You Can't Always Go Back5/10
While my peers were racing to the movies to see such films as Pretty in Pink and Say Anything I couldn't wait to visit my grandparents' farm in southeastern Colorado. In my grandmother's antique cabinet in their 'playroom' were literally hundreds of tapes; movies staring the Three Stooges, the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, and dozens of cliffhangers such as Mystery Squadron and The Adventures of Red Ryder . My love of serials is one of the few things I remember sharing with my father.
So when I was sitting in the theater and the first preview for Shy Captain and the World of Tomorrow came on I was transported back to the safety of my grandparents' home and the love I felt while watching old cliffhangers with my dad.
I was instantly in love with the movie, the beautiful quality of every frame that made the movie appear to be one beautifully illustrated comic book and, of course, the similarity to the campy sci-fi movies of the 1930's. I went home and immediately looked the movie up on the internet.
I was stunned to find out that this was the first film Kerry Conran had directed or written, and that Sky Captain was originally a six minute reel that producer Jon Avnet saw and wanted to turn into a feature length film. The movie itself was first storyboard with crude animation so that the actors would understand what was happening in their scenes since the entire film was shot in front of blue screen. Because there were no actual locations filming only took 26 days instead of an estimated 6 months.
When the movie opened on the 17th of September I was there for one the first showings. The theater was all but empty, only about twelve other people were there, all men, all in their thirties and all alone. I was truly shocked at the small turn out, what about this film had turned off so many movie goers?
The movie began and I felt like a little kid falling in love with movies for the first time all over again. The shuttle references to classic sci-fi movies of the 1920's, 30's and 40's littered the screen. References to King Kong, Forbidden Planet, and the comic book Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. were everywhere you looked. At one point Polly Perkins the feisty reporter played by Gwyneth Paltrow is talking to her editor on the phone saying, 'They're reached Sixth Ave
. they're a hundred yards away', a direct quote from Orson Welle's radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds. Even Star Wars was referenced when Joe 'Sky Captain' Sullivan played by Jude Law is instructed to land on the air carrier's pad 327, the same number the Millennium Falcon lands on in Cloud City. By far the greatest reference to past greatness is the appearance Sir Laurence Olivier, who died in 1989, as the villain Dr. Totenkopf, using CGI and archival footage Conran brings back to life one of our greatest actors.
I was in movie geek heaven, for about the first hour, and then my attention started to wonder. In a society of attention deficit the constant motion and flying from one scene to another and the quick, panicked, pace of this movie should have fit in, however I felt teased, as if I was only watching part of a movie, the part that would never have a conclusion. We receive through the dialogue what little character development the movie has to offer, which isn't much, and in the end no one grows, or changes, or even becomes deeper than a character in a commercial.
Looking back at the old serials I realize that the characters remained the same generic, two dimensional characters they were at the beginning, but the lack of development goes unnoticed in an action film less than twenty minutes long. Today the only programs we watch that are less than twenty minutes are situational comedies that parade a host of cardboard characters through redundant stories lines. A two hour long episode is too much, perhaps Kerry Conran should have stuck more closely to the serial format and released the movie in smaller segments, maybe then I would have remained entertained and in love with his homage to old cinema. We are a country that seems to forever be moving forward with little room to go back and even though we sometimes get nostalgic for a simpler film, or movie hero, it's not always possible to pull off with today's intellectual needs.