Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
There's a great temptation to say "Sky Cap to Gate 63 with a wheelchair," but I'll resist it. "Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow" is, well, cute and occasionally charming in its retro way, but unlike its model, the Indiana Jones trilogy, the writing - by writer/director Kerry Conran - is just a bit too flat to sustain it as the comic adventure it should be.
"Sky Cap" - well, I will say it, is the story of how Jude Law, as Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan, and Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins, news photographer and former lover of Joe, manage to save the world from the dreaded Dr. Totenkopf (played by the ghostly image of Sir Laurence Olivier, in old footage of his face that's been badly lip-synced for the film). They're aided by the resourceful Giovanni Ribisi as Dex, Joe's faithful helpmeet, whose mechanical and electronic skills put James Bond's Q to shame; and by Captain Francesca 'Franky' Cook, in the form of an eyepatched Angelina Jolie, who also was once Joe's lover.
The film is populated by incessant waves of giant flying, swimming and marching robots, all controlled by Dr. Totenkopf, each wave of which must be beaten back or escaped from by our heroes. The year is 1939, which we know because "The Wizard of Oz" is playing at Radio City Music Hall (over at the Roxy it's "Wuthering Heights.") The world's great scientists are disappearing, one after the other. Where are they going? It's a mystery. Our heroes' journey will take them hither and yon, including a visit to Shangri-La, before they solve the puzzle.
As you probably know by now, almost everything in the film except the actors and their props was created by computer: the sets, the robots, the great airships, the terror-inducing scenes as the monsters invade midtown New York. The actors all worked in front of a bluescreen background that was later filled in by graphic artists. The P-40 fighter plane that Joe pilots, with the painted Flying Tiger teeth adorning it for emphasis, looks pretty real, though.
The period feel was achieved in part by photographing everything in a muted grey, blue or brown, which gives a claustrophobic feeling to the movie, because on the rare occasions when we see the sky it too is toned way back; no fresh air for these heroes. Law and Paltrow are expert actors, who know how to underplay their lines and utilize very small gestures to make a big point. I invite all would-be movie stars to study their performances for acting tips. They are so good, in fact, that we spend half the film wishing their lines - and the plot - were better. I will say, though, that the last line is brilliant. My compliments to Messrs. Conran and Law for that one.