The Tech of Sky Captain

By Deane Barker on September 17, 2004

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW / **** (PG): Some interesting information in Ebert’s gushing review of this movie (it hits theaters today). Apparently there were no physical sets.

Much will be written about the technique, about how the first-time director, Kerry Conran, labored for years to bring forth on his Macintosh a six-minute film illustrating his vision for “Sky Captain.” This film caught the attention of the director Jon Avnet, who agreed to produce Conran’s film and presented the idea to Paltrow and Law.

The actors did almost all of their scenes in front of a blue screen, which was then replaced with images generated on computers. The monsters, the city, and most of the sets and props never really existed except as digital files. This permitted a film of enormous scope to be made with a reasonable budget, but it also freed Conran and his collaborators to show whatever they wanted to, because one digital fantasy cost about as much as another.

The tepid review at USAToday asks some thought-provoking questions:

When looking at Paltrow’s glossy blond mane, one can’t help wonder whether that’s really her hair or it’s computer-enhanced. Are the gadgets they’re holding real or simply another digitized element of the virtually real atmosphere?

It gets even more interesting:

The evil doctor is played by Laurence Olivier, who died in 1989, and who is seen here through old shots recycled into a new character.

A friend of mine saw a preview of this film in California and proclaimed as one of the best films he’s ever seen. He told me he felt the same way he felt in’77, sitting in Star Wars for the first time.

(And, speaking of Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun Times has released his new site which is just fantastic. Heaven for movie buffs. I still think Ebert writes the best long-form review in the business. He emailed me once — I was a star-struck.)



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