In recent years, special effects seem to have taken over Hollywood cinema, with films as unintelligent as Avatar becoming the most successful film ever. Go figure.
When looking through my extensive DVD collection from my childhood, with films ranging from the Spy Kids series to the woeful live-action sequel 102 Dalmatians (what can I say? I was easily pleased as a child), one film immediately caught my eye.
Released in 2004, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the film was rather unfairly labelled another generic special effect-driven piece of cinematic garbage. And to be fair, as I prepared to watch the film, I was admittedly preparing for two hours of my life that I wouldn’t get back, despite the film boasting a cast of Hollywood stars including Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie. What could possibly go wrong?
To be fair to Sky Captain, the ideas that the film tackled were brave and somewhat ahead of their time, as the film was one of the first to use entirely virtual sets, in an attempt to immerse the audience in an alternate reality version of 1939.
Stylistically, the film is as slick as ever, and when watching it, inevitable comparisons to Frank Miller’s Sin City of a year later had to be made. Although not as polished, Sky Captain acts as a precursor to a new generation of cinema, yet feels like more of an experiment than the finished article. Admittedly, looking beyond the remarkable visuals, the film struggles to develop a coherent plot, unsuccessfully attempting to emulate the Indiana Jones-style adventure narrative, but you know, with Harrison Ford replaced by a rather wooden Jude Law in. That was mistake number one.
Secondly, the romance between Jude Law’s Sky Captain and Gwyneth Paltrow’s determined newspaper reporter Polly Perkins appears more creepy than romantic, with Law’s title character rather unlikable and Paltrow’s Perkins just downright annoying.
Although by no means Indiana Jones, the film was surprisingly fun, offering an alternative take on New York, as well as an homage to the cinema that has come before it, notably through the 1950’s sci-fi style robot invasion and the characters watching The Wizard of Oz, as the audience are thrown into the movies.
Sky Captain isn’t as bad as people made out upon it’s release eight years ago, yet in what it fails to achieve through the array of throwaway Hollywood stars (none more so than Jolie’s minor cameo) and its attempt to create a new cinematic world, it acts as a powerful front runner in the special effects world.
Without it, Avatar and Clash of the Titans may not have existed. Although, would that have been such a bad thing?
James HendryPin It