Thursday, February 24, 2005

Sky Captain

I finally got round to watching Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow last night on DVD. I'd hoped to see this on the big screen but it never happened. I'm sure that some of the film's impact has been lost seeing it on a small screen. Visually it is stunning and if you have fond childhood memories of watching Flash Gordon or any of the old serials like it, then there's enough in this movie to entertain you. That's not to say that it's perfect- it's far from it. For one the casting/acting is pretty bad- Jude Law just doesn't cut it as a hero, Gwyneth Paltrow is astonishingly wooden and unlikeable as Polly Perkins and I just can't buy Giovanni Ribisi as the super-intelligent side-kick. Perhaps with a slightly better script the acting would have been better but as it stands the characters seem like nothing more than another CGI effect. And one they scrimped on at that.

Law's Sky Captain doesn't cut the mustard as an action hero- there's nothing special about him at all and his character isn't given much of an opportunity to do anything particularly heroic- he gets beaten up a couple of times and he flies a fighter plane but doesn't actually do much fighting. Mostly he flies away from other aircraft . Also, he doesn't seem to be all that bright- the plot has to be explained to him by other characters. His big deal is that he flies a plane which has a few James Bond gadgets built in. Whoop-dee-doo. In this retro-futuristic world, I'd expect Sky Captain to fly a kick-ass jet at the very least. If Ribisi can built a ray gun (which is very cool) then why can't he make the Sky Captain fly something equally wonderful?

Aside from the not very heroic hero, we're lumped with Paltrow's reporter character who is about as tough and feisty as a wet blanket. Her leaden acting doesn't help of course but I found myself not giving a damn about her at all- why is she in the movie? Well, apart from explaining to the Sky Captain what's going on, she doesn't really serve any function at all. True, she saves him once but apart from that she does very little- there's no snappy dialogue between the pair (which is I think what they were aiming for- perhaps they should have watched the Hudsucker Proxy and then had Jennifer Jason Leigh reprise her role from that) and she doesn't even fulfill the role of damsel in distress.

Perhaps the director/writer forgot that the whole point of the old serials was that they were exciting- every fifteen minutes or so one or other of the main characters would be in a life-threatening situation. That's exactly what's missing here- Sky Captain has some great classic references, from the giant robot death rays (the sound effect is lifted from the War of the Worlds) to the image of Godzilla in a newspaper, but what it lacks is excitement. The film just plods along with no sense of real danger and with no characters in particular to care about. Sky Captain's plane gets hit at one point and a stream of smoke trails from the wing but no one seems to care- so the audience doesn't either. The plot's a bit clunky but that could have been overlooked if the film had contained a sufficient amount of danger and excitement. It's a shame really because there are some nice creative touches- from Polly's news story being shown on the window behind her desk as she types to the Sky Captain's plane flying through cloud over a map to show where he's going. Added to that the whole concept of the film was superb- a retro-futuristic New York being attacked by giant robots fought off by the valiant Sky Captain. To screw up a thrilling setting like that takes some doing.

On the whole I've got to say that this is pretty much a visual treat- the digital backgrounds and design are superb but that's about all there is to it. The plot is a tad silly- take the big threat at the end of the movie for instance, it's so ridiculous as to be completely unbelievable- flying giant robots I can accept but that- no way! The acting is sub-standard and the casting was just wrong. I don't know of anyone who can buy Jude Law as an action hero (my Other Half's views was, "This isn't fair, you get to watch Angelina Jolie and I've only got Jude Law"). Hell, I could kick his scrawny ass. But if you can ignore that the film is entertaining, albeit in a lost opportunity sort of way. Maybe Hollywood should plan a remake of this instead of another classic movie which is just fine as it is.

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