Hey Jude, you could have made it better.
The filmmakers claim this movie as a landmark: the first film to combine real actors with entirely computer-generated backgrounds and sets. It seems a fairly meaningless prize, given that fantasy films routinely combine CGI with live action, and films like Toy Story manage entirely without sets. Still, the film is undeniably distinctive, although this is because of its style as much as form.
Jude Law plays the Sky Captain, a 1930s pilot with more than an echo of Indiana Jones. He is joined by reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), and the pair set off to save the world from a mad scientist and his giant robots.
If this story sounds old-fashioned, it is wholly intentional. Everything about the film seems designed as pastiche, from the HG Wells inspired robots, to the knockabout romance between the leads, straight out of a thirties screwball comedy.
The film is shot in highly stylised fuzzy sepia, and wears its inspirations proudly, with obvious nods to Orson Welles, Fritz Lang, and The Wizard of Oz. As a result, it’s likely to excite film buffs, but the kids at whom it ought to be aimed will be nonplussed, as the effects won’t impress them, and the film’s look is so resolutely gloomy.
Kids will also be disappointed by the plot, which attempts to parody the Bond films, but instead makes them seem thrillingly complex by comparison. There’s surprisingly little action, and what there is reminds us that part of the fun of live-action is the sense that the actors might really be in danger.
Nonetheless this is an unusual and distinctive film, which is never boring. The transitions are particularly good, although clearly this kind of faint praise says as much about the film’s flaws as its strengths.
(Released by Paramount Pictures and rated "PG" for sequences of stylized violence and brief mild language.)