9.18.2004

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Good pulpy fun. Often, previews compact the only worthwhile moments of the film. Not so this time. The preview [other clips also available] made it look terribly flat with an unimaginative story and cheesiness maximized (especially that eye patch), but Angelina Jolie fit right into the scheme of things. Reverse the commentary by Ty Burr at Boston Globe and you'll have my sentiments. Burr appears to have missed the humorous caprice.

Most reviewers are quite rightly impressed by the CGI--the setting was well rendered, evoking this late 1930s ideal. Burr's complaints--"derivative" and "a hit parade of cliffhanger cliches"--indicate he failed to understand what the title or preview we're trying to tell him. This is a retro-film updating the old film serials popular in my father's generation. In fact, I was hoping for more of the little moments evoking the era's emblematic nuances apart from what it brought to life so well: the architecture of the robots and sundry scientific equipment, the apparel and hairstyles, even the little radio waves and the sound of robots' lasers piped directly from War of the Worlds. Charming--all of it.

However, the plot and characters weren't quite period enough for me. Not that I minded the sexual scenarios (tame and only vaguely sexual), but the plot events themselves--while never dull--didn't quite ring the familiar peal of that cinematic period.

Gwenyth Paltrow's character comes closest to being a leading heroine of the era--with that flavor of spunk that attains a coy sexiness without resorting to blatant sexuality and is rarely found in our present day. Angelina Jolie doesn't deliver anything memorably, yet it is rendered capably--perhaps closer to the leading male role than Jude Law although I cannot point why except maybe Law does not have a classic masculinity in his appeal. Still, the sexual tension between Law and Paltrow works.

On the other hand--please pardon the blasphemy, O, children of the serial generation--the plot and characters fare better than most serials. To avoid spoiling the plot of a film that largely hinges upon such revelations, here's the background scenario that begins the story with a bang: Scientists have gone missing, giant robots are attacking Metropolis, and the plucky reporter, Polly Perkins [Paltrow], has a mysterious rendevous at Radio City Hall with a man who has a secret to divulge.

Allison Benedikt of Metromix and Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times both hold similar sentiments. Ebert, however, gives too much plot away for my taste.

The movie site appears to have a free game online to download.

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