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Adam-Troy Castro
Posted on Sunday, September 26, 2004 - 02:32 pm:   

Judi and I have been eagerly awaiting SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
since the first coming attraction, during RETURN OF THE KING.

We have been frustrated, in past weeks, by weather and by folks
who saw it without us.

We caught up with it today.

We were less than impressed.

* sigh *

Look, it's not like we're immune to this kind of thing. We
number of other junky popcorn entertainments we find just peachy-keen.

But, you know.

We have reached a point, in cinema history, where filmmakers
are no longer constrained by simple human limitations. Thanks to CGI, anything
the human mind can imagine, can be captured on film: from fifty-story dinosaurs
terrorizing cities, to the creatures of HARRY POTTER, to epic battles in
space, to aerial assaults by winged vampires, to the vast tapestries of
J.R.R. Tolkien. We *know* this. It's long-established, and the simple fact
of it has ceased to amaze.

When a movie invests all of its weight on the simple magic
trick, and nothing in pacing, dialogue, characters we care about, or even's as dull as it would have been if the sets had been cardboard
and the explosions had been sparklers waved behind foreshortened windows.

Ten minutes of SKY CAPTAIN was more than enough for me.

After that, I simply couldn't care less about any of it.

I don't fault the actors. Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow are
fine eye candy and should have chemistry, but they have nothing to do in
such a void. Angelina Jolie enlivens the film for the all of ten minutes
she's in it, but similarly has little to do.

The problem, again, is the script, and the direction, which
gives us no reason to care.

Here's the paradox: place vivid characters and a compelling
story against a featureless black backdrop, as Lars Van Trier did in DOGVILLE,
and as any number of theatre productions have done on stage, and we care:
we become invested. Place cyphers and a pointless mishmash against a blue
screen, and we don't care. We become distanced. And I'm happy to report
that it's not a question of dumbing down the audience, because the rather
large audience at our matinee seemed to feel the same way. Nobody laughed.
Nobody applauded. Nobody cried out or cheered at the hair's-breadth escapes.
Once our asses were in our seats, we saw through it, even though we went
prepared to like it.

There were all of three moments, in all of SKY CAPTAIN, that
I perked up with genuine amusement. Only one had to do with visual design:
and that was the lines of longitude of latitude, clearly visible on the
landscape below the plane. The other two, which downright delighted me,
were character moments. One was a neat trick involving the registration
numbers on Sky Captain's plane, and the other involved the last thirty seconds
of the film: a perfect punch line, which would have been even more satisfying
in a better movie.

Otherwise: a total disappointment.


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