100
Tomatometer (critics=72, viewers=46)

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