Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

directed by Kerry Conran

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow poster  
Sometime in the forties, in an alternate and less colour-saturated reality, Polly Perkins is chasing a story. Scientists have been disappearing, and she wants to know why. It all seems to be connected with the giant robots that have been attacking cities around the world, plundering raw materials and power.

Risking getting stomped on by robots the size of skyscrapers is all in a day's work for Polly, who cares more about her camera than her own personal safety. Fortunately Joe Sullivan, aka Sky Captain, is around to save her. With his uber-plane and secret base of operations he's a daredevil pilot and a true hero, part way between Biggles and the Thunderbirds.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is shot almost entirely in a sort of semi-monochrome. This effect bathes everything in a dreamy, soft light that tends to highlight Paltrow's perfectly-coiffed hair and which makes the most ordinary scenes seem glamorous. But as far as visual effects go, this film is far from ordinary. Although there's a forties style to this movie, and even the robots have that large, clunky design that you tend to see in robots from old comics, the special effects are fantastic. There are dinosaurs, submarine dogfights, scenes of massive destruction, and more that I can't say without spoiling the surprise. It's a feast for the eyes.

The robot attacks are connected somehow with Dr Totenkopf, a reclusive scientific genius who hasn't been seen for years. Something momentous and terrible is about to happen, the sort of crisis that will take a heroic pilot and a nosy reporter to fix. It's up to Sky Captain to save the world.

Sky Captain has the help of Dex, the technical whizz who Joe talks to as though he's some kind of dog. It's "Good boy, Dex" whenever he rolls over and builds the next awesome piece of technology to save everyone's skin. Franky Cook, played by Angelina Jolie, is also on hand to lead an amphibious squadron and perform some aerial or underwater acrobatics. Jolie doesn't get an awful lot of time on screen, but when she's present she stirs everything up and keeps the story from becoming insipid.

Polly demands that Joe takes her along with him, in spite of the danger and her lack of suitable clothing. They may bicker, but it's clear from the start that they love each other so it's not hard to see where the romantic interest in this film is going to be. The plot is a little formulaic, and the movie has elements of Indiana Jones, Godzilla and Thunderbirds, as well as references to The Wizard of Oz. These reminders of past movies don't overshadow Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow however, because it has a style all its own.

This steampunk adventure is more of a work of art than a great narrative. It's beautiful to look at and enjoyable while it lasts, easy to understand rather than deep and intellectual. There's some dry humour, although the chemistry between Polly and Joe seems a touch passionless at times. Nevertheless this is a worthwhile film, a fun piece of techno-nostalgia that should keep audiences entertained for a few hours.

Film Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Films

  Kids     Steampunk

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Empire State cover    

Empire State by Adam Christopher
Superheroes, robots and strange memory blocks baffle a private eye in this retro mystery.

Mutant Chronicles cover    

Mutant Chronicles by Simon Hunter
In the future, a massive and ancient machine is unearthed that spawns mutants intent only on destroying humanity.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson