Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Kerry Conran

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow Kerry Conran
The key to success in politics is to control the agenda: to make sure that you dictate what gets discussed, keeping attention away from difficult questions. Films can be marketed in similar ways, and with last year's retro-fest Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, it's all about the look. That's what the draw is, that's what the DVD is about and that's all anyone talks about. Forget story, character development or narrative momentum; it's all about what Kerry Conran achieved visually, first on a commercial Apple II computer, then with a team of animators behind him. The story so far: in 1998, Conran finally finished six minutes of film about a retrofit world that looked at the future through the noir-ish shadows of the 1940s. It was his calling card, the first chapter of a larger film he wanted to make, one in which World War II planes battled giant tromping robots and aircraft carriers were borne aloft on propellers and staffed by sexy, eye-patch-wearing Oscar winners. His six minute short got him a producer, who got him a cast of Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, who spent a month in front of blue screens spouting lines about evil doctors and conspiracies. This is where, according to what the Sky Captain people are telling me, the magic starts happening. A team of animators took the blue screen footage of actors and placed them, digitally, in a world of Conran's imagination, one where sepia-toned doom clomps through the streets of his imagined Manhattan and actors fly the world over in search of justice, all lit with rich, black-infused tributes to the serials of yesteryear. It gives Sky Captain a truly remarkable look that visual enthusiasts will devour time and again; it also makes for a fairly dull story in which we learn nothing of the characters and care little about their fate. The small screen — no matter how delicate the DVD transfer or how amped the home theatre sound — does little justice to this big-screen experience. Absent the "wow" factor that size brings, the film's intimate moments (however few there are) seem thin by comparison. The DVD tries to constantly avert attention away from such weaknesses however, giving the film's creation a full hour featurette, adding another on art (done by Conran's production designer/brother Kevin), some lame deleted scenes and a pathetic "gag reel." The original six minute short — the one that got the studio and these Oscar-anointed stars involved in the first place — is the key extra here, and it's pretty cool. There are two commentaries too, where you can hear more about how cool it looks, with the participants confident in the knowledge that almost no one will bring up the elephants in the room: story and character. (Paramount)