Friday, January 21, 2005

Pulp Reigns - Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow

If you’re a big fan of action comics, you will love ‘Sky Captain & the World of Tomorrow’. If you’re not, it will hook you to the genre. Although in the last year, we’ve had a spate of movies from comic books, like Spiderman (2), Hellboy and Catwoman, this one captures the mood and detailing extremely well.

It’s the 1930s. Newspaper reporter, Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) is investigating the disappearance of six scientists. She discovers that the brain behind this, is a certain Dr. Totenkopf who has plans for the world. She joins forces with an old flame, Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan (Jude Law) and with a little help from his techie friend, Dex (Giovanni Ribisi), they’re off on the trail of the evil mastermind.
The situations change rapidly, from giant robots (and I mean GIANT) walking the city streets to a dynamite-filled mine in Nepal to a mobile airstrip under the command of the eye-patched Captain Franky Cooke (Angelina Jolie) and finally concludes with a modern-day ark. Along the way, we find dinosaurs, aircrafts that mimic bird flight complete with wing-flapping, a mysterious companion of the elusive Dr. Totenkopf, ray guns and innumerable robots (alright, not quite as many robots as in I-Robot or Matrix Revolutions, but just about enough to add sheen).

Unlike other action heroes, Sky Captain doesn’t wear a signature outfit or have a key phrase. He has no supernatural powers, but is extremely determined and courageous.

As for performances, there’s an excellent rapport between Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow as the opportunistic, argumentative lead characters. Their banter is witty and each character is constantly trying to undermine the other. 

Ultimately, it’s Polly Perkins’ indecision about the usage of the last shots in her camera, the brave Sky Captain’s dependence on Milk of Magnesia, Dex’s brilliance with anything technical, and Franky Cook’s gutsiness, that keep one riveted to the seat. There’s no violence of the blood-and-gore kind, no profanity and no steamy scenes either. Add to that, a narrative that doesn’t flag, but hurtles on to a fantastic finish. Ultimately, it’s the combination of the imagination of the 1930s, coupled with today’s special effects, that works to the movie’s favour.

Oh! And did I mention that all the action described above, barring the actors and a few props, was primarily special effects? And that Sir Laurence Olivier is Totenkopf?

Sky Captain is in the pulp-magazine genre, named after the inexpensive pulp that was used to make the paper that the magazines were printed on. Primarily focusing on romance, westerns, detective, war and science fiction, this genre set the stage for such greats as Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, Street and Smith’s Doc Savage and The Shadow.

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