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May 07, 2005

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW

Cinema Snooze
Only Angelina Jolie Will Wipe Sleep From Your Eyes
By Cole Smithey

Sky_captainThis overwrought CGI snoozefest visually brags about how painstaking it was for its filmmakers to construct its lush imagery. But the visuals only serve as so much cinematic wallpaper for Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Giovanni Ribisi to stand in front of. The hollow script will leave you cold. You can check off references to movies like "Planet Of The Apes," "Metropolis," "Star Wars," and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" as they pass by under a gauze of vintage modern trappings in a grungy deco design. Jude Law plays an uber pilot savior to a sepia tone world attacked by giant robots. Gwyneth Paltrow plays an ambitious journalist and arm’s- length love interest to Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Law). Planes fly into the ocean to transform into submarines while some unseen scientist (read deceased) attempts to put two animals of every species on a giant silver rocket before destroying the world.

Every time a director uses Computer-Generated-Imagery to a greater extent than it has been used before, critics and filmmakers clamor about how the technology will irreparably transform cinema. The threats never come to fruition—see George Lucas’s "The Phantom Menace."

In this regard "Sky Captain" is no different. Writer/director Kerry Conran filmed "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" entirely against a blue screen, and digitally created the actors’ surroundings after filming their performances. Conran’s clinical approach is evident too in his script, which feels cold and over-sampled. While it’s true that the special effects and period costumes compensate for some of the monochromatic visual drone of the movie, the story is strictly one-dimensional.

The ever-vacuous Gwyneth Paltrow is a perfect blank slate for Conran’s ‘40s-styled cartoon version of idealized womanhood. Polly Perkins (Paltrow) becomes a damsel in distress after a secret meeting at Radio City Music Hall with Dr. Jennings (Trevor Baxter). The doctor is an imperiled German scientist seeking her help. Polly suddenly finds herself running from giant iron robots as they stomp their way down Manhattan streets, crushing every Packard in sight. Sky Captain gets the SOS call on his airplane radio and before you can say "911" he’s playing ace-fighter-pilot in his P-40 Warhawk to rescue New York. Polly and the Captain have a torrid romantic history. It seems that Captain Sullivan dumped Polly three years ago in China when she sabotaged his plane.The blueprints she possesses are just the ticket to rekindle their strangely asexual affair.

Skyangelina

After Sullivan’s airbase is attacked by bat-like planes, his good-guy mechanic Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) is left to fight off the evil foes while Sullivan and Polly fly off in search of an evil Dr. Totenkopf, the man responsible for the mechanical combatants. The centerpiece of the movie, and the only reason to see it, is when the couple arrives at Angelina Jolie’s air-floating Royal Air Force station. Franky (Jolie) is a black-eye-patch wearing dominatrix who shares more lust with Sky Captain Sullivan than Polly ever will. To say that Jolie steals the movie with the few scenes she has is an understatement. Angelina Jolie is the movie. Once her character shows off her bravado flying skills to make an opening for Mr. Sky Captain, the movie slips down a slippery slope of childish serial cartoon fetishism that resides in a Michael Jackson brand of geeky naïveté.

"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is a war movie without subtext. Its deliberate lack of moral coding and pandering effort to please audiences with a bogus vintage cotton candy pulp is more than a little nauseating.

Rated PG. 107 mins. (C-) (Two Stars)

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