Friday, October 17, 2008

Sky Captain should've flown higher

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) is probably one of the most underrated sci-fi movies of this decade. The picture is a labor of love and a passionate homage to matinee films and pulp fiction adventures of the 30s and 40s. Set in an alternative 1938, it features the most creative production design and art direction since the original Star Wars, Alien and The Matrix. The picture is, simply put, gorgeous, and finds its inspiration in all those classic sci-fi elements that sparked the imagination of Americans in the 1930s: Mad scientists, dangerous dames, a manly hero, airplane dog fights, giant robots, secret bases in the Himalayas, underwater adventure, a giant "helicarrier" above the clouds, a lost King-Kong-type island with dinosaurs AND ANGELINA JOLIE, as a one-eyed amphibian squadron commander! One of my favorite nods to the period is the use of air ships for intercontinental travel, with a docking bay on top of the Empire State building, which was the real reason why the iconic mast was built in the first place. The whole show was shot against green screen and the sets were painted digitally, a couple of years before Sin City. The artistry is breathtaking. And there is a good old Hollywood story behind it, described in detail on the DVD. First-time director Kerry Conran, who, inexplicably, has not been given another film since, got the movie made based on a short he crafted single-handily for years and then peddled around town until a producer had enough vision to bring it to Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina. Sky Captain is now a cult gem to be discovered and appreciated by sci-fi lovers in the decades to come. Someone should start a petition to get Kerry another film soon, although there were rumors circulating about his involvement in a possible adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter of Mars.

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