Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.



By Dennis D. McDonald


The most interesting extra on this DVD is the long documentary that tracks the production of the film. It documents with great detail and enthusiasm what I think is the main message of this film, that people “outside the mainstream” who have a vision can produce blockbuster entertainment that depends heavily on modern technology managed and used in a tightly controlled temporary business environment.

Yes, what we see on the screen is fantastic and not realistic, but thinking of this production, consider the significance of how this film was made with so few actors and a lot of blue screen. Eventually it will be possible to produce a visually realistic film using computer animation techniques without ANY live actors and without ANY sets. Not only that, but the technology (hardware and software) that enables such reality creation will come down in price and will be more widely available to creative people. This is already happening with videogames whose processing power is steadily being ramped up to handle more sophisticated interactivity and real-time video rendering.

Even if 90% of what people can create using these tools is crud, the 10% of good stuff will eventually be indistinguishable from reality. Whether this is good or bad is debatable. From my perspective, I don’t mind a bit of unreality now and then, and Sky Captain is a perfect example of that.


I found myself smiling a lot during this movie. Why? It takes a mass of adventure movie clichés, crosses them with 1930’s AMAZING STORIES pulp-novel cover illustrations, tosses in an archetypal Aviator Hero and Plucky Girl Reporter, and puts them up there on the giant screen with terrific surround sound, ray guns, Shangri-La, trusty sidekicks and old flames, giant robots, and serves them with nonstop action.

It wouldn’t work if Jude Law (AI Artificial Intelligence, Enemy at the Gates) and Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t fit the bill perfectly. They do. They don’t over-act, and they don’t under-act. They even pull off waking up in bed naked together without too much discomfort.

But the images are king in this movie, and I must say I’m impressed. The last time I was similarly amazed was with Voices of a Distant Star, and that’s a very short movie by comparison.

Maybe part of my enjoyment of this movie is that it is the stuff of dreams, the kinds of dreams I sometimes have because of my love of science fiction. The science fiction presented here is really the Saturday Matinee version of science fiction, not the Asimov/Clarke/Heinlein version.

But that’s ok — I love both types.

Things I loved:

  • Giant Robots in Manhattan
  • Robots with Tentacles
  • Flying Machines with Flapping Wings
  • Underwater flying (must have brought back some memories for Gigolo Joe)
  • Giant silver space ship taking off on a pillar of flame and cloud
  • Flying Aircraft Carriers (!)
  • Angelina Jolie’s Eye Patch
  • An Ark!
  • A Slide Rule!
  • A P-40 Warhawk (heavily customized, to be sure)

Bottom line: sometimes I want drama; sometimes I want a well made piece of childish entertainment. SKY CAPTAIN fits the bill.

PS: again I have the complaint that the special effects credits at the end of the movie —  and the effects credits here go on for a long time and even have a buried credit for ILM — do not state what the individual companies did. Given the importance of the effects, that lack of more detailed credit information is a significant oversight.

Kaneto Shindo's ONIBABA

Kaneto Shindo's ONIBABA

Clint Eastwood's MYSTIC RIVER