DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Blu-ray (2004/2006)

How many features do you get today that provide dirigibles and dinosaurs in the same movie?

Published on April 14, 2007

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Blu-ray (2004/2006)
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Blu-ray (2004/2006)

Starring: Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie
Studio: Paramount 11829
Video: 1.78:1 widescreen, 1080p color
Audio: English DTS 5.1; English/French/Spanish DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Extras: Commentary by Producer Jon Avnet, Commentary by Writer and Director Kerry Conran and the VFX Crew, “Brave New World” Chapters 1 & 2, The Art of World of Tomorrow, The original 6  six-minute short, Deleted scenes, Gag reel, Anatomy of a Virtual Scene, 3 Theatrical trailers in HD
Length: 106 minutes
Rating: ****

While I really like this wacky semi-sci-fi feature for both its nostalgic story and appearance and for the fact that the director got Paramount to back him directing his own first movie on the basis of a six-minute demo he created entirely on his Macintosh, I still wonder what possessed the Paramount powers-that-be to select it as one of the first Blu-ray reissues. It’s the last recent Hollywood film I would have chosen.  It can’t have been to provide higher resolution, because the unique look of the film is its mix of low-res, dreamy, Rembrantesque, highly chiaroscuro images redolent of German Expressionist silent films.  It must have been because they thought the demographics of viewers who would appreciate Sky Captain would match those of the early adopters who have leaped into Blu-ray.

OK, the story takes place in the 1930s, in a world that mixes clothing, cars, art deco and dirigibles from that period with WWII fighter planes, 1950s sci-fi-movie rockets, dinosaurs, giant flying robots with death rays, and all sorts of futuristic gadgetry.  The blend of paraphernalia from many different periods is something like Terry Gilliam’s world in Brazil, but on a larger scale. Also similar to Brazil is the Axis-powers-centric slant of the art deco designs and military uniforms. The opening has the Hindenburg docking and leaving off passengers at the top of the Empire State Building (always wondered how those dirigible-mooring masts on top of 1930 skyscrapers would work). How many features do you get today that provide dirigibles and dinosaurs in the same movie?

NYC newspaper reporter Polly is drawn into an investigation of why a number of famous scientists are being bumped off.  Her old flame Sky Captain saves her during an attack on the city by the giant flying robots. He battles the robots and baddies behind them with his Warhawk fighter plane and private army of soldiers, planes and dirigibles. Polly goes with him, toting the Argus C3 35mm camera (1950s) he once gave her. It becomes a running gag in the film since she only has a couple shots left on the one roll and keeps passing up amazing shots – such as the dinosaurs – waiting for something better for her last frame. Sky Captain asks for the help of another old flame, Captain Franky (Angela Jolie), who also has her own private air force on a series of flying airdromes. There is a crippling attack on Sky Captain’s air force island, and his tech-wizard sidekick is abducted. The search takes them to the snows of Nepal, undersea and to a strange island, where a crazed German scientist, Dr. Totenkopf, wants to destroy the world. Does he succeed?  Ah hah, would I be a spoiler? I will reveal though that the last words in the movie are Sky Captain’s referring to Polly’s Argus C3 on which she has just taken her one remaining shot (of him): “Lens cap.”

The many extras are especially interesting because of the way this film was proposed, designed and then made. It was the first feature in which the actors were entirely shot in front of blue or green screen with no backgrounds and almost no props. Everything was added later with cgi. One of the featurettes goes into the art aspect of the production, which is fascinating. The extras are not in hi-def because they’re the same ones which were included on the standard DVD release, except for the addition of three different theatrical trailers which are in hi-def.

- John Sunier




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