Sunday, September 19, 2004

The League Reviews: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

So Mrs. League and I went to the cinema early to catch a showing of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. And I did enjoy the movie, but not as much as I thought I should have.

From a plot standpoint, the movie holds together as well or better than most sci-fi movies. The plot is fairly standard sci-fi fare, and is pretty much as advertised. From a story standpoint, I had some issues. I never really knew who the hell these guys were.

Okay, Mrs. League just walked in the room and said "Are you ruining Sky Captain for everybody?"
"I liked that movie way more before you started going 'this was this' and 'this was that'. You're going to ruin it for everybody."
So apparently I ruined the movie for Jamie. Whoops.

Why does she say this? If, apparently, you don't want the movie ruined for you, stop reading now and go on with your peaceful life.

If you're still reading, I apologize in advance for ruining everything.

What is the big issue? Sky Captain is, as advertised, an homage to the past. A past of science fiction and pulp and Saturday matinees. I can dig it. But... (and this is the League, so there's always a complaint, right?) Sky Captain takes and takes and takes, and I'm not sure what it ever gives back.

Spoilers --- start here

Dodging between outright nods to some sources (Godzilla, Buck Rogers, a handful of others) and taking without acknowledging from others (Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., Blackhawk, Superman cartoons) and tying in other movies (King Kong), one wonders exactly what's left here that IS Sky Captain.

Polly (played by Paltrow) is Lois Lane. The Robots are from the Superman cartoon "The Mechanical Monsters", Sky captain is an amalgamation of Captain Midnight and Blackhawk. Frankie (Jolie) is Nick Fury with boobs, right down to the helicarrier and eye-patch. She's kind of leading a British SHIELD squadron.

The villain's plot is stolen from the cover of Amazing Stories (which, of course, I now can't find).

One thing that drove me nuts but I couldn't place until later... You catch a glimpse of a sunken ship at one point, and the ship is titled "Venture". That, kids, is the name of the ship taken to Skull Island in King Kong. Which makes me wonder, is the island in the movie supposed to be Skull island with it's exotic creatures? Or the Island of Dr. Moreau? We don't know. It seems to be both.

And, kids, I LOVE homage. I love to see things pop up which I can recognize and say silently to myself "cooooooool, I am so in on the joke..."

My point here is, Sky Captain is a fun movie with non-stop homage, but I wasn't really sure what it gave back. There's no new story here, although it does recycle fun parts of existing movies, so, take from that what you will...

My other concern, which is only tangentially tied to the movie, is this: When or if the original sources should wish to take themselves seriously again, or gain screentime again... will audiences look to them as copies of Sky Captain, or will they know which came first? Jamie says "I think you're giving audiences too much credit." And maybe she's right.

But with both a Superman and a King Kong movie in pre-production, do they stand a chance of not being unfavorably compared? I don't know.

----Spoilers end here---

Now, Sky Captain is amazing to look at. It is absolutely gorgeous, and the line between reality and CG is completely lost. These guys did amazing work.

The acting and editing of some scenes seems a little flat, but here's my recommendation: Do this movie right. See it on a Saturday afternoon, kick back and let it wash over you. Be 11 years-old again and eat a bag of popcorn during the movie.

Watch giant robots fill the screen, watch Gwyneth Paltrow show some leg, watch airplanes dogfight in the middle of Manhattan. This movie is pretty damn cool, so you can safely ignore my spoilerish comments above.

The bottom line is that I WANT movies like Sky Captain. I want movies that know and relish a form of action film that has been supplanted with machine gun toting steroid freaks and Keanu Reeves. There's room for all of it out there, but my favorite genres are the ones that smell a little musty and are maybe a little creaky.

I want giant robots and plucky reporters. I want mad scientists and secret islands. Hell, I guess I want Sky Captain.

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