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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (PG)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (2-DISC VERSION): Deleted scenes. 6 featurettes. 2 commentary tracks.

SKY Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a film of dubious distinction, in that it marks the first movie to be shot entirely against a blue screen, with backgrounds filled in later using computer imagery.

As such, it serves as both a stunning technical triumph and a worrying glimpse into the way cinema could be heading.

Taken as a novelty, it just about works, courtesy of the rich visual feast it provides, yet there is no disguising the movie's flaws, which tend to become more apparent the longer it continues.

The film began life as a six-minute short dreamt up on director, Kerry Conran's home computer, before being developed into one of the most ambitious pet-projects in recent screen history.

And there's no denying the sheer jaw-dropping look of the feature, which evokes memories of the Hollywood era of the late Twenties and early Thirties, in the form of movies such as Lost Horizon and Metropolis.

An early shot of a Hindenburg airship docking atop The Empire State Building, for example, sets the standard for what to expect, filling viewers with a boyish sense of wonder at seeing something new for the first time.

But once the plot kicks in, it's not long before the film loses its way somewhat.

Too many of Sky Captain's set pieces rely on other movies for inspiration, while the story itself struggles to maintain its lengthy running time.

Jude Law stars as the Sky Captain in question, a heroic Spitfire pilot, who reluctantly teams up with intrepid reporter, Polly Perkins, a former love-interest, to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of several leading scientists and the emergence of city-destroying robots.

Aided by Angelina Jolie's feisty Franky Cook, commander of an all-female amphibious squadron, and Giovanni Ribisi's technical genius, Dex Dearborn, the intrepid heroes discover a trail leading back to a mad professor, whose mischevous experiments are threatening to bring about the end of the world.

The ensuing adventure combines the Brylcreemed derring-do of the Cary Grant-era, and child-like exuberance of The Wizard of Oz, with the sci-fi nuance of modern movies such as Jurassic Park and Independence Day.

Yet the mix isn't always satisfying and the over-familiarity of certain plot devices and action sequences prompt the suspicion that in their eagerness to get the look right, both director, Conran, and producer, Jon Avnet, have sacrificed other elements of the creative process.

So while Sky Captain is never less than intriguing - especially when including the late Sir Laurence Olivier as a key character, late on - and is consistently beautiful to behold, it struggles to escape the feeling that it is, merely, an experiment and one which, ultimately, comes up short.

Enter with this in mind, and you're sure to be entertained.



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