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Raja Sen | August 05, 2005 15:59 IST

Special Collector's Edition DVD

THE FILM:

Some films toss reality out the window with such casual grace that you can't help but marvel. Sky Captain is an unbelievable technical achievement, one that necessitates drooling and the instant replaying of several scenes. This is a montage of manufactured moments, the best part being it is uncharacteristically part of a very indie film.

Forget what it looks like, this is as boot-laced a budget as it gets. Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie gave up paycheques to come aboard this übercool production, created by Kerry Conran. The word 'created' is apt here, as the entire film, outside of the actors, is crafted digitally.

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From the art-deco New York reminiscent of Fritz Lang's Metropolis to Sky Captain's fighter plane to the classic interiors of Radio City Music Hall -- it's all strung together inside computers, with the actors working against a blue-screen. Mindboggling.

Which is why you wish a little more attention was paid to the script. The film is a throwback to 1930s American spy films, and the sophistication, while evident in visual detailing, is missing with the characters and acting. It is indeed laudable to bring a comic book to life in this awesome manner, but re-doing Commando instead of anything with a wee bit of depth is a dubious decision.

The obvious argument is that the genre this film imitates, in every way, always consisted of wooden actors with ridiculously exaggerated accents playing utterly uni-dimensional characters. That may be true. However, this is also why it falls well short of being a memorable classic, which it could so easily have been. Indy Jones, it ain't.

To be fair, it's still fun by the bucketful. There are millions of affectionate nods to classic films and comics, and a few real zingers, mostly monopolised by Gwyneth. While not a masterpiece, Sky Captain is a movie that can't help but make you smile. And did I mention that Sir Laurence Olivier (deceased 1989), one of the finest actors of all time, plays the villain?

THE EXTRAS:

Ah, the fun bits. Be assured, folks, they're mostly here. Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow

There are two commentary tracks -- the first is avoidable, totally awed 'isn't this incredible?' babble from the film's producer, Jon Avnet, a Paramount man overwhelmed by the coolness. The second, featuring Conran and his entire VFX crew, is a treat, as they chuckle warmly over the insanities involved in bringing alive each scene of this 10-year endeavour.

Yes, that's right. Ten years from Conran The Visionary's Macintosh to Conran The Director's movie premiere! Two tight documentaries, one titled Brave New World, take us adequately behind the scenes, justifiably showing off the fascinating process of creation. The Art Of Tomorrow explains how the look of the film was developed, and what inspired it.

Sky Captain And The World Of TomorrowThe disc includes the original six-minute short Conran made in 1998 -- a superb watch after going through the movie, to trace where the film's basic stylistic elements were created. An amazing testament to what a man can do, armed with determination and a computer!

There's more: a couple of deleted scenes, great fun to watch because the CGI's not entirely in place; a gag reel that one wishes would have been a little longer; and a widescreen version of the film.

The film can also be watched in English or French, and comes with English and Spanish subtitles.

Overall, a sturdy package, especially recommended for lovers of visually experimental cinema. Or comic geeks.



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