"Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow": Why the hate?

Excuse me for a new thread, but the last dedicated one I could find in a search was back in April, and that seemed long enough to not resurrect. But I watched Sky Captain last night, thought it was great, and now I’m curious.

What was it about this movie that got it panned as violently as it did? Sure, Gwyneth Paltrow’s acting was Gwyneth Paltrow, she and Jude Law had zero chemistry, and Angelina Jolie’s character was disappointingly underused. Jude Law was in every second movie last year, and sorta phoned in bits of this one.

But what about the good? It looked gorgeous, like a slick modern interpretation of old pulp, down to the art deco font used in the credits. Knowing that it was all but completely CG makes things even more impressive. It never looked “real” but it was easy to lose yourself in the scenery. The story was FUN. Yeah, gaping logic holes, predictable, vastly unrealistic, but c’mon, same could be said for the pulps the movie derives inspiration from. The cheap one-liners (“Lenscap”) are so suitable to the style that they had far more life than they probably should have. It’s a disconnect sort of movie, a chance to revel in the fantastic adventures of bigger-than-life heroes and villians, with unlimited operational budgets and awesome toys.

So why does the down seem to outweigh the up for so many people?

I think it’s because it’s just not very good. The gaping plot holes, predictability, and vast amounts of unrealism that you mentioned seem to be just too much. Just because you can use CGI doesn’t mean you should. Even George Lucas professes to know that there’s no movie with only special effects and no story (I’ve got no explanation for Eps I and II, however).

The characters were flat, the story was pretty awful, and the events were way too unbelieveable. Movie audiences are pretty forgiving: most will suspend belief a good ways. However, get it too silly and you’ll lose just about everyone.

Yes, it was a georgeous movie. But georgeous does not a good movie make.

I love the movie, so I can’t imagine why the hate.

Basically I think the movie got better as it went along. The first ten minutes were the worst and the last ten were great.

Because it was tedious and dull. Take away the fancy effects and nothing’s left. No characterization, well-worn plot, nothing that stands out in the slightest. They did much better in the 30s, when they actually believed in the adventures, instead of using them for an excuse for bright shiny lights to amuse the primitives.

Like many CGI-heavy movies, the SFX are great, the acting is not.

If Gwyneth Paltrow were any more wooden, you could have made a bookshelf out of her.

It’s one of the most gorgeous movies I’ve ever seen (as is fellow green-screen film Sin City), but it could have been so much better. Conran was content to essentially remake a 1940s movie using 2004 computer technology, when he could have made a brilliant 2004 movie that paid tribute to the pulps and serials and sci-fi of the 1940s. Raiders of the Lost Arc was such a brilliant homage to the adventure serials of times past, but it had a very smart script and was much more complex than the old movies that inspired it. Sky Captain could have–and SHOULD HAVE–been the equivalent of Raiders for retro-pulp sci-fi movies, updating the old formulas and raising the stakes, while still lovingly influenced by what came before it. But instead of a smart, sharp update, it felt like a straight remake of a cheesy old serial with modern CGI effects. I know Conran and everyone involved with Sky Captain really meant well, and I applaud them all for taking a big risk and trying something new and different, but I feel like they fell far short of their potential with that one.

I thought it was a generally tolerable movie.

The last line really made me laugh hard, though.

-Joe, Lens cap

The movie is beautiful. No doubt about it.

And Jude Law is beautiful. More beautiful than any female costar.

I thought it seemed too long. Paltrow’s character was unbelievable. I kept thinking they were tring for banter and ending up with something flat. A lot of that has to do with the incredible lack of chemistry in the actors. They were on different planets.

But pretty. Almost as pretty as “The Secret Garden” from a number of years ago, which is the most beautiful movie I’ve ever seen.

I’ve seen it twice. The first time was in Germany, no dubbing or subtitles, and I liked it. Saw it again in English and it wasn’t as good. (Although that was on a three-inch screen on the flight home, and no movie looks its best in that environment.) After thinking about it for a bit, there are two things that didn’t work for me.

