Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

Sky Captain

My wife and I went to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow this afternoon. (Movies in this area now cost $10, which I can’t get my head around. It makes driving up to the city and going to the art gallery or our for dinner seem more competitive.) As a futurist, I found it fascinating at the eye-candy level, but totally vacuous in every other.

The movie is a catalog of old movie and pop culture visual shorthand– the radio waves emanating from the giant radio tower, the mechanized giant’s shadow rising on the wall, the zeppelin docking on the Empire State Building. It’s an alternate history defined by streamlining, big shoulder pads, lighter-than-air travel, bright lights and dark shadows, and giant robots– equal parts Raymond Loewy, H. G. Wells, and Cartier-Bresson.

But as always, the most amazing special effect was Angelina Jolie’s lips. Huh?

There may have been a plot, but if so, it didn’t really get in the way of the movie.

One thing I found completely brilliant was an update on the “plane flying over the map” graphic that they used in old movies, and which was revived in Raiders of the Lost Ark. In Sky Captain, you’d look down on the plane flying over a landscape, go through a bank of clouds, then emerge– with a map underneath it. As the plane approached its destination, the map would slowly fade back to the real terrain. Having spent most of last week at work doing a conference on the “New Geography” exploring the consequences of the mobile-and-wireless-mediated merger of digital information and physical place, I found that image especially compelling.

2 Comments

  1. The little hubby and I go sees them manatees since the prices is lower.

    I could not comprehend why they bothered assigning dialogue if they weren’t going to do it right. Without the rat-a-tat-tat of a ’40s feature, the whole spoken-word aspect stunk. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful move.

  2. i haven’t see the movies your talking for… i’ll try to look for it in a video shop…

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