Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

Critics Consensus

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is slim on plot and characterization, but the visuals more than make up for it.



Total Count: 211


Audience Score

User Ratings: 119,104
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Movie Info

Famous scientists around the world have mysteriously disappeared and "Chronicle" reporters Polly Perkins, and ace aviator Sky Captain, are both on the investigation. Risking their lives as they travel to exotic places around the world, can the fearless duo stop Dr. Totenkopf, the evil mastermind behind a plot to destroy the earth? Aided by Franky Cook, commander of an all-female amphibious squadron, and technical genius Dex, Polly and Sky Captain may be our planet's only hope.


Gwyneth Paltrow
as Polly Perkins
Jude Law
as Sky Captain
Michael Gambon
as Editor Paley
Laurence Olivier
as Dr. Totenkopf
Trevor Baxter
as Dr. Jennings
Julian Curry
as Dr. Vargas
Bai Ling
as Mysterious Woman
Peter Law
as Dr. Kessler
Jon Rumney
as German Scientist
Louis Hilyer
as Executive Officer
Mark Wells
as Communications Engineer
James Cash
as Uniformed Officer
Tenzin Bhagen
as Kalacakra Priest
Thupten Tsondru
as Dying Old Man
Nancy Crane
as Receptionist
William Hope
as American Broadcaster
Mido Himadi
as Soldier
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Critic Reviews for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

All Critics (211) | Top Critics (44) | Fresh (149) | Rotten (62)

  • This debut feature by Kerry Conran is a triumph not only for its technical mastery but for its good taste.

    Jun 8, 2007 | Full Review…
  • The clincher is how the actors are reduced to puppets and ciphers; Paltrow straight-jacketed in her Hildy Johnson-style two-piece and the evidently bored Law reduced throughout half the movie to giving the gimlet eye through flying goggles.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Wally Hammond

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It should feel like Star Wars, yet it fails to feel like a movie at all. Conran has done his work almost too well. It's as if you're sitting in front of an outsize comic book with a speed reader as page-turner.

    Jan 17, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Alas, the finest technology money can buy can't disguise basic flaws in plotting and structure, and flatly written, blandly heroic protagonists.

    Oct 6, 2004 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Neil Smith
    Top Critic
  • Such an interestingly silly movie that I found myself idly wondering what particular audience was being targeted with its peculiar conceits and infinitude of special effects.

    Oct 1, 2004 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • His nostalgia enabled by technology, Conran takes the ghosts in his machine seriously, and the results appear at once meltingly lovely and intriguingly inhuman.

