aye, aye captain

Tonight we went to see Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow. We've been waiting for it and hoping it would be worth seeing. The bits and pieces of the previews I'd seen intrigued me since they had the Metropolis/Dark City look I love if it's done well. And the story looked like it might be a version of those science fiction space operas I sucked down and loved as a kid, like Asimov's "Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids" and Heinlein's "Space Cadet."

Plus, Roger Ebert gave it four stars and praised it like crazy. It got a decentish 67 on MetaCritic. So maybe worth a shot at $9 per ticket.

Well. It was fun. But it is so flawed it's almost tragic. After we watched the movie, Stanley said, "Ebert should cut back on his prozac."

skycaptain.jpegThe good: Jude Law (yum!), Giovanni Ribisi, the robots, the beginning. I even like Angelina Jolie's reprise of Lara Crotch, um, I mean her portrayal of the tough Frankie, girl commander with the bad British accent. Gwyneth Paltrow's clothes and hair.

The bad: Gwyneth Paltrow's acting, interesting characters barely fleshed out, pointless characters, the length, the plot, the premise, the look, the clichs ...

My misgivings began with the opening titles. The typography of the titles was just all wrong for a movie supposedly set in the 30s. The font used would've been appropriate for a movie evoking the silent film era, but most certainly not the 30s. The movie title rendering worked well -- just none of the rest of it. (If I could choose a new career, I would be a creator of movie titles and credits.) It's probably an odd obsession I have, I know, but it's pretty clear that someone didn't put enough thought and research into this and it should've been caught before the movie was released.

The setup: scientists are mysteriously disappearing, big huge robots land in Mid-town Manhattan and begin kicking cars around, intrepid girl reporter is hot on the trail of the story and meets an endangered scientist in Radio City Music Hall during a showing of The Wizard of Oz. [Comment: This was was a scene that should have been re-thought and recreated since the viewer gets so focused on watching TWoO (Glinda is arriving via bubble in this particular scene) that the characters in this scene, Intrepid Girl Reporter and Endangered Scientist, were annoyances and I missed what they were talking about.]

IGR leaves the Radio City when air raid sirens go off and goes running down one of the avenues dodging robot feet and trying not to get smushed while taking photos of 'em. Stanley and I both noticed that she ran over a grill in high heels and did NOT break her ankle. I knew then that I had to turn the "suspend disbelief" dial up a lot higher. Meanwhile, Sky Captain, by himself, is attempting to shoot down the hundred or so five-story-high robots with his ack ack guns, or whatever.

Next thing you know, SC is landing his trusty plane on some island on some mountains within driving distance of New York City -- can't quite figure out where since, as far as I know, there are no mountains on the coast around NYC. Not even in New Jersey. There we meet Dex Dearborn, boy genius who expresses amazement by saying, "Shazam." Then these bird robots attack the island, and some tall skinny robots with tentacles, all directed by some Mysterious Woman who's dressed looks like a rubber fetishist's wet dream. Oh, and IGR manages to show up too. Of course.

The robots and Mysterious Woman were sent by the evil Dr. Totenkopf who is stealing generators all over the world. So, they have to find the evil Dr. What's really creepy is Dr. T is played by Sir Laurence Olivier, who's been dead about 15 years. (Translate Dr. T's name if you want to figure out the entire movie.)

And off they go. I won't say more because it would be too tedious to recount it all -- besides, you'll have to get your spoilers elsewhere. To say there are plot jumps is a genuine understatement. How they get from a uranium mine in Tibet to naked in a bed in Shangri-La is never explained, for example. And how people disembarked from the Hindenburg III when it was tethered to the Empire State Building is never shown, which disappointed the hell out of me because I've been wondering for years how they were planning to do that before the idea of dirigibles blowing up over Fifth Avenue struck city planners as less than ideal (yes, the Empire State Building was built with a mooring for blimps. It's true).

The director, Kerry Conran, originally planned to make this movie in black and white and, I read somewhere, only colorized it at the last moment because the studio didn't think people would go see a BW movie. I think colorizing it was a mistake since it's interesting at first, but annoying after about five minutes. All of the actors look like they've been resurrected from the dead, and IGR's lips look like dried blood. The lighting and robots were designed for BW and this movie would've been gorgeous if Conran had stuck to his guns. I might have enjoyed it more, too, instead of noticing the colorization to the detriment of noticing the plot. Oh wait, maybe not.

Some reviewers have said this movie is kind of like Raiders of the Lost Ark, in tone if not in actual plot. I disagree. The robots and the underground factory were more evocative of Metropolis, especially the Mysterious Killer Woman, but the plot was pure Star Wars. I swear I saw one scene back in 1977. And a much better actress for the IGR part would have been Kathleen Turner 20 years ago, or Drew Barrymore. Paltrow just sucked.

The plot for this movie is too thin (not to mention flimsy) and the gimmicks are too heavy-handed to be able to call this a good movie. It's interesting. And fun if you can dispense with the "yeah, right" reaction every five minutes. It's a badly cobbled combination of hundreds of science fiction pulps, comic books, and matine movies -- there is not one line of fresh dialog with the exception of the very last line (which was perfect). Definitely not worth full price. And expect the kiddies to have nightmares from a couple of the scenes.
Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 09/19/04 at 03:39 AM
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