Sunday, 19 October 2014


“My advice to young film-makers is this: Don't follow trends, Start them!” - Frank Capra

For Movie Monday today, quite a different film, which at the time of its release was quite controversial and I must say, I was not game to sit down and watch, after what I had heard about it. Firstly, I was told that it was a rehash of 1930s cliffhangers with gross deficiencies in plot, character development and a profound lack of humour. Secondly, it is a film that relies completely on digital techniques for sets (the whole film was shot with the actors in front of blue screens and the backgrounds were digitally filled in afterwards by superimposition). Thirdly, I was warned that the film is for “geeks” and not “normal” people (well OK, that wasn't much of a deterrent, I have been called geeky before!). And lastly, the title of the film was rather cumbersome and made one rather question the film content - I mean, who goes around calling their film, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”? (2004). Quite by chance, as I was rummaging in a remainders basket in my DVD shop, I found the DVD and what attracted me firstly to it was the artwork on the cover. Then, given that its price was less than a cup of coffee and cake, I bought it on impulse. We watched it and I was wowed!

The first thing that was remarkable was the “feel” and “look” of the movie. It had a deliciously retro quality about it, which made it quite endearing. With muted colours, in shades of warm gray, glowing golden browns, subdued blues and understated reds, it is immediately evocative of old black-white films, but is quite genuinely a colour film. The time the movie is set in is definitely a time past, but it is a curious evocation of the future in times past. This is how people thought the future would be like in the past… Quaint!

The plot, yes, is rather simple: In New York City, 1939, a fearless reporter, Polly Perkins (Gwynneth Paltrow) is investigating the disappearance of famous scientists around the world. When the city is attacked by giant robots she makes the important connection between the two events. She gets her ex-boyfriend, Sky Captain (Jude Law) to help her solve the mystery. He is the captain of a mercenary legion of pilots and a typical action hero. Robots attack the city again and Dex, Sky Captain's right hand man is able to locate the place where they originate. Polly And Sky Captain set off on an adventure in search of the evil mastermind behind these schemes, who is bent on creating a utopia and destroying the current world. Along the way they are helped by Franky Cook (Angelina Jolie) a military officer and ex-girlfriend of Sky Captain.  Real gung-ho, boys' own adventure stuff, which has been updated with a backward twist…

The appeal of the film lies in its multiple references to films of the past (for example, King Kong, The War of the Worlds, Forbidden Planet, Lost Horizon, Star Wars, etc, etc) but also in its retro look and obvious homage to the old cliffhanger serials of the 30s. Saturday matinee stuff that many people remember from their childhood (either in the movie theatres or on TV reruns). I think what impressed me the most was the artistic merit of the cinematography, the digital artistry and the quite lush backgrounds and sets. Artificial, but well-done and blending quite seamlessly with the live action of the actors that was superimposed on them. There is a wonderful art deco feel throughout and the overall feel of the times of the 30s has been captured wonderfully. There is subtle humour there also, and also there is a plot, albeit simple.

Don't expect deep philosophy from this movie - it is after all, an escapist fantasy. Aimed at a broad audience, it may tempt even the film aficionados because of its experimental use of the film medium and its bold uniqueness. Kerry Conran, the director and writer, has shown originality and a freshness of vision. I enjoyed quite a great deal and would recommend it to all who wish to see something “different”…

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