“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is one of those misunderstood classics.
It’s a movie that was revolutionary but somehow got skipped over.
It was the first American film to be made totally in blue screen, now the standard for making blockbuster movies. Very few people know “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” exists, much less that it's what made movies like "Avatar" and "300" possible.
It used footage of a long-dead actor to play the villain, over a decade before “Star Wars: Rogue One” tried it. However “Rogue One” gets all the credit for this technique and the interesting questions it raises.
"Sky Captain" is also one of the rare superhero movies that isn't an origin story.
The movie opens in an alternative 1940’s.
Journalist Polly Perkins is writing a story about scientists who’ve mysteriously disappeared and receives a tip from a geneticist named Jennings.
Shortly afterward, giant robots attack major cities around the world and Polly’s old flame, pilot Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan, gets hired to stop them.
Jennings’ tip suggests whoever’s kidnapping the scientists also controls the robots, so Polly seeks Joe’s help.
There’s not much love lost between them, but they clearly need each other's skills.
They set out on a wild adventure, across multiple continents, to find out who’s behind these sinister events.
As you can probably tell by now, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" isn't exactly a typical superhero movie. It owes more to 1940’s movie serials and adventure comic books than it does to superhero comics.
However, even though Sky Captain may not fit in the same crowd as Batman and Superman, he definitely fits in the same crowd as comic book characters like the Rocketeer.
Sky Captain is a globe-trotting hero who lives in a WWII-era world, fighting huge machines and diabolical villains and somehow coming back alive every time.
So, like many of the previous films discussed, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” is a love letter to a certain genre.
However, it does something very different than the previously mentioned films.
“Darkman” worked because it meshed two genres and let them feed off each other.
“Turbo Kid” worked because it was a satire, which meant it could carry a superhero story’s silly elements and make them work.
“Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” works because it’s a recreation.
It tells exactly the kind of story you would see in a 1940’s comic book or a pulp magazine.
The movie's full of evil scientists, ridiculous plot twists, exotic island bases and massive chase scenes.
It even emulates the atmosphere of 1940’s adventure stories, with sets and gadgets which look like things you’d see in an old movie serial.
However, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” doesn’t try to parody or homage 1940's adventure stories.
There's no satirical humor nor any attempt to make the insane adventure "make sense" or seem "grown-up."
Instead, the movie just tells an old-fashioned story the way old-fashioned storytellers would have told it.
In the process, "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" revives its genre.
It recaptures what made old-school adventure movies so much fun.
Much like “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, it's a ridiculous, fast-paced adventure that really fits in another era.
But it tells the story with so much love and skill that we learn to love it again.