'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow' is a blast from sci-fi past
October 12, 2016
I might be an odd one saying this, but I love the old science fiction films from the 1950s and '60s. I remember staying up late on Saturday nights to watch the show “Svengoolie” on a local TV station where they would air an old sci-fi or horror movie and provide comedic commentary during commercials.
There’s just something about those old films that are so charming it makes you look past how dated they are. This week’s review is on a movie that captures that classic sci-fi essence: “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” (2004) is a science fiction adventure movie that follows a reporter named Polly Perkins as she attempts to uncover who is behind the recent disappearances of top scientists and a global attack of giant robots. And while these robots are attacking New York the ace fighter pilot Sky Captain is called in to defend against the attack. Together, Perkins and Sky Captain set out on an adventure to uncover who is behind the disappearances and the attacks.
The movie stars Gwyneth Paltrow as Polly Perkins and Jude Law as Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan. It is written and directed by Kerry Conran, who has not since directed a full length feature film.
Both lead actors nailed their characters and captured the 1940s era that the movie is set in really well. Gwyneth Paltrow was the perfect choice to play a strong and stubborn reporter and she truly owns her screen time. Jude Law is also very charismatic here and is the perfect actor to play his character. Together, they have an excellent chemistry and can make even the cheesiest lines of dialogue worthy of a smile or laugh. It is the main character’s growing relationship throughout the movie that really is the highlight.
The next thing this movie has going for it is style. It is unabashedly reminiscent of '50s and '60s sci-fi films. The noir vibe is such a breath of fresh air despite it being shot entirely in front of a blue screen (which is basically the same as a green screen), meaning all of the backgrounds, giant robots and set pieces are computer generated. And it shows. At times even the actors have a hard time responding to things that aren’t there but are added later on using CGI.
By today’s standards, and really even by 2004’s standards, the effects in this are pretty bad. This could be attributed to a relatively low budget or an intentional style. Either way, you won’t be convinced the giant robots are real. And, in a certain way, this adds to the charm of the movie. All the classic sci-fi movies of the '50s aren’t hyper-realistic nor should they be. This movie shouldn’t be held to the ultra high standards of today’s CGI and effects. It is by far the sore thumb of the film, but just enjoy it at face value and have a good time.
Really this film is an excellent homage to a classic era in filmmaking. It captures the style and vibe of which those old movies had so much. Most of all it’s just an incredibly fun movie to watch with characters I grew to love. If you can get past the terrible CGI and effects, it’s a perfect film to pull up on Netflix on a slow afternoon or even a sick day.
Wesley Sigsworth is a student at UW-River Falls.