Kerry Conran’s “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” opens on board the Hindenburg III, a zeppelin that has been tethered to, and docks on, the spire of the Empire State Building. From this introduction onward, we know this film is going to take us to a world we could only imagine in a manner we’ve never seen before.The plot of “Sky Captain” is simple enough – a mad scientist is kidnapping famous scientists, and precocious reporter Polly Perkins, Gwyneth Paltrow, of “The Chronicle” wants the scoop on where they went. Her investigation leads to an attack on New York City by giant robots and a reluctant partnership with flying ace Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan, played by Jude Law, with whom Polly once had a rocky relationship. The two travel to, among other locations, Mount Everest, a flying air base, an undiscovered island populated by genetically engineered dinosaurs and the inside of a massive rocket ship which, when launched, will destroy all life on Earth.I don’t believe I’m spoiling anything here because the story itself isn’t that important to the overall enjoyment of the film. Instead, the plot exists to send the film’s protagonists to strange locations and to meet peculiar characters for our pleasure and amazement. We chuckle at the film’s slight discontinuities, the absurdity in both the speed and execution of the plot and that Joe and Polly never spend more than 10 minutes in any one place or talking to any one character. Basically, “Sky Captain” is pure entertainment and is designed as such. The film plays and looks like a sci-fi serial crossed with a pulp comic book and is the first film to make that combination appear real, even though the majority of the film is actually animated.What makes this movie different from any other is that, aside from the actors and some props, almost everything is computer generated – sets, locations and even most extras. Using CG allows first-time director Conran to make “Sky Captain” on a $70 million budget when a normal production would cost two or three times as much. Also, it allows the director to create some of the most dazzling visuals I’ve ever seen on screen. Every frame of the film looks like an old photograph with an occasional splash of vivid color. There is an early shot in “Sky Captain” that only lasts about a second, but which captures the spirit of the entire film. As the giant robots attack New York City and are marching through the streets, Perkins, in order to get pictures of these strange machines, finds herself caught in their path and almost trampled under their feet. In order to gain mobility and avoid them, she tears the seam of her dress, but only two inches of it, revealing, in close up, a little skin above the stocking on her thigh. If you find that funny and know why it’s funny, then “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is at least worth the admission price.Battenhausen can be reached at email@example.com.
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