    Sep 21, 2004 | Full Review…

    Ed Park

    Village Voice
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

  • Apr 09, 2013
    "Sky captain, sky captain, how high can you fly? You'll never, never, ever reach the sky!" Well, Eric Burdon, I don't know about reaching the sky, but this poor ol' air force aviator would never, never, ever make his film's budget back, which is unfortunate, because this puppy broke ground with CG qantity sensibilities. Do note that I said, "quantity", not, "quality", because it's not too hard to tell that this innovative technique of being entirely shot on a digital backlot was in prototype stages with this film, as these effects are quite a ways away from those of "Avatar" (Maybe Giovanni Ribisi is entirely CG, because if it's a film that doesn't something new with effects, he's somewhere in there), and yet the final product still couldn't cut back enough money to do reasonably well at the box office. So yeah, you shouldn't exactly go into this CG world expecting it to look Peter Jackson-grade, but hey, it's all for the sake of fun, and besides, most of the weakly-antimated stuff in this film is still way cooler than the stuff we had in our version of 1939, back when people could barely afford homes, let alone advanced ace mechanics, giant robots, lazer guns and so on and so forth. Yeah, I would love to see what the Japs would have thought of us then, but if this film's WWII era is just going to stay within Kerry Conran's crazy head, then I'll run with it, because it sure does make for a fun film. Still, as much as this film delivers on pulp, its juice supply often finds itself thinned out by quite a few problems. The film accels just fine on the whole, but the visual effects aren't exactly the only questionable technical touches in this effort, as Sabrina Plisco's editing, while never bad, gets to be a bit awkwardly overstylized, much like plenty of other apsects to this fluffy homage to pulp classics, which often gets to be a bit carried away in its almost overbearing overemphasis on active celebrations of comic book and old fluff stylistic tastes. This film's style is not simply unique, but stunning, and there's no denying that, but after a while, the rich abundance of stylizing kind of wears on your nerves a bit, though probably not as much as other forms of embracement of the pulp classics this film pays a bit too rich of an homage to. What plot there is in this film is way too familiar, and while this tale isn't exactly driven by its storytelling, or at least makes up for its conventionalism with the style and entertainment value that compensate for most every other substance hiccup in this tongue-in-cheek fluff piece, it's hard to get around the awkward genericisms, especially when the film goes so far as to slip into seriously cheesy cliches, of which there are many. You can only go so long with the intentional corniness of this formulaic classic pulp piece homage, which would be more forgivable if it wasn't broken up by glaring total lapses in plot structure that thin out characterization and slow-down periods, all but to total dissipation. The film is very little exposition and a whole lot of action, and such a formula is fun and all, but near-exhaustingly frantic, slam-banging things along and intentional fashion that can be ignored for only so long, partially because the final product appears to try too hard to make sure that you don't ignore its intentions. As actively rather lazy as this film is in its substance control, it's hard to deny that this film is still ambitious as all get-out, and too much so, to where it ends up feeling as though it's trying too hard to compensate for its hiccups, leaving you to only grow more aware of the mistakes. The film's problems aren't too severe, or if they are, their blows are softened by such considerable entertainment value, but they are recurring, thinning the final product into too much pulp and not enough juice, until it comes out as just another fluff piece, just with a couple of refreshing stylistic touches. Of course, these refreshing stylistic touches sure do go a long way at the end of the day, as do more good old-fashioned fluffy touch-ups, which may never give you a whole lot substance, but sure do give the final product plenty of charm, some of which owes some credit to a colorful cast. Plotting and characterization are paper thin, so I reckon the means that it's not too hard to guess what else is mighty thin: acting material, which isn't to say that you're not likely to be in any way engaged by the talented cast, whose members deliver on enough of their trademark and somewhat distinct charismas to earn some degree of your investment. The film's characters are thin something fierce, and I don't just mean that figuratively, seeing as how Angelina Jolie shows up after a while, so it's not like our leads were ever to be too memorable, but they would be utterly forgettable if they weren't backed by such charisma, which calls your attention to our characters, no matter how undercooked they and the story behind them may be, and helps in reinforcing the final product's engagement value, which is, of course, first established, maybe even most secured by - you guessed it - style, something that is most certainly focused upon the most in this pulp piece, and deserves it, delivering on such lively touches as sweepingly old-fashioned, sprited score work, courtesty of Edward Shearmur, as well as on a visual style that is nothing short of outstanding. Cinematographer Eric Adkins' and director Kerry Conran's tastefully broad shot framing gives you a fine sense of scope that supplement a sense of entertainment value-augmenting adventure, which still isn't quite the most eye-catching thing about this film's photography, because if the then-upcoming "Sin City" and "The Spirit" were less gritty and with much less black-and-white, you would essentially get heavily layered lighting, crisply rich coloring and comic booky slickness, or rather, Adkins' cinematography for this film, whose visual style is heavily pronounced to the point of getting to be kind of exhausting after a while, but nonetheless every bit as extremely unique as it is extremely stunning. It's difficult to fully describe the style that this film's visuals have, which is fitting, because this film's cinematographic proficiency truly has to be seen in order to be believed, as this film is so very good-looking, and that gets it by a lot, much like a certain technical aspect that is backed by impressively innovative tastes, even though not everything about it was up-to-par even for 2004. The quality of the film's visual effects