‘Sky Captain’ thrills, with some drawbacks

By Tracy Douglas

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, directed by Kerry Conran, proves to be an interesting movie.

Starring Jude Law as the Sky Captain and Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins, the movie deals with a rouge German scientist, Dr. Totenkopf, bent on destroying the world.

The movie opens with the Hindenburg 3 docking in New York City. Arriving on the Hindenburg is Dr. Vargas, a member of a secret unit in World War I that was forced to do experiments, has some vials and is being followed.

Polly works as the Metro reporter at the Chronicle, an ambiguous newspaper in New York City. She is on the trail of missing German scientists.

After going on a lead to the Radio City Music Hall, she is caught in the middle of the robotic invasion of New York. Sky Captain (Joe Sullivan) has to come to the rescue of the city.

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It is soon revealed that Joe and Polly once had a relationship. The action ensues from there because Sky Captain runs an army for hire that seeks out Dr. Totenkopf.

The film is unique in that it was shot entirely on green screen where the background is all green or blue and can incorporate computer effects. The computer-generated images effect resembles the silent films of the 10’s and 20’s. Filmed on nitrate, the images of that time period looked as though they glowed on the screen. Likewise, in Sky Captain, the images glow.

The setting of the film is a little unclear. The clothing dates it to the 30’s or 40’s, but the date is never stated. The Wizard of Oz is shown at one point. So that dates it to some time after 1939. It is also unclear whether or not World War II has any effect on the world of the film.

There are many references to The Wizard of Oz. Totenkopf’s face appears in a hologram before the door to his office in his lair, like that of The Wizard of Oz. Indeed, the film could be considered a post-modern take on that classic.

Polly is an archetype of journalists, always after the story.

“I want the story, Joe,” she says when jumping into his plane to go to Joe’s base. Joe is an archetype of the suave hero, always coming to save the day and win the girl.

Joe’s plane is filled with gadgets, including some that allow it to become a submarine. In this respect the plot becomes like a James Bond movie. Joe has gadgets and is like the famous spy that goes after the bad guy.

The acting may be a little cheesy, but do people really expect life-changing acting from an action movie?

Sky Captain takes its style and themes from the sci-fi movies of the ’40s and ’50s. The Germans are the bad guys, and the Americans/British are the good guys. Robotic, alien-like creatures invade Cities of the world.

The style looks like a comic book. With a journalist as a main character, it is strongly reminiscent of comic book superheroes. It reminds viewers that the American comic books were fighting the Nazis before the country went to war.

Some people worry that films made entirely on green screen will ruin cinema or put set designers and painters out of work. That is doubtful. Green screen-centric films would be more of a genre and style rather than a norm for every movie.