Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (PG)

Correction! This is not the digital age. This is the dawning of the Age of the Geek, a time when computer dweebs will rise up to exact much-needed revenge over the artistic, the talented, the technically trained, and the good-looking.  

We are living in a twisted world, a world in which a nerd who knows how to write software code can write and direct his on major studio motion picture. What’s next? Bill Gates digitizing hip-hop? Steve Jobs building a computer to rival Monet? Considering the fact a major studio shelled out $60 million bucks for this flick, maybe I should just skip film school and concentrate on my programming skills, yeah? I mean, who needs character development when you can type code?

I had some major questions running through my head as I left the theater  was “Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow” nothing short of brilliant? Or, was it just an expensive experiment in vanity run amok?

With all due deference, Kevin Conran, the rookie writer/director of Sky Captain, is no mere computer geek or nerd or dweeb. Artistically, his debut is one of the most stunningly beautiful films I’ve ever seen but what impressed me most about Conran is his lucid understanding of cinematic history, in particular the Saturday afternoon matinee serials that graced the big screen so many years ago. Sky Captain will be compared to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” ad infinitum but Conran’s loyalty to the serial form is even more pure. You can set your watch by it; every fifteen minutes you will get some kind of set-up and every fifteen minutes you will have an ooey-gooey love scene and every fifteen minutes you’ll get a mysterious revelation of some kind and every fifteen minutes there will be a climax and escape, all of which moving the story forward, right into. the next set-up. The sum of which delivers chills and spills on every level.

The appearance of giant robots wreaking havoc on Manhattan sends reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) and her ex-boyfriend Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan on a quest to find the man ultimately responsible for this mess-Dr. Totenkopf (Sir Lawrence Olivier resurrected via the magic of archive footage), but the doctor is seemingly protected on every level by design, by his robotic legions, and by a mysterious woman known as. well, Mysterious Woman (Bai Ling).

This story is just a whole lot of fun. It also happens to be chock full of CGI-candy. Conran’s software purportedly allows him to make instant movies-just add actors and stir. It’s probably not quite that simple since the end credits seem to go on forever and I’m sure the studio was spending all those big bucks on something, right? Regardless, this new animation process inundates us with images plucked straight from the director’s brain-images heavily influenced by the golden ages of comics and science fiction. The surreal quality of “Sky Captain” makes it different in every way. Who needs to shoot on location? Who needs a set? All you need is green screen!

Maybe this is the beginning of the end for celluloid? Somehow, I doubt it. Robert Rodriguez has been gravitating to this end with the “Spy Kids” series. Fundamentally, George Lucas has been doing the same thing for decades. The greatest minds in film making seem dead-set on eliminating the very cornerstone of their industry-film. Now Conran takes it a step further. No props, no sets, no locations? What’s next? No actors? Hmm.

As a novelty, “Sky Captain” couldn’t get very far in a world already congested with entertainment options. It’s football season down here in Texas, for crying out loud! Conran still has to divert us from our reality to his and while the first chapter unfolds at slow pace it really accelerates as it builds to its conclusion. At some point I finally quit wondering how Conran accomplished this look or captured that scene, succumbing to this wonderful fantastic world he fashioned; a world of tomorrow that takes place many yesterdays ago with a Sky Captain that doesn’t seem to have anybody around to captain; a world with the technology to build ray guns, rocket ships, and giant robots with laser beams attached their heads with a hero flying around the world in a WWII fighter plane; a world where aircraft carriers fly and planes go under water. It’s just a really cool world!

Ergo, “Sky Captain” gets my highest rating-HOT DATE. Grab the wife, the kids, and head for the movies. You really need to experience this film in a theater.

Christian Perspective (Warning! Possible Spoilers Ahead):

“Sky Captain” takes an interesting Biblically related plot twist most Christians will find intriguing. It is an extremely clean film-no sex, cartoon-like violence, and only two minor-league curses-suitable for the entire family. The worst scene involves the electrocution of one scientist near the end of the movie. You should be able to see it coming in time to cover the eyes of a small child if needs be, but even that isn’t very graphic by today’s standards. Obviously there is some innuendo and subtext similar to the types of stories “Sky Captain” emulates, but even that is very mild. “Sky Captain” is a very wholesome film.