Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Kerry Conran
with Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi, Omid Djalili, Bai Ling, Michael Gambon, Laurence Olivier, Trevor Baxter, Julian Curry, Khan Bonfils, Mark Wells
release US 17.Sep.04, UK 1.Oct.04
04/US 1h47

Bizarre love triangle: Jolie, Law and Paltrow

law paltrow jolie
ribisi gambon
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Support Shadows: Buy a Poster
An obvious love of cinema infuses this adventure film and makes it utterly infectious viewing. It's a wonderful blend of sharp characters with running gags galore, outrageously inspired visual imagery and a plotline that feels both familiar and otherworldly.

When giant flying robots invade 1939 New York, Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Law) comes to the rescue, taking one back to his private airbase, where technical whiz Dex (Ribisi) can figure out who sent it. Meanwhile, tenacious journalist Polly Parker (Paltrow) unearths her own clues and makes a deal to help Joe in exchange for the story. They track the secretive Dr Totenkopf (a digitally resurrected 1939-vintage Olivier) to the Himalayas and then to a secret island where, with the help of a British pilot (Jolie), they discover the scary truth behind the doctor's plan for a world of tomorrow.

Writer-director Conran has an invigorating style that's simply magical. Everything is animated except the actors, and it's done in a 1930s noir style that looks astonishing, building a retro vision of the future and then filling it with references to films of the period (Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and especially The Wizard of Oz) as well as later movies that hark back to the serial-movie format (Star Wars and Indiana Jones). In some ways this film would simply not exist without all the bits and pieces Conran lifts from other places, but he assembles them so well that it's a joy to watch. And he also maintains a charming, self-deprecating style that focuses on the characters and their interrelationships.

Law is terrific as the dashing hero, and his sparring matches with the feisty Paltrow are great fun. Their relational history gurgles underneath every scene between them--sometimes corny but also hilarious and romantic--and they play it perfectly. Ribisi and Jolie both fill their standardises roles superbly and add marvellous little touches. Conran orchestrates all of the action with a focus on the characters, which makes the film not only deeply entertaining but also exciting, witty, wondrous and so thoroughly engaging that we can only hope he takes us back into this world again one day.

cert PG themes, innuendo 17.Sep.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Donna Carter, Wisconsin: "I enjoyed it. It was spooky, adventurous, light-hearted, interesting - a combination of Batman and Indiana Jones, and it often reminded me of Tom Swift (if you remember reading that very early sci-fi). Some of the sets made me think of Lord of the Rings (like they used 'leftover' sets and made a few changes). I did kind of wish that Gwyneth Paltrow had a lower voice, but all in all it was very entertaining, and I appreciated the effect of the sepia/gray tones throughout, making it very 1940s. The ending was great!" (18.Sep.04)

Robert, New York: 5/5 "Kenny Conran's feature film debut is nothing short of brilliant. Melding together the exciting elements of a 1940s film noir, an Indiana Jones adventure and a comic book, Conran comes up with a movie that is unique and entertaining. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow, once again, have terrific chemistry. They both give great performances, especially Paltrow. Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi offer fine support. The film looks, and sounds, amazing. It is, thus far, the best film I've seen all year. Unfortunately, it will probably go unnoticed by the critics and the Academy, come late winter." (14.Nov.04)

2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall