'Who framed Roger Rabbit' took an animated character and brought it to life in the real world. Kerry Conran's 'Sky Captain and the World of tomorrow', accomplishes the more difficult task of placing it's human characters in a completely digital world that has no temporal identity in the way that it has its roots firmly placed in the 1940's but is populated by technology from a future that has not yet come to pass. It is well known by now how Conran achieved this look. All the actors performed the entire film in front of blue screens. During post-production these screens were digitally replaced by the actual visual effects, which have a unique retro cartoon look to them, featuring flying robots attacking New York, planes performing impossible aerial chases between skyscrapers, rocket ships and even the 'World of tomorrow' of the title, the significance of which will be left for viewers to discover.
Does the technique work? That is a difficult question to answer since the reaction is purely subjective in the way it may or may not be readily accepted. I found it to have a disorienting effect on me initially, especially since nearly the entire movie was very dimly lit giving the faces of its human characters an odd, almost unnatural kind of internal glow, while the rest of their surrounding remained shrouded in darkness. It later became obvious as the movie progressed that the dimness was a direct result of the choice of dull colors, predominantly gray, faded blue and sepia tone. The combination is black and white with modern hues, a befitting cinematic tribute to the era in which it is set in.
In keeping pace with the various elements of this film nourish world is reporter Polly Perkins (Gwenyth Paltrow), flash camera in hand and tilted hat covering her golden locks, chasing the giant robots while exploring the disappearance of renowned scientists who had been apparently working on a secret project. Caught amidst the clutches of jeopardy, she is saved by Joe (Jude Law), a daredevil pilot, the Sky Captain himself. They bicker much, which is annoying and superfluous at first but their squabble soon adopts the flavor of a Bogart-Bacall verbal stint. On their adventurous, investigative crime escapade they also seek the help of Joe's spunky friend Franky (Angelina Jolie) who commands a massive aerial landing platform. The influences are vast and obvious; Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and a dose of Nick Fury comics, all of which turn exotic and Biblical during the white-knuckle conclusion.
Even the impeccable Lawrence Oliver appears via the imaginative use of stills and stock footage as the evil Totenkopf. Ushering a new era of filmmaking, 'Sky Captain ' heralds the increasing dependence of technology and minimized human intervention in creating motion pictures. Inventive and wonderstruck, it may not be for all tastes, but those unruffled by the sometimes ponderous visual effects usage will find it awing them without inhibition. - Faizan Rashid