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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Special Collector's Edition
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: Special Collector's Edition
Paramount // PG-13 // January 25, 2005
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted January 21, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Director Kerry Conran's "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" continues the recent revolution brought on by George Lucas: actors, digitally placed into scenes. In the case of the recent "Star Wars" films, this happened during several scenes in the movie. In the case of "Sky Captain", it's the whole movie: every scene is actors in front of blue screens. While I'm not a fan of it in general, in the case of "Sky Captain", the world of the movie has been so meticulously realized that I can accept it.

However, while the world realized in the movie is utterly stunning, the script leaves something to be desired. There's just not enough story and the film's desire to try and replicate old sci-fi pictures extends to the dialogue, which is utterly full of, "Look! Over there! It's our only way out!", or something similar telling the audience what they already know or don't need to be told.

The film opens with reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) finding out that a series of scientists are being kidnapped by the evil Dr. Totenkopf (Laurence Olivier, digitally added in.) When robots the size of buildings come to New York City to find the last one on the list, it's up to Joe (Jude Law), the "Sky Captain" of the title (and also, Polly's ex) to find out what happened. Polly, being the aggressive reporter that she is, hops along for the ride in order to take pictures. The film's terrible running joke is that she only has two shots left and has to try and save them - the rest of the attempted humor doesn't work too well, either, although a couple of bits get a chuckle.

The two have a series of fairly predictable adventures, including a stop at a floating refueling base, where they meet Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie), another of Joe's flames, which makes Polly jealous. Despite the film's gorgeous visuals - sort of reminiscent "Metropolis" and "Dark City" and other movies ( and also found in the recent video game, "Crimson Skies") - director Kerry Conran doesn't always get the hang of the action scenes, as some (one with Joe chased and being chased flying through a city) work wonderfully and others (an underwater battle) aren't as imaginative as their settings would suggest.

The performances vary quite a bit - Paltrow is a bit annoying as Polly, although her character as written is kind of a whiner, prone to shouting out directions (making a drinking game out of every time Paltrow yells something along the lines of, "Joe, watch out!" would leave no one standing) and complaining. Law is better as Sky Captain, as the dashing adventurer thing seems pretty easy for him. Jolie is good, although she's hardly in the movie. Solid in supporting roles are Giovanni Ribisi, as Joe's mechanic, and Bai Ling, as the villian's assistant.

Overall, "Sky Captain" is a visual feast, but it concentrates almost entirely on the visuals and doesn't fill out the story enough, resulting in a story that's moderately watchable, but rather forgettable.


VIDEO: "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" is presented by Paramount in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen (there's also a pan & scan version.) The picture quality is dazzling, presenting the film's striking visuals with *almost* flawless accuracy. Sharpness and detail are absolutely superb; there is a hint of softness to the world in the film, although that's intended. In terms of the actors and the foreground action, the picture looks razor sharp, with good small object detail.

The only thing that I noticed throughout the show were a few instances of brief, small pixelation. Edge enhancement was not seen at all, nor were any print flaws (although, given the digital nature of the film, this may have been a direct-from-digital transfer).

The film's generally sepia tone was accurately portrayed here, as were the subtle, other colors visible. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones looked fine. Overall, this is a first-rate effort.

SOUND: "Sky Captain" is presented by Paramount in Dolby Digital 5.1. The audio is almost as much of a thrill as the image quality, as the action scenes present superlative use of all of the speakers. Surrounds kick in wonderfully throughout, with really nice use of the rear speakers for sound effects like gunfire. Audio quality was terrific, as sound effects seemed remarkably crisp and dynamic. Bass - such as when the robots were marching on New York City - seemed powerful and deep. Dialogue and score also sounded clear and well-recorded.

EXTRAS: There are two commentaries included: one from producer Jon Avnet and the other from director Kerry Conran, production designer Kevin Conran, digital effects supervisor Steve Yamamoto and visual effects supervisor Darin Hollings. The producer commentary does provide a lot of history regarding the production which, as some may know, started off as a six-minute short film. The commentary also talks about casting, costumes, budget and the financing of the film. The effects commentary points out the details behind the scenes, and talks about working with the actors in a "blue-screen" world.

"Brave New World" is a 2-part documentary that looks at the making of the picture. Visiting with the actors and taking a look behind-the-scenes at the cast working on the soundstage/crew working on computers, the documentary gives us a pretty solid overview of the project. The early half sketches the conception of the project through the early stages, with discussion of the "short", casting and work on the soundstages. The first piece is 28-minutes. The second piece, which runs 23 minutes, picks up with the visual effects work, looking into the construction of the world of "Sky Captain", with the collaboration and friendship between the animators/effects artists.

"Art of World of Tomorrow" is an 8-minute look at creating the look of the film. A 2-1/2 minute gag reel is pretty funny at times. Finally, we get two deleted scenes, the original six-minute short and previews for other Paramount titles, including "Alfie".

Final Thoughts: Although it's gained a very strong cult following, I just thought "Sky Captain" came up a bit short of its potential, as it's balanced noe towards visuals than story. Paramount's DVD presentation is fantastic, with remarkable image and sound quality, as well as a fine helping of supplemental features. Recommended for fans, those who haven't seen it may want to try it as a rental first.

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