January 10, 2008

Mini-review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

(CCLaP publishes mini-reviews of both books and movies on a regular basis, none lasting more than a few hundred words. Click here for the full list.)

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
Written and directed by Kerry Conran

Why is it, I sometimes wonder, that the Chicago public library system seems to be filled with movies that originally received huge amounts of hype when they first came out, but then turned out to not deserve all the hype they first got? This is certainly the case, for example, with a movie I recently ran across at my neighborhood branch, 2004's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which has one of the strangest stories behind its creation as you'll ever hear concerning a Hollywood blockbuster; essentially a high-end recreation of an old '30s sci-fi "retro future" serial, done using a cutting-edge computer technique that employs almost no physical sets or props, the entire project got its start way back in the '80s as a short experiment on computer nerd Kerry Conran's freaking OS7 Mac, using technology that took years and years to render just a few minutes of what this classic-comics lover had in mind. But lo and behold, those few minutes of footage ended up getting shopped around in Los Angeles by an agent with good connections; and before you knew it, not only had the non-industry Conran been hired to helm a multi-million-dollar feature-length version of his wildly time-consuming experiment, but such Hollywood stars as Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Giovanni Ribisi and Angelina Jolie had been hired to star in it.

As a result, a lot of hype got generated about Sky Captain when it first came out, about it being "The Future Of Filmmaking!" and "A Breathless Roller Coaster Ride!" and all the rest, which of course led to mostly letdown and disappointment on the behalf of the nerdy fanboys who first went out and saw it (including me -- yeah, I saw it in the theatre too). Re-approaching it this week on DVD, though, I realized that you do this film a disservice by approaching it in "The Future Of Filmmaking" terms; that in reality it's not much more than the most kickass Max Fleischer cartoon ever made, not to mention a miracle that it ever got finished at all, given that essentially a first-time non-industry nerd was put in charge of the entire thing. If you look at it in more modest terms like that, you'll find that Sky Captain really is quite the fun little old-fashioned action-adventure flick; a loving and sometimes winking look at the mores of a pre-WWII world, a world where scientific geniuses round up private armies and live out in the middle of the ocean on secret islands. The entirety of the movie is not much more than eye-candy, and you're sure to be disappointed if you expect anything else from it; as long as you go into it with low expectations, though, you're sure to be pleasantly entertained by this cutting-edge throwback to a type of adventure tale that simply no longer exists.

Out of 10: 7.3

Filed by Jason Pettus at 10:05 AM, January 10, 2008. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |