"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow"
A Movie Review by Gary Chew
No doubt about it. The surreal has become whats normal in the presidential
election year of 2004. Batman just scaled
Palace. CNN covered it live. And now, Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are
on the trail of Dr. Totenkopf, played by, yes, Laurence Olivier in Sky
Captain and the World of Tomorrow. It opens September 17th.
(Whoops, theres one of those controversial superscript t-hs.)
But, back to facts.
The great Olivier has passed on, as we know, but Kerry Conran, who conceived,
wrote and directed this whiz-bang retro-futuristic action-packed sci-fi saga,
a la Fritz Lang, used actual images of Olivier, placing the screen idol in
the role of Dr. Totenkopf (which loosely translated from the German means
"deadhead".) The film is very serious, but it doesnt take itself
Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law
Its 1939 and several famous scientists across the world have been
vanishing, so Gotham Chronicle reporter, Polly Perkins (Paltrow) and ace
aviator Joe Sky Captain Sullivan (Law) selflessly go on patrol
around the globe to find out why. Taking them where they must go, Sky Captain
pilots the same kind of craft John Wayne flew in Flying Tigers,
only Sky's Curtiss P-40 does so much more. Youll just have to see it
to believe it.
Sky Captain's boat
Giant, mechanical monster-robots, strange, metallic aircraft with flapping
wings and other incredibly scary retro-tech stuff have been remotely programmed
by Dr. Totenkopf to foil our noble aviator and reporter. And when all seems
lost in The World of Tomorrow, Angelina Jolie (in English accent)
comes to Skys and Pollys aid. Jolie, in a cameo role as Captain
Francesca "Franky" Cook, navigates a humongous high-altitude aircraft carrier
proudly sporting a Union Jack insignia, but the garb in which she and her
all-female air force militarize is strictly
As a classical music buff, I sat waiting to hear either some Prokofiev or
Stravinsky who were composing furiously at that time, but what was on the
soundtrack was a lavish, splashy Hollywood score written by Edward Shearmur,
who, I think has heard music composed by John Williams before somewhere.
The real deal here in this movie, though, are the special effects.
I smell an Oscar, at least, in this regard for Sky Captain. Creator
Conran shot all the live actor scenes in front of what the movie industry
calls a blue screen. (Its sort of what we used to call
Chroma Key at KOTV, in the days of yore when Claytons neck would disappear
on camera if he wore a blue shirt. Remember?) Conran put everything else
in the frame digitally, after the fact, around the flesh and bone actors,
including some great slices of old movies that many will recognize. We
arent in Kansas anymore, Toto, from girl star Judy Garland is
one example. Conran has also put his film in that dreary, noirish,
black/white/sepia/washed-out color thats so in.
Making deft, short appearances are Michael Gambon, as Chronicle Editor, Morris
Paley (CBS-connected?) and Giovanni Ribisi as Skys indefatigable sidekick
tech-guy (get this), Dex Dearborn.
Ah-ha, now we know! A character given the name, Dearborn, must have been
created by a person from Michigan. Yes, Kerry Conran is from dare I
say it? Flint!
Did I mention that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is not
a political film?