Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

Genres - Adventure, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Action, Master Criminal Films, Period Film, Tech Noir  |   Release Date - Sep 17, 2004 (USA)  |   Run Time - 107 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , Italy , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Jeremy Wheeler

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a grand, lush spectacle that can astound or let down its audience at each wildly creative turn. To its credit, the film is lighthearted and visually sumptuous, packed with the kind of gee-whiz awe that rarely makes it to the big screen. Refreshingly, it does so without one bit of camp or irony in its bones. Hearkening back to the sci-fi pulp of the '40s, the film's look is a living and breathing homage to everything from Max Fleisher's Superman cartoons to Flash Gordon serials. The world that director Kerry Conran and his production designer/brother Kevin meticulously realized is one where the imagination of yesteryear is translated through the help of modern technology into a magical place where big robots and jetpacks reign supreme. Though the groundbreaking painterly effects define Sky Captain's world, it's the characters who populate it that pull the film's canvas together. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow do an extraordinary job interacting with sets that were never there, but its their stumbling on the lackluster script that results in poor chemistry and cringe-worthy banter. Law himself shows zero machismo as Sky Captain; while his costar excels at playing, well, a feisty version of herself. On the upside, Giovanni Ribisi banks on subtlety with his sidekick character and it works, as does Angelina Jolie, whose tough British sneer chews up the screen charmingly well and makes each and every viewer wish that she owned the screen more than her top-billed thespian costars. Though the flick loses some of its steam after the bravura first act, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow still is an impressive start out of the gate for first-timer Conran, who gets to live out his dream here, viscerally satisfying audiences in a way that even the Hollywood heavyweights have a hard time delivering these days -- it's just too bad that more time wasn't spent on selling the drama rather than the eye-popping effects.