Taking flight with ‘Commander’

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By Erin Tobin

By Erin Tobin

“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” appears to be a case where writer and director, Kerry Conran, getting bored with the way movies are usually made. Usually this is the way great movies are made, but the real question is whether or not Conran made a great movie or created just another gimmick.

The good news is “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is hardly just a gimmick, its a enjoyable treat.

By shooting the whole movie against a blue screen, then later adding by computer anything that wasn’t flesh and bone, Conran and cinematographer Eric Adkins, were able to create a 1930s New Yorkish city that never existed. Through the use of modern technology Conran and Adkins create an old fashioned movie.

The backdrop isn’t just 1930, Conran and Adkins gave the whole movie the feel of the earlier superhero movies where the real men wore tights and the women of their lives had newspaper-reporter jobs out in the thick of things and constantly played hard to get.

The colors and light used in the movie gave it a soft and round feel that made the classic movies of the ’30s so characteristic.

The hero of “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” doesn’t wear tights, not does he have a cape. Instead, Jude Law (previously of Cold Mountain) wears an aviator jacket and goggles as he plays Joe Sullivan, Sky Captain of the Flying League.

Law does a convincing job of playing the daring hero, who cares about his plane over anything else, but his female counterpart who is played by Gywneth Paltrow (have just come off “Sylvia”) just doesn’t seem to be able to keep up.

Paltrow plays the perky reporter Polly Perkins who can conquer any story as long as she has her trusty camera and a bag of film. Perkins and Sullivan used to be an item, but now they have the classic 1930s love/hate relationship. She thinks he had a fling with another woman and he’s positive she sabotaged his plane in an effort to get a breaking story. Then again, she can’t stop thinking about him and he named his new plane after her, sort of.

When Perkins nearly gets squished by glorious looking giant robots while she chasing a story about missing scientists she knows Sullivan is the man to go to in order to find answers.

Together they set off to find evil genius Dr. Totenkopf who is set on destroying the world. Totenkopf is actually played by Laurence Olivier, an actor who was big from the 30s through the 70s. Though Olivier passed away in 1989, Conran managed to use archive footage and creative thinking to crop Olivier in the movie.

The problem with Paltrow is she has difficulty reacting to what isn’t there. This of course is a major flaw when the movie is mostly added in after production. Paltrow’s fear is hard to see as she tries to flee the computer generated robots that splendidly crafted to look like robots of classic science fiction movies, most notably a Superman cartoon called “Mechanical Monsters.”

Luckily, Paltrow’s problems are not terribly distracting during the course of the film.

What is more is that the performances by Angelina Jolie and Giovanni Ribisi more then make up for Paltrow’s downfalls. Ribisi’s character, Dex Dearborn, is highly entertaining genius who loves comic books and uses them as inspiration for his many ideas and inventions. In short, Ribisi creates the perfect stereotypical sidekick and all of his moments on screen are memorable.

For being one of the film’s big names, Jolie spends even less time on stage as Captain “Franky” Cook, one of Sullivan’s former flames. Nevertheless Jolie delivers in grand style.

“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” has a solid, but simple plot. With most films this would come across as boring, but since there’s so much eye candy in the film the plot works well.

This is an easy going film that has fun and plays homage to an assortment of classic films like “King Kong.”

The scenery and robots are just plain fun and the same could be said about the movie’s dialogue.

There is only one more problem. The story unfolds in a series of short clipped scenes.

This could be possible due to the way the movie was filmed, since it would be hard to make things flow if things were shot so separately.

“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” may fall short of movies like the “Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark” or “Star Wars” but it doesn’t lag far behind. Instead the movie is exciting trip with a lot of creativity that never seems short on ideas.

During one part of the film there is actually an underwater dogfight between planes from both the good guys and the bad guys. The answer to who wins is pretty obvious.

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