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Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
by Gary A. Hughes

Cast:  Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Giovani Ribisi, Bai Ling
Writer/Director:  Kerry Conrad
Running Time:  106 minutes

In this age of stark cinematic realism, where film makers use state-of-the-art digital tools to create extremely realistic characters and visual effects, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is a welcome departure.  Here, fledgling director Kerry Conrad has blurred the line between reality and fantasy with beautiful pastels and subtle sepia tones shot through a soft focus.  This rather unorthodox approach creates a subdued, dream-like atmosphere, to which the film’s story and characters are perfectly suited.

Essentially a retro science fiction serial set in 1939, “Sky Captain” utilizes modern day blue screen compositing, allowing both backgrounds and sets to be digitally constructed in post production and requiring the “live” cast to react to nonexistent objects and situations.  All the actors embraced the concept with enthusiastic aplomb.

The film’s look is wonderfully low tech, featuring vintage fighter planes, weird flying wing type aircraft, huge, hulking Fleischer-esque robots and secret laboratories laden with all manner of clunky gauges, dials, switches and arching electricity.  Grizzled sci-fi and serial fans will enjoy the many subtle nods to such chestnuts as, “Captain Midnight”, “Commando Cody”, “King Kong”, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, “Forbidden Planet” and “War of the Worlds”, as well as more contemporary references to “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “The Empire Strikes Back” and even “The Lord of the Rings”.  Conrad has taken many memorable moments from the genre and woven them together with even-handed class.  Make no mistake, however, this PG-rated roller coaster is fun for moviegoers of all ages.

Much like the adventure classics after which “Sky Captain” is patterned, the film suffers from a bit of predictability and plodding around midpoint. But with its brisk 106 minute pacing, rousing musical score and stunning visuals, it has the feel of a modern day retro adventure classic worthy of repeat viewings.  By all means, grab your ray gun and decoder ring and rush to see “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”!

Rocket Man’s rating: 3 ½ helmets   

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