Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

 

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Written & Directed by Kerry Conran

2004


Cast:

Gwyneth Paltrow

Jude Law

Giovanni Ribisi

Angelina Jolie

Ling Bai

Laurence Olivier

Michael Gambon


Studio:

Theatrical: Brooklyn Films & Riff Raff-Blue Flower

Video: Paramount Home Entertainment


Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Feature film: 1080p

Codec: MPEG-2

Disc Size: 24.25 GB

Feature Size: 18.97 GB

Bit Rate: 18.37 Mbps

Runtime: 106 minutes

Chapters: 17


Audio:

English DTS 5.1

English Dolby Digital 5.1

French Dolby Digital 5.1

Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

English Dolby Digital 2.0

English Dolby Digital 2.0


Subtitles:

English, English SDH, French and Spanish


Extras:

• Commentary track by Producer Jon Avnet

• Commentary track by Creator/Director Kerry Conran, Production Designer Kevin Conran, Animation Director Steve Yamamoto, and Visual Effects Supervisor Darin Hollings

  1. Brave New World

  2. The Art of World of Tomorrow

  3. Anatomy of a Virtual Scene

• Original six-minute promotional short film

  1. Deleted Scenes

  2. Gag Reel

  3. Theatrical Trailers in HD


Presentation:

Standard Blu-ray case

Release Date: October 13, 2006



Comment

I imagine everyone has their favorite moments to rag about in Sky Captain.  The movie invites it so.  And I just can’t help myself.  There is one that I find really bothersome and one that merely puzzles me: The first is that Sky Captain, our action hero of the day and first line of defense in case of trouble, has known about these mechanical invaders for years yet it never occurs to anyone at his outpost, located just beyond the city, to have planes up in the air when an aerial attack was imminent.  So when his base is wiped out following the invaders' initial attack on the city, I did not think this was a foreshadowing of Pearl Harbor, I thought "What an Idiot!" - and promptly lost all sympathy.


     


The second is not nearly as troublesome, but it is nevertheless inexplicable: After the first attack on NYC, the newspapers read: March 13, 1939, yet the three movies playing in town are The Wizard of Oz, Wuthering Heights, and Kings Row, which had opening dates of August 17 and April 13 (both in 1939) and April 18 (1942).  I can understand the use of The Wizard of Oz for the sake of irony, but the others – why them, when plenty of other recognizable titles could have been chosen that would have actually been playing in New York on that date.  In short: why set the movie in a specific time in world history, with all that time means to its audience, if you’re not going to be faithful to it, even in a comic.  Perhaps, especially in a comic.


When it arrived in theaters in September of 2004 Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow was hailed as the latest and greatest idea to blend live action and computer-generated backgrounds.  Kerry Conran, a complete Hollywood unknown, promised Paramount it would be the perfect tool for comic book and action heroes.  The fact that it flunked at the box office was not unexpected once we saw the result.


     


The Score Card

The Movie : 6

It is the eve of the Nazi invasion of Europe.  As important scientists around the world mysteriously disappear, Chronicle reporter, Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) comes upon information that leads her and ace aviator, Sky Captain (Jude Law), her estranged romantic liaison, on the trail of the psychopathic mastermind, Dr. Totenkopf.  Their adventure takes them halfway around the world: to the snow-capped Himalayas, to the sea below and the sky above.  Will Polly, Sky Captain, and aviatrix Frankie Cook (Angelina Jolie) arrive in time before Totenkopf is able to carry out his plan to destroy the world?  Is the Pope catholic?  Is Polly Perkins one of the dumbest, if most utterly charming of heroines this side of Dale Arden?


     


While there is a modicum of suspense, Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow stands or falls first and foremost on the merits of its art direction and effects and, secondarily, on it screenplay.  The former is unique and certainly achieves its goal of a new genre, blending in comic book fashion, live action and computer generated backgrounds.  The live action image is deliberately diffused - I assume partly to achieve an intended fantasy look, but also to hide the seams between the live and drawn.  The deco art direction and costuming recalls the serials of the forties as well as German expressionism (as in Metropolis), while the screenplay brings back memories of Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon.  Sky Captain has more wit and more sex, but it's just about as inane – to the point that it's just as silly to criticize it in those terms.


     


Image : 7/7

As just mentioned, the image has a unique look: a kind of colorized black & white procesed through a strong diffusion filter.  These factors, and its high contrast, blown-out image is enough to keep it from being a contender in the world of HD.  If the transfer from HD Video were perfect, how could we really know based only on the evidence!  That said, I think it seems pretty much identical to the theatrical film as I remember it, without any glaring transfer issues.  And once we tumble to the look of the film, it is effective at creating a seductive world apart from any reality we know.  High marks for that, at least.


     


Audio & Music : 7/7

Edward Shearmur's score is appropriately supportive but, otherwise, unremarkable.  I winced for a moment or two at its being so blatantly a John Williams' clone, and then moved on.  I found the music and effects tracks, reasonably convincing yet oddly contrived.  But what am I saying!  There’s not a naturally composed image or sound in this movie, so all we really should expect is heft and smash and whoosh, supported by proper locational cues - and that’s what we get, even without an uncompressed mix.  Dialogue was usually clear enough, though submerged in the battle scenes.


     


Operations : 8

The menu is straightforward, simple, easy to understand. One unusual thing, though: The Commentaries are accessible while the feature is running, but all the other Extra Features are not.  One must first migrate to the Home menu, then on to Extras.  This seems, at first glance, like a hassle, but it's not impractical.  The non-expanding thumbnails captured the essence of the corresponding scene/chapter titles would have been especially appropriate, considering the serial-like material.


     


Extras : 7

The Blu-ray moves into more familiar territory here, with all the extra features we could want, if presented only in standard definition.  The two commentaries are worth a listen, even though they explain very academically how the graphics were accomplished and how they supported the vision of the art design.  Much better are the various making-of featurettes.  Included also is the six-minute promotional short created by Conran.


     


Recommendation: 6

I suffered a tug of war for nearly half of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow before letting go of my "need" that the film look like my expectation of a high definition movie.  Seeing as how this was a Blu-ray disc after all, and even if the resolution was probably as good as can be, it was tough going.  But once I fell in line with the intent, I found the look of it compelling.  The uncompressed audio helped quite a bit.  The screenplay felt insufferable for the first few reels, and then I stopped listening to it as if these were actual people or even real fictional characters. I wondered why the dialogue wasn’t presented in balloons like a comic strip. The art design that is the best reason to watch and enjoy this movie.  Given its deliberately image, except for the audio, which isn’t even uncompressed or lossless, it's hard to see this as a reason to upgrade from the SD.


Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

September 12, 2007


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