Monday, 16 June 2014

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)

I was pretty excited when I first saw the trailers for this film.  A pulp adventure movie!  That cool slightly sepia tone look!  Exciting!

My excitement abated when I actually saw the film, though.  I didn't hate it, but I had significant issues with the pacing and characterisation (or lack thereof).  I wouldn't even own the film on DVD if I hadn't received it as a gift.

So, on the re-watch, is it any better?

Well, not really, to be honest.  The film's main selling point - the visuals - haven't aged all that well, and the fact that it's pretty much 100% green screen is quite obvious at times, with environments feeling not quite 'real' on a unfortunately frequent basis.

Slightly dated visuals are definitely not enough to put me off a film, though.  Where I feel this movie is more problematic is in the script.  There are three main weaknesses.  They get progressively more spoiler-y (especially the last), so consider yourself warned.

The first and most glaring issue is the characterisation of the two leads.  Despite the roles going to talented actors, they really struggle to give their roles any depth.  And that's not surprising when the script never bothers to develop them beyond "Intrepid Girl Reporter" and "Jerk with a Plane".  All we know about the two of them is that she's an ersatz Lois Lane and he's an unfaithful cad who runs a mercenary army.  It's hard to care overmuch about either of them, but particularly the Sky Captain himself.  Another thing that I found irritating was the film's tendency to make the Girl Reporter knock things over, press the wrong button, or otherwise foul things up in order to have the story progress.  It's rather tiresome.  The film's rather too fond of deus ex machina's too: oh look our heroes (I use the term loosely) are in trouble!  I wonder what random passer-by will save them this time!

The second issue is that the script tries to wedge far too many different kinds of pulp adventure into the 90-odd minutes of run time.  We get submersible action, heaps of aviation-based stuff (as you'd expect from the title), rocket ships, lost world style locations, giant robots, airships, Shangri La, etcetera and so on and for goodness sake a little restraint sometimes goes a long way, you know?  You need to give this stuff some room to breathe, not jam it all in like plot sardines.

The third issue is the villain ... or lack thereof.  Revealing that your evil mastermind has been dead for twenty years and his awful plan is being completed by his robotic minions may have seemed like a good idea when the writers came up with it, but I'm afraid it isn't.  It kind of robs the movie of a climax beyond the tired old 'disarm the bomb' cliche.  We even have an audible countdown as it happens.

All in all, a disappointment.

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