ey, folks use computers to simulate lots of
aspects of real life -- sex, gambling, and all that important stuff. So,
what the hell, why not fabricate the backdrop of an entire movie? That's
exactly what director Kerry Conran has done with "Sky Captain and the
World of Tomorrow."
This is the first movie I saw
Water" -- and what a pair of bookends these two make.
"Water" is entirely devoid of effects, using the rudimentary
filmmaking technique of a single camera capturing what transpires exactly as
is. "Sky Captain" is from the bizarro world, where every cloud,
building and plane is created using CGI. It's all just a figment of some
ridiculously sophisticated program's imagination.
The film is a 40s-style affair, a nod to those fabled Saturday matinee
sci-fi nerve-rattlers that my generation missed out on. It's got the
requisite dashing hero (Jude Law ("Enemy
at the Gates") who I normally find to be about as compelling as a
box of vanilla wafers, but who is well-cast here) and of course there's the
spunky blond love interest (Gwyneth Paltrow, who looks much more at home in
this period piece than she did in her "Shallow
Hal" fat suit). Plus there's Angelina Jolie ("Taking
Lives"), who appears to have just walked off the set of a pirate
Our heroes do battle with some raging robots invading The Big Apple -- the
worst such descent of automatons on New York since the Republican National
Convention. With the deluge of crappy movies based on actual comic books
being churned out, "Sky Captain" is a welcome relief for the
genre. It has a fantasy appeal that could lead to some reverse engineering
-- where a comic book ends up being based on a film.
Considering the guy is a computer geek of epic proportions, it is more than
a little refreshing to see how deftly Conran handles the actors. Granted,
these are Oscar-pedigreed pros, but each of them has made more than a few
stinkers in their time. But Conran elicits very real performances out of
them, and also adds some nice little touches that allow you to forget that
the actors were staring at a blue screen most of the time. It's got all the
throwaway comic relief lines, aw-shucks romance, and fantastical adventure
you'd want in this kind of film.
Now, Conran spent the better part of the last decade and a half bringing
this idea to life. A few years back he managed to render a couple minutes of
footage of his completely computer generated world. Once it made the rounds
in Hollywood, it became a hot property. That's fortunate for him, because
otherwise he'd no doubt be living in his parents' basement trying to figure
out how to make a computer realistic girlfriend.
Obviously, the debate will rage as to whether this is apocalyptic for the
movie industry, or a gateway to new frontiers. As long as story always comes
first, I say Godspeed to Conran and his ilk and their use of technology to
tell stories when reality just won't cooperate.