“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is quite possibly the most insane movie I’ve ever seen. The film starts off with the Hindenberg III docking at the Empire State Building and it includes eclectic items like submersible airplanes, a visit to Shangri-La and dinosaurs. My friends and I left the theater laughing giddily as we recalled some of the more ridiculous plot points, and there were plenty to laugh about.
“Sky Captain” shows us a world where America’s first line of defense is one man, called Sky Captain. It’s a world where there are endless secret weapons and hidden gadgets, where science is capable of just about anything. It’s the most fun I’ve had at the movies in a long time.
The plot is expectably thin. When giant three-story robots come out of nowhere and attack New York City, Captain Joseph Sullivan, also known as Sky Captain (Jude Law) is called. The square-jawed hero quickly teams up with a spunky reporter, Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), who also happens to be an old flame. The two begin to track down the source of the robots. Gradually, they uncover a fiendish plot by a mad scientist whose goal is nothing less than the annihilation of the earth. They traverse the globe and battle robots, helped out by Sky Captain’s sidekick Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) and Captain Francesca “Franky” Cook (Angelina Jolie) of Her Majesty’s Royal Air Force.
It begins at complete implausibility, and moves from there to out-and-out madness by the end of the movie.
The strongest component of “Sky Captain” is its spectacle, and director Kerry Conran not only knows it, he revels in it. Nearly every shot in the movie is visually interesting. The entire movie was shot with actors against a blue screen, which is a risky proposition but it paid off beautifully. The actors are shot in soft focus and blurred, so the melding of live actors and computer-generated backdrops is fairly seamless. It really feels like watching a cartoon more than anything. The action scenes are plentiful and brilliantly executed.
In addition to the visual splendor, a strong sense of fun charmed me. It’s a gleeful homage to the ’50s sci-fi, adventure stories, and everyone involved seems to have studied their source material well. The actors are admirably committed to the reality that their characters live in. They, like the creators, know exactly what kind of a movie they’re making and seem to enjoy it immensely.
Across the board, the actors bring depth and genuine concern to outrageously over-the-top characters, which is a crucial ingredient for this brand of cheesiness. These heroes are finding their very world threatened by unspeakable evil, but there’s still time to flirt.
I recommend “Sky Captain” to anyone who is capable of lightening up and having a good time. Many will criticize it for being totally ridiculous, but those people are missing the point completely. Dazzling visuals and unapologetic zeal in “Sky Captain” will win people over.