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Sky Captain: 2 Hour Screensaver

posted in Movies and TV on September 18, 2004

Gwyneth the amazing cardboard woman.. last seen regurgitating lines in front of a blue screen. Good lord what a dull movie -- albeit with an exceptionally polished CGI sheen. When are we going to get over CGI as a new toy and realize it's just an (easily-abused) cinematic tool?


Bad movies have been pumped out at an enormous rate ever since Star Wars unearthed the revelation that effects can be -effectively- used to create an ambiance to help tell a story. We seem to have lost the concept that the effects are there for any reason other than showing off the latest technology. They are effective as a mirror for the spiritual state of our culture: we're so uncreatively bored and overstimulated we have to blow shit up to entertain ourselves. This elicits a sugary ephemeral high, followed by another wave of empty boredom.

Another trend this movie continues is the shameless collection of cliches and previously entertaining (if shallow at their inception) action-flick twists. I'm curious if the original designer of the movie had any more of a script before handing it over the studios, because the sad vellum sheet of plot that was haphazardly glommed onto this gigantic computer animation did nothing but put me to sleep. H.G. Wellsian robots attack senselessly anachronistic Gotham City, "Sky Captain" is called in on batman-esque signal who destroys them with propellor-driven WWII relic, then proceeds to a dull, heartless, danger-free, sex-free, interesting-plot-twist-free adventure across pointlessly disconnected-yet-exotic CGI locales to find "mad" villian building a gigantic space-Ark to recreate the non-CGI world-as-we-know-it. Lifeless "Sky Captain" destroys CGI robot with football-tackle, rides rocket-ark in sky with lifeless girlfriend, blows it up, lands in ocean, wins girl. Animation over. Repeat?

You bore viewers to death if there is no sense of engagement, and nothing at stake -- if the giant images flashing across the screen with digital THX-enhanced sound effects booming out across the theater don't elicit any laughter or fear or anger or longing: the movie is a failure at the most important level, eliciting the equivalent emotional/intellectual interaction of a 2-hour session in front of an elaborate screensaver. Sky Captain offers *no* sense of danger, *no* sense of attraction between the leads, *no* bit of human interest beyond the most modern visual interpretation of the future as feared by more creative humans seventy years ago.

>> Update: Since I wrote this, I've talked to two friends who LOVED this movie. I'm baffled. Granted, I did watch this movie after staying up all night, with little sleep to begin that silly endeavor with (I seemed to have inherited a certain insomnia from a certain ex-girlfriend) -- so... maybe I was so sleepy my judgement was skewed? I dunno, I seemed pretty adamant in my opinion. I still maintain that pretty movies without a plot are ultimately a failure, and an unnecessarily wasteful failure at that.

8 comments on this entry

I really liked "SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW" but I think mostly, that's because I wasn't taking it too seriously. Since the first ad campaign for this movie (with the cheesy, 1930s text streaking across the screen) I have thought, "This will be funny because it's going to be SO cheesy; SO entrenched in its use of cliche's." C'mon--The dashing pilot hero--The intrepid reporter--Hell, even the ROBOTS are designed to look like they were stolen from some other movie!

I was laughing through the whole movie, and I didn't mind much the ridiculous plot--because it was cheesy just like ALL those old movies. When they got to the part where they were like, "Now we have to go...TO TIBET!" I was cracking up. And the dinosaurs and robots and everything--it was all like something out of a 1930s daily comic strip.

I will agree with you though, that Gwyneth Paltrow gave an AWFUL performance and seemed very stiff and unemotional. Maybe SHE was a robot TOO!!!

Alec 9/21/04

Come in Sky Captain... Sky Captain... Do you read me? Okay, I'm not going to write as much as you did, but I just want to chime in on why I liked it. I guess I went to it knowing what to expect. I knew that it was going to be two hours of eye candy, and cardboard actors and cheesey one-liners. But you really have to think about what they're referring to. If you look at at the Maltese Falcon or any 1940's Superman cartoon you'll see extremely two dimensional characters. They did this on purpose. It was an updated version where the only updating was visual. (unless you look at Superman, where the basically borrowed directly) Everything about it was cliche... and that's why it was so wonderful. I mean come on Polly Perkins? Joe a.ka. Sky Captain? Totenkof? These are names pulled out of bad comic books! And that's what it was! A really over produced bad comic book. But I'd have to say they did it exquisetly, and dead on. I think it was awesome.

Aaron 9/21/04

OK, I apparently approached this movie wrong. Tho when I think back, it sure didn't seem to consistently take itself lightly, which certainly would have helped.

I've been reading a lot of other reviews of this to see if I was totally off-base with my kneejerk reaction, and I've been consistently surprised by what people got out of this movie, including:

  • WHO finds Angelina Jolia attractive and HOW can they look past that cauliflower of phony lips protruding from her face?
  • Now that they've found her attractive, how can they look past her awful faux accent and tired delivery?

I'm sorry, but this movie *could* have been so much better.. The dialogue *could* have been funny, the adventures *could* have been thrilling, the tributes to old movies, comic books and radio drama *could* have been inventive and integrated into a good story. However, all of these elements (which are vital to a good movie) are lost in the fascination of new technology.

nate 9/21/04

It was a cheese movie for our time but, it was writen for the 1930's ... you know when only radio was the means of comunication. And do not forget that this was a movie made for the first time with the computer.
I liked the movie granted there were some stunts I would not have used but, given the other stuff out there now I will take this glorifide Sci-Fi any day.

afolsom 4/7/05

Written for the '30s? Since the writer, Kerry Conran, was born in '67, this seems a bit improbable. Besides, if the story relied on RADIO to carry it, it would fail even MORE miserably. This is a piece of visual candy. That's it.

I have not forgotten this movie was "made..with the computer", that's why I called it a 2 hour screensaver. It's a big, bloated, hunk of digital fluff.

nate 4/7/05

I think this was a really good movie for its genre. After all it was expected to see 'futuristic concepts visualized' from the minds of people in the 60 or 30 (whenever it was written). So the cardbox robots and the propeller planes and flying aircraft carriers were pretty cool. And also one has to take a movie at face value, if it says 'Sci-Fi Adventure / Thriller' dont expect shakespere or a romantic movie lol. Over all I loved it and I think the performances by the cast fitted the movie / story perfectly.

Aku 12/14/06

hi i see you diddent like my film but i dont agree my movie had very bad times and for actors that had never worked with a blue screen they seemed very well adapted... im sorry if you did not like it but id like you to make a film that is better. Brain"FAG" i guess you live up to your title....

bellw 10/19/08

ah, how i miss brainfag being my primary site. it always inspired gems like this. (i'm impressed he was able to type the "b" in the box.)

nate 11/12/08

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