Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Sky Captain and the Blown Opportunity

Robert Rodriguez got it right.
His adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City, still the best film this year and one that I am actually glad that a sequel is in the works, seamlessly incorporated CGI imagery with live-action to create a whole new world of cinema.
Last year's Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow failed miserably. Here's a piece I wrote for FilmFever.org, a site that unfortunately seems to be defunct.

Now that the dust has settled, it's clear that Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow has not taken the world by storm. In fact, it can be looked upon as not just a disappointment but a box office failure. The critics didn't go as gaa-gaa over it either. I had to wonder why. It sure seemed like it would hit it out of the park but after finally seeing on Sunday, I've got some idea what happened.
1. The script. Yeah, 'fraid so. Writer/director Kerry Conran may be a visionary, but a wordsmith, he ain't. (Sound familiar, Mr. Lucas?) The characters were mostly flat, the dialogue didn't crackle (this is not a quotable movie) and the jokes fell flat, the worst of which being the stupid and inappropriate line "Cold air makes nipples hard." Yuck. Sure there were lots of ideas bandied about in the story but there was no real focus . It doesn't build. It just kind of...happens.
2. Film references. Sure they're fun when they are few and far between, but it seemed like almost every scene needed an asterisk for the footnote below. Tarantino almost sabotaged Kill Bill in much the same way. Maybe it's my problem. I get all of the references and I find it distracting. It's really time to give The Wizard of Oz a rest.
3. The lack of a decent villain. The Olivier stuff was so underdone, it comes off as just a conceit, like Fred Astaire dancing with a vacuum cleaner.
4. Jude Law. He looks great, just like the movie itself, but he's too soft-spoken and, as a result, doesn't come off very heroic to me. He's a poser.And I may be killed for saying this (oh, what's one more thing...) but why was Sky Captain a Brit? I really think this character should have been an All American guy, unless it all took place in England or London instead of New York. And what is it with this guy anyway? Chris Rock was right on the money. For awhile, he was in a movie a week. Sky Captain, I Heart Huckabees, Alfie, Closer...I hear he's a porter on The Polar Express too. Who does he think he is... Ben Stiller? Don't get me wrong. I like Jude Law, certainly a lot better than I do Colin Farrell, but he didn't pull this character off for me. He seemed more like Leslie Howard. I didn't want Ashley Wilkes saving the world. I wanted Rhett Butler in a pilot's uniform. And while we're at it, less Gwyneth Paltrow and more Angelina Jolie. Who says an uber-hot one-eyed Valkyrie can't be a heroine?
5. The CGI. Whatever works in this film is due to the brilliance of the effects. However...(okay don't spit on your screens)...it's overkill. Too much, too soon in the early stages left me almost yawning by the end. It seemed to be less of a movie and more of a demo reel. In fact, I think it would have made a great short subject. Stretched out to a full-length feature, the seams started to show. Okay, I've dumped all over this movie and I feel rotten about it. I really do. There's nothing I would have liked better than to have embraced it and championed its cause, to chide those who make cah-rap like National Treasure popular, but ignore the fine work of an emerging new talent. But I can't. Chalk this up as a noble failure. Not wholly awful, but certainly not great either. It falls into that middle ground somewhere and that's kind of like Purgatory. I do think Kerry Conran should be given another shot to strut his stuff, but for God's sakes...give him a collaborator next time. He needs guidance. Otherwise, he'll end up in the Where Are They Now? column next to the director of Tron.
That director's name, by the way, is Steve Lisberger. I think he's flipping burgers at the In n Out Burger on La Brea.
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