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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

The best, most entertaining thing about Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is that it can be abbreviated as "SCATWOT," which is pretty funny in a juvenile sort of way, if it's Monday and you're only half awake. But really -- making fun of SCATWOT is the sort of activity that one might compare to "shooting fish in a barrel" ... provided that those fish have been heavily anesthetized and the barrel is no bigger than a child's beach bucket. Yet at the same time, the task is huge. Where does one begin? At what failing does one initiate one's discussion of how badly this movie sucks?

Anyone who ever audited 3 hours of science credit could pull the thing apart at its seams, and a few of you have already begun this monumental task over in the comments of my first brief, bitter entry on this subject. I, for one, don't know jack diddly squat about engineering; but that didn't stop my mental wheels from clogging themselves every time something "technologically advanced" occurred onscreen. Therefore, I'm going to skip that aspect of this movie's crippling weaknesses altogether. Let's just say, "all the science was stupid" and leave it at that. Some of you don't think this was a problem, and that's fine. Whatever puts a smile on your face.

Right. So. I'll be skipping past this film's appalling grasp of science and moving right onto "other things that sucked heap big wookie." In truth, it would probably be easier and faster to discuss the things that didn't suck ... but that would make this a short entry indeed. The rest of this post would consist of five words: the lighting, and Gwinneth's wardobe. [Yes, I left this movie with a hankering for 1940s pseudo-military women's fashions. Whether this was a good or bad thing is still up for grabs.]

But here -- let me offer a hasty summary before proceeding: One annoying, smirky blonde bitch with a camera makes a series of poor judgment calls that repeatedly endanger herself and the heroes. And for about five minutes, there are robots.

There. That's pretty much it. "But Cherie," you fuss, "isn't Angelina Jolie in this movie? That fact alone must redeem it in some small measure." Well kids, I can understand why someone who has seen a preview for this film might expect Angelina Jolie to appear -- but this is a vicious falsehood. A woman who resembles Jolie in an eye-patch does pop in briefly ... about an hour into the movie ... and then she all but vanishes after three minutes of screen time. SURELY if that actress had actually been Ms. Jolie, the director would have had the good sense to make more than three minutes worth of use ... wait a minute. What am I saying? Director? With sense? Cripes, I need more coffee.

Perhaps I should take this point, before I go any further, to address something that irked the hell out of me in the comments and resulting email exchanges of the previous SCATWOT entry. To suggest that I don't know anything about the genres that spawned this travesty, or that I've never heard an old radio show, or that I don't know vintage sci-fi, 1930s noir or old comic books ... these accusations are so banal and incorrect that this paragraph is the only answer to them I shall give. I don't have to offer you my geek curricula vitae. If you've been hanging around this page for any time at all, you ought to be aware that my interests are varied and most certainly DO include all the hip things that would lead me to understand all the "inside jokes" in SCATWOT. So don't give me any "You just don't get it!" comments, because I most certainly DO get it. Contrary to assertion, I do recognize an homage when I see one ... I just thought this was less an homage than a sharp slap in the face by a glove weighed down with pennies.

Now, returning to my complaint-fest. Let's talk about Narrative Convenience for a moment. These shortcut forms of exposition are many, varied and poorly-executed in SKATWOT. Easy example #1: People Accidentally Leave Important Stuff Behind All The Time. Polly Perkins isn't a clever reporter -- she's a lucky scavenger. Easy Example #2: Deus Ex Dax. Hey, we've got a military scientist (and who doesn't, these days?) who can invent anything ... but we misplace him early on in the movie. Gosh, I hope he's all right. Maybe, if we're lucky, when all hope is gone -- when the end is near -- Dax will magically escape his bonds somewhere off camera, steal a flying vehicle, and dash in to save the day. That sure would be convenient, wouldn't it? [*eyeball roll*] Easy Example #3: Invincible Machines. Sky Captain's plane is shot to pieces, collides with every stray bit of scaffolding in downtown NYC, leaks fuel all over 5th Avenue, and plunges into the ocean at full tilt ... yet it never quits working. Hell, it never gets a scratch. Apparently, it also boasts a gas tank the size of a wooly mammoth, because it crosses oceans with ease -- until the writers (such as they were) realized that nothing interesting has happened for the last twenty minutes and they want to introduce something that resembles (to the casual, nearsighted observer, at twenty paces) a plot point. It is also approximately at this story juncture that Polly's infinite roll of film runs out, which surprised me only because it happened at all.

Okay, that paragraph's grown fat enough. Let's move on to a new one. Start fresh, as it were. And let's back away from the nitpicking, potentially-spoiling specifics and retreat to generalities, shall we?

General Things I Hated About This Movie #1: Polly. I hate, hate, hated Polly. There was nothing sympathetic or redeeming about this trollop at all, except possibly her baffling ability to acquire long-lasting lipstick in the frozen wastelands of Central Asia. General Things I Hated About This Movie #2: Sky Captain. I hate, hate, hated Joe. There was nothing sympathetic or redeeming about this bastard at all, except possibly his tendency to make fun of Polly -- which he undoes completely by sort of, apparently, against-all-reason, still being in love with her. General Things I Hated About This Movie #3: Lack of Killer Robots. I wanted big, awesome, city-smashing robots as promised by the previews -- but those robots expire as a plot device within 10 minutes of the movie's beginning, and you see them no more. General Things I Hated About This Movie #4: A Solid Beginning. The first 35 minutes of this movie are pretty cool. Good feel. Good lighting. Good clothes. Obvious and stilted dialogue, but still close enough to formula to keep me watching. But once Sky Captain and Polly leave the big city, everything goes downhill. Well, it doesn't exactly go downhill, per se. "Downhill" implies some actual progression. It implies verbs. Action words. Stuff going on. It might be more appropriate to say that the film stagnates. Mildews. Festers. This griped my soul all the more because the first 35 minutes were so promising.

General Things I Hated About This Movie #5, The Final Chapter: The last and greatest thing I hated about this movie can be summed up as follows: it's one of those films that demands to be liked purely on the basis of its referential feel. To declare that you enjoy this movie is to ally yourself with the best of noir, 1940s/50s comic culture, Alfred Hitchcock and the great radio shows of ages past. You're not allowed to dislike, disapprove or criticize the thing because it has borrowed so heavily from the good entertainment of ages past; and most people can't or won't tell the difference between what looks good and what is good.

Anyone who calls the quality into question is dismissed as either an ignoramus who "doesn't get it" or a Philistine who is attacking the best of historical pop culture. No one can stand up and simply say, "This was a bad movie. It had no redeeming value whatsoever -- except that which it siphoned off and watered down from vintage media." But unlike the vintage media of old, this movie is incapable of standing alone as its own work. It must be digested in its own sordid context, as a parasitic strip of celluloid that can imitate, but never duplicate, quality camp.

Anyway, that's just my opinion -- and lots of very nice people (many of them good Democrats and fine, upstanding citizens) disagree with me. Everyone is entitled to adore this movie as they see fit, but I don't, and I cannot in good conscience recommend it to anyone I like.



Sep. 27th, 2004 10:32 am (UTC)
Re: your geek curricula vitae
i got it, it's okay ;-)

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