A review of ďSky Captain and the World of TomorrowĒ by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG for stylized sci-fi violence

Run Time: 1 hour, 47 minutes

 

State-of-the-art special effects are the focus of this glorious re-hash of the old school sci-fi pictures of the 30s and 40s.

Youíve got to feel for stars Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law, whose craft is limited to one-dimensional reactions in front of a giant bluescreen.Paltrow is Chronicle reporter Polly Perkins, a hardcore career gal whoís going to get her story come hell or high water.Law is her swashbuckling ex; sexy flyboy H. Joseph Sullivan (aka Sky Captain) who wings his way through the skies risking life and limb to save the populaceís necks.

The noirish streets of a gauzy New York metropolis (harkening back to the heyday of the Hindenburg and Radio City Music Hall) are threatened when a phalanx of 90-foot mechanical monsters attacks in stalwart fashion.Polly is on the case, unearthing an eerie connection between the automaton offensive and the fact that a certain mysterious someone is offing famous scientists and assuming control of the planet in leaps and bounds.

The perpetrator is none other than the eccentric, elusive Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier, yes that Laurence Olivier). Can the dynamic duo set aside their sizzling chemistry and stop the evil Doctor from conquering planet earth with his dangerous doomsday device?With military resources stretched thin, Polly and Sky turn to fearless female aviator Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie as the crack commander of an all-female amphibious squadron) and techno wiz Dex Dearborn (Giovanni Ribisi) for help, and its full steam ahead for action and adventure.

Metropolis meets The Wizard of Oz as exotic locations from Paris to the Himalayas unfold in grand, digitally-generated style.Retro versions of Ozís nightmarish flying monkeys jockey for screen space with Star Wars-esque air battles in shadowy German expressionist style, leaving little room for lull.

Paltrow and Law perform admirably considering the inherent challenges. Paltrow emphasizes the P in plucky, and Law literally glows as our drop-dead hunky hero. Jolie and Ribisi shine in smaller roles, nearly stealing the show from under the A-listersí noses. Olivier is brought to the screen a la the miracle of modern machines and manís imagination.

Technologically speaking, Sky Captain paves the way for the future of computer-spawned cinema.The rub is that classic production design and its simple sensibilities donít necessarily jibe with the contemporary high-octane action style so familiar to new millennium viewers.Nonetheless, writer/director/software visionary Kerry Conran has converted his original six-minute short into a chimeric big-screen extravaganza thatís refreshingly unique.