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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Retro brilliance

I must say I am quite a sucker for the recent spate of films based on comic strips. I liked the Spiderman films, the Hulk, and even quite enjoyed the Batman films (the one with Michael Keaton, anyway). Well, another one off the conveyor belt is Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Jude and Gwyneth

It has been panned by the critics, which is usually a promising sign given the nature of most snarky film reviewers these days, and I hugely enjoyed it. It has numerous fine qualities: WW2 fighter planes which can go underwater; futuristic aircraft carriers in the sky with great big Union Jacks on them; spiffy uniforms with Angelina Jolie wearing them; hot female journalists in classic 1930s garb with rakish hats and wavy hair (Gwyneth Paltrow), and big, biiiiiiig metal robots that do not talk but stomp menacingly around New York.


The film has no great ‘message’, I suppose, apart from showing how in the middle of the 20th century mankind, or at least the western bits of it, dreamed of a mechanised, high-tech future. The vision appears a bit comical to us now, but perhaps our age, with our interests in the Web and so on, will appear no less bizarre to generations hence.

Cool robots

But never mind all that highfalutin’ stuff. Go and see the film and have a feast of art deco kitsch with two of the most ravishing actresses now working. What’s not to like?

14 comments to Retro brilliance

  • Richard Easbey

    Okay, as the token gay Sammizdatista (lol), I’ll go to see it for the art deco kitsch AND Jude Law…. although I have no objection to Gwyneth or Angelina either. I guess it’s got something for everyone! Ah, I love the free market…

  • I liked it too, but then I am an art deco fetishist… and it had the best closing scene I have watched in a while 🙂

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: Johnathan Pearce (London)
    RE: The World of Tomorrow

    Great Thirties-esque action-adventure. It would make a great serial, if they’d do it on television; each month or so as series of one-hour cliff-hangers.

    Looking forward to what television does with that idea. I’d even consider plugging mine back in again for something like that.



  • Tatyana

    Perry, you’re an art deco fetishist? If I only knew! (year ago in NY)
    Hurray for 30’s hats and wavy hair!

  • Panned by the critics?

    Certainly not in the USA.

    I loved it, BTW. The gaping plotholes meant so little, given the giant robots, modified P-40s, and flying aircraft carriers.

  • And of course, Angelina Jolie in uniform wearing an eyepatch was a big plus.

  • R C Dean

    Count me in. Saw it, liked it. Give it 3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars.

  • It has been panned by the critics

    Er, which critics are you referring to? The critical reaction I have seen has been good to rapturous. (See here for instance). It hasn’t attracted enormous audiences (although box-office hasn’t been terrible either) but I wouldn’t blame the critics for that.

    I am with you. I loved it. Note also that apart from the actors there is not a frame of live action in the movie. As well as being gloriously retro, the film is in another way as modern as can be.

  • This could never have been a 30s serial. Lack of a villain whom you could hate.

    Whilst the effects were good, (reminded me of Steve Yeowell’s art deco dinosaur fighting Sydney in Zenith many moons ago), the narrative weaknesses got to me. Usually the twists and the action cover up the holes, but they didn’t here.

    Vaguely disappointing, like Carpenter in the 90s.

  • Myria

    Ugh! Horribly miscast, a pathetic joke of a story filled with more holes than your average colander and lacking in a (for this kind of movie, essential) ‘bad guy’ or a (again, for this kind of movie, essential) working sense of humor, it’s no mystery why this pathetic joke of a movie spent so long on the shelf. The only real question is how in the world did it ever escape straight-to-video status?


  • snide

    No mystery there, Myra… just look at the other comments. Clearly quite a few folks enjoyed it just fine.

  • Even better, the hero who saves the day from the mad scientist trying build utopia is…a mercenary!

    I have to disagree about the story telling aspect. Good quality efficient pulp that really rattled along, nothing complex or profound but no dead spots or bum notes either. The apparent lack of depth comes from the decsion to focus almost entriely on two characters as a ground point, a wise division of labor given the colossal scale and far out look of the worls around them. I probably forgot about “the look” a few minutes in.

    What’s odd is how little most of the reviews have had to say about the action scenes. Outstanding combinations of epic scale, dynamism, vertigo, falsh and coherence from where I’m sitting, the dog fight theough the busy streets of Mahattan a particular highlight.

  • I enjoyed the movie as a parody of ’30s comic books and movies like The Island of Dr. Moreau. But I wondered why Angelina Jolie, who’s a good guy, is made to look so Nazi-ish in her uniform and eyepatch.

  • Dave J

    Probably because, Joanne, in the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke, no one ever fantasized about being tied up and ravished by a liberal. 😉