Scene Gems: Old Flames Butt Heads in 'Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow'
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) was a fun tribute to movie serials of the past infused with a high tech CGI look of today. Shot almost entirely on a greenscreened soundstage (with the actors, the rest was completely computer generated), Kerry Conran's retro epic was a hit with most critics (I liked it as well), but had a bungled September release and flopped.
Despite the fact that the whole movie is an effects shot (notice the colorized luminosity of everything), there are scenes such as this one that develop characters complete with witty banter reminiscent of the Thin Man films. In it, Sky Captain Joe (Jude Law) is surprised by former lover Polly (Gwyneth Paltrow), and they have a feisty reunion. I love the daggers these two cast at each other, as well as the expression of pal Dex (Giovanni Ribisi) who interrupts them.
Like all Scene Gems (which I'm sure you've noticed by now), this is a low tech scene in a very high tech movie. Something like this could easily be replicated in a simple office, with dramatic lighting and appropriate costumes. It's all about attitude, and without interactions such as this one, the amazing visuals would be ho-hum and devoid of suspense.
I'm sad that Kerry Conran has no more projects in the works, as he is a real talent and I would definitely run out to see his next film. He crafted quite a movie here, but apparently went over budget and made an action-art film that no one knew how to market. It's a common tale that you get one shot at the big time, and if you miss, you're done.