First is the character of Polly Perkins (which is a great name, by the way). She’s clearly supposed to follow in that late-30’s/early-40’s, plucky girl reporter mold (think Rosalind Russell in His Girl Friday). But Polly is just way too petulant at times. When she gets those Macguffin vials, and doesn’t know whether to tell Joe about them, I can almost picture her stamping her little foot, waving her hands and saying “what should I do, what should I do?” She should know what to do and do it well. I don’t know if the fault for this is with the writer, director, or the actress, but it just sort of feels like it was Gwyneth Paltrow’s choice to play it that way.

Second is the special effects. The trend has been for action sequences in movies to get progressively more ludicrous, to the point that it’s just motion-and-reaction instead of any progressing tension and peril. The end of The Hunt for Red October manages to generate suspense with a couple of submarines and a torpedo, because you can follow who’s doing what, and why. By comparison, the robots in Sky Captain are like a swarm of gnats. Okay, you swatted a few, so what. And I don’t care how good a pilot you are, a P-40 is not going to weave through traffic on 6th Avenue and hang a left on 34th St. (Oh, and can we take a shortcut through the lobby of this building so I can pick up a donut?)

But in the end, I did enjoy it for the images and some of the moments. The whole look of the movie is absolutely spectacular, as a sort of machine-age adventure writ large, and Gwyneth Paltrow is drop-dead gorgeous in this movie.

(And on preview, Chuck and Lou kinda nailed it, too.)

How was this movie violently panned? Rotten Tomatoes has most of the reviews for the movie being fresh.

I saw the movie twice in the theater and enjoyed it immensely both times. I think if you’re aware that the movie is an homage to sci-fi and adventure films of the thirties and forties you’re more likely to review the film positively (unless you don’t like those types of films).

I agree with the consensus – it was just deadly boring. When the movie was first out, I considered that it looked like a live-action Fleischer cartoon. But the thing about the Fleicscher cartoons is that they have boundless energy. This, OTOH, had no energy. It was if Charles Fleischer had made a cartoon of My Dinner With Andre. Boring.


Ah yes, but do you have the My Dinner With Andre action figures? You can have hours of fun with them!

I think this movie tought us all an important lesson: writing and directing should be left to the professionals.

The Fleischer brothers were Max and Dave. Charles Fleischer is the voice of Roger Rabbit.

I personally found the movie irresistable in its hokiness and sincere affection to a genre whose time has passed. Wouldn’t own it, and its virtues will obviously diminsh on the small screen, but I had a lot of fun.

To repeat what others have said - and what I said in the earlier threads - there’s no hate for Sky Captain: there’s disappointment.

I think we all wanted this to be really great. The concept was terrific and the scene by scene look was amazing. But Conran simply cannot write a decent line of dialog and cannot direct an actor to a halfway decent performance. Those are huge mountains to scale in making a movie.

That the movie was done in front of a green screen is no excuse. So was Sin City. While I think that the script of that movie didn’t work at all - you can’t take comic book dialog and make it sing out of the mouths of live actors - the acting was quite strong.

And being visually gorgeous simply isn’t enough. There are very few movies that can be recommended just on the basis of their visuals. Hero and House of Flying Daggers are two, but they have much better acting than Sky Captain. And even though their plots were ridiculous in many ways, at least the plot line developed the characters rather than being a bunch of almost independent - even contradictory - short movies.

Perhaps Conran will learn from this experience and go on to make better movies. Maybe he’ll pull a George Lucas and allow others to do the writing and directing while he concentrates on the big concepts. All I can say now is that for me “the down seem[ed] to outweigh the up” simply because there was so much more of it.

Simply put: It looked great, but the script sucked. I’ll buy it when it’s on sale at Amazon.

I thought it was as good as Raiders–a great popcorn flick that doesn’t stop to make a lot of sense. Conran should do a Doc Savage movie.

Even worse!



Went on Rotten Tomatoes right after submitting the OP, and realized it’s fresh there. But the box office was under its goal, and the moviegoer consensus, as shown in this thread, is that it was nowhere near the film it could have been.

Doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it immensely. It looked beautiful enough (and the comic book dialog was interesting enough) that I can easily forgive it its shortcomings. I was wondering why a number of people say they cannot.