are far from Asylum Productions bad, but, whether it be on purpose or whatever, the look of many of this film's visual effects is pretty offputtingly cartoonish and messy, so contemporaries who are too used to something like "Avatar" aren't too likely to appreciate this film's technical efforts, but you cannot take away this film's honor of being one of the first major efforts to be done on a "digital backlot", or setting that is heavily touched up with, if not entirely comprised of visual effects, so, of course, the film's effects, though flawed, are very dynamic, with enough soul to bring the world to life, even if it isn't able to do so in an especially convincing fashion. The film has its technical hiccups, yet meets most every one of them with technical touches that are either relatively very sharp, or fluffy enough to augment entertainment value, something that this film would pretty much be nothing without, because as messy as this overambitious project is, it at least keeps consistent with something that carries it a long, long way: fun. Sure, in terms of overall quantity, this film's strengths aren't really all that abundant, but what strengths there in this film are consistent, and considerable, not so much so that the film stands as relatively upstanding as a pulp piece and, by extension, as genuinely rewarding as any good film that tries to go anchored by substance, but decidedly to where the final product delivers on enough charm, style and all around fun to keep you thoroughly entertained, regardless of its mishaps. When the aventure finally comes to an end, an ambitious project is left having taken a bit of damage from overdone moments of celebration of the style that can do only so much to compensate for cheesily generic, when not paper-thin storytelling, thus making for a film that can never be all that good, but still accels in the end as, at the very least, fun, as there is enough charisma within the cast, power to the score work, beauty to the cinematography and fluffiness, if not sharpness to technicality to make "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" a thoroughly entertaining sci-fi homage to classic pulp pieces that were often about as flawed as this still-decent effort. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Aug 16, 2012
    Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is spectacularly awful. It's so wrong in so many ways, it's just amazing. The cast is actually fairly strong, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Giovanni Ribisi, and Angelina Jolie, but the film works against them in every way. The complete CGI environment clashes with the actors, and the cinematography makes everything look hazy. Additionally, the storytelling is weak and the characters are one dimensional. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is an ambitious film, but its reach is beyond its grasp.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 19, 2012
    Sky Captain is a rare movie that pays homage to classic movies of the early-to-mid 20th century. There are so many aspects of this film that are just shouting retro. The tyranny of the incredibly rich and genius Totenkopf reminded me ever so much of Charles Foster Kane from the 40's classic Citizen Kane. His weird robots reminded me of The Day the Earth Stood Still and the odd special effects and dialogue reminded me of just about every classic adventure movie. The music and all of the various parts of the world that are visited reminded me of Indiana Jones as well. Jude Law is quiet as Sky Captain, but I liked him in this a lot. Gwyneth Paltrow is a little annoying and her lines are so cheesy, but you have to understand the director wasn't trying to make a modern classic. The visual style and special effects have a very old quality to them. If you go into this movie with the expectations of an amazing modern adventure movie, you will be let down. If you're expecting a movie that is more of a tribute to classic films, you'll enjoy Sky Captain.
    Kevin M Super Reviewer
  • May 28, 2012
    This unusual science fiction film written and directed by Kerry Conran is his directorial debut... and it is something to remember! Set in an alternative 1939 this fantastic feature is following the adventures of Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), a newspaper reporter, and Harry Joseph "Joe" Sullivan (Jude Law), alias "Sky Captain," as they track down the mysterious Dr. Totenkopf, who is rebuilding the World or creating "World of Tomorrow". I always say that if you believe in something you could do anything... and that is what Conran did with his believe in this project - he spent four years making a black and white teaser trailer with a bluescreen set up in his living room and using a Macintosh IIci personal computer! Had a chance to show it to producer Jon Avnet, who was so impressed that he spent two years working with the aspiring filmmaker on his screenplay. No major studio was interested in financing such an unusual film with a first-time director but at the end Avnet convinced Aurelio De Laurentiis to finance Sky Captain without a distribution deal. And that way they become a part of the film history - almost 100 digital artists, modelers, animators and compositors created the multi-layered 2D and 3D backgrounds for the live-action footage while the entire movie was sketched out via hand-drawn storyboards and then re-created as computer-generated 3D animatics. Paying attention to the details was so important that ten months before Conran made the movie with his cast, he shot it entirely with stand-ins in Los Angeles and then created it in animatics so the actors had an idea of what the film would look like. This is of the first major films to be shot entirely on a "digital backlot", blending live actors with computer generated surroundings. Next to the two stars, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jude Law, Angelina Jolie as Commander Francesca "Franky" Cook had a minor role - in the movie she was a Royal Navy flying aircraft carrier. Before accepting this job, Jolie had just arrived from the set of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003) and agreed to work on the movie for three days. Despite her small role, she reportedly had conducted hours of interviews with fighter pilots in order to absorb their jargon and get a feel for the role - and it was a pleasure seeing her using that jargon! If you are into old comics, fantasy, adventure and stunning visuals, there is a movie which will satisfy your taste... just bite into it!
    Panta O Super Reviewer

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