Forgotten Film – Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
This is the 116th in my series of Forgotten Obscure or Neglected Films
I am not sure how forgotten this week’s film. It certainly was not forgotten by me. I eagerly awaited its release and was planning how to spend that weekend when I got news that I would be traveling to Paris that opening weekend. I was leaving on Saturday. Sure I could have crowded Friday night on with seeing it instead of packing but prudence prevailed and I went to Paris properly packed.
When I got to Paris I knew I would have one weekend free so I looked around the papers to see if it might be showing in a theater somewhere that I might find it. I hoped it would have French subtitles that I could ignore, otherwise I might not understand the dialogue but I would love the visuals. But I had no such luck. So I prepared to see it when I returned from two weeks in Paris. But wait! Fate had other ideas for my viewing pleasure. I got a call and instead of returning home, I went directly to Tokyo for two weeks. Sure, I was getting to go to two continents I had never visited before, but I was missing SKY CAPTAIN. Would it still be playing when I returned to San Antonio? Or, would I have to hope for the dreaded dollar theater and its sticky floors and chairs?
Fortunately I got the best of both worlds. I got to see the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay (which I liked better than the Louvre), and parts of Tokyo. I missed the Texas-OU game because I was not quite brave enough to find a sports bar somewhere in Tokyo with a satellite hookup that would be showing the game at 3 AM. One of a very few of those games I have missed in the last 40 years.
I saw this film the day I returned and I LOVED it. I was the target audience. A fan of the Blackhawk and Buck Rogers comics. A fan of movie serials such as SPY SMASHER and FLASH GORDON. A fan of noir type tales. And a fan of the various stars.
The setting is some alternate universe where in 1939 zeppelins still fly to the top of the Empire State Building. Giant robots terrorize citizens of New York. Plucky girl reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow, looking fetching in 30’s trenchcoats and suits works for Editor Paley (Michael Gambon) at the Chronicle. Mysterious super aviator Sky Captain aka Joe Sullivan (Jude Law, one of the producers of the film) has a base near to New York and tackles odd adventurers for the city. At his base Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) creates wonderful invention for Sky captain to use.
Scientists are mysteriously disappearing. One contacts Polly just before being kidnapped and mentions the name Totenkopf (which my 40 year old German skills say means “Dead Head”, but not the fun loving hippies we all know). He is searching for two vials which Polly has received from one of the scientists. Totenkopf will stop at nothing to get them, even kidnapping Dex. In their pursuit, Sky Captain and Polly will cover the world traveling to Shangri-la, uncharted island, and deep into the sea.
They have great weapons and meet many other people such as Francesca (Franky) (Angelina Jolie in an eyepatch!) who commands a British installation similar to the SHIELD helicarrier and has planes can convert to underwater mode.
Joe and Polly have an ongoing relationship and wonderful banter back and forth, much as Marian and Indie do in RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Franky is part of the discussion as is some supposed sabotage to Joe’s plane by Polly.
As I said, I was the target audience, I loved the look of the film, the stylized settings, the sepia tones at times, the 30’s looks, the Frank R. Paul-type robots. All this screamed “YES” to me. But apparently I was among the few. According to IMDB the domestic gross was close to the estimated $40,000,000 budget.
Everything was shot on blue screen which gives the film a weird feel but I did not mind. The music was by Edward Shearmur. I bought it immediately after seeing the film and played it a lot.
As with any film I like, your mileage may vary. Hopefully not because I really enjoyed watching this again and may have to get it into a better rotation among my films.
Series organizer Todd Mason hosts more Tuesday Forgotten Film reviews at his own blog and posts a complete list of participating blogs.