Sky Captain… Hrmmm…

I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow today. One of the local reviewers summed it up really well when he said “whatever else this movie may be, it’s very pretty.” Yeah. Eye candy.

I liked the plot in Aliens vs Predator better, though. And the “science,” such as it was, had to be supported at least in part by the same suspension-of-disbelief engine used to power The Matrix: Revolutions.

Several months ago there was some discussion about mecha, specifically the feasibility thereof, on the Schlock forums over at Nightstar. The conclusion by all right-minded folk was that any technology sufficient to produce anime-style mecha will suffice to produce smaller, more efficient, non-humaniform killing machines that can plow through three times their weight in comparable tech-level mecha with ease. Chalain summed it up best when he said (and I paraphrase) “If your technology is so superior to your enemy’s that you can get away with building giant killer robots, then you’re just building to the psyche factor, and what you SHOULD be building is giant killer robot CLOWNS.”

Well, Chalain and I saw Sky Captain together, and we determined that any universe in which giant robots are a valid solution to a military problem must ALSO allow for nose-prop aircraft that can also function as both gliders AND submarines, robo-planes that flap their wings to fly, and aircraft carriers that float on air rather than water.

What Sky Captain really needs, and I mean REALLY needs, is the Mike Nelson MST3k treatment. This film could become a cult classic on par with Rocky Horror if some talented writers would publish a list of things the audience should be shouting.


19 thoughts on “Sky Captain… Hrmmm…”

  1. And the “science,” such as it was, had to be supported at least in part by the same suspension-of-disbelief engine used to power The Matrix: Revolutions.

    Yeah, it’s almost as bad as the science in Lord of the Rings. I mean, if the One Ring makes Frodo invisible, how come he can still see? How do those big flying things carry their own weight, much less the Nazgul? And photosynthesis simply can’t provide enough energy to allow a creature the size of an Ent to walk around — especially when Treebeard has almost no leaf canopy.

    1. Yeah, it is a little unfair picking at the “science” behind a “science fiction” movie where the focus was producing a 1930’s industrial warfare science fiction feeling. The purpose was to recreate the feeling of an old genre of adventure story, not make a plausible science fiction universe. (Actually, I think that the Riddick movie did a pretty good job of creating a similar feeling in a universe where it was plausable because of the cheap energy syndrome.)
      The movie was recalling an era where things had steadily beeng getting bigger and more mechanical, from the cloth and wood airplanes of WW1 through the massive industrial structures and monolithic bombers before and during world war two. Sure the nuclear bomb killed the idea of gigantic Modernist (the architecture/engineering movement) war machines with the production of a teeny tiny little bomb that would wipe out cities, but it is still an interesting imagery, on par with the Steampunk imagery of LXG and Phil Foligo.

      1. that, initially was going to be a post about having just had the mech arguement with my litte brother. He didn’t believe me that a mech was a poor investment of resources.

    2. LOTR

      I’ve put way too much thought into this, and I apologize. 1)The One Ring doesn’t make you invisible, it just puts you slightly out of phase into another dimension….hence the reason the nazgul could actually see and reach Frodo BETTER while he was at least partially in their dimension. 2)Those big flying things are descended from dragons. They have innate levitation magics, and, as I pointed out in point 1, above, the Nazgul are slightly out of phase and so don’t weigh nearly what you would think they should. 3)Ents don’t need to photosynthesize much, their drink sounds like a full meal in itself….ent draughts are described as being full of energy and not only do they seem to keep two HOBBITS (well known for their feelings toward food) happy for several days with no other rations, they actually made said young hobbits GROW.

      Fully internally consistent, see?

      Bryan “I spent way too much time thinking about this as a kid” Paschke

  2. Don’t get me wrong: the 30’s-era stuff was NOT lost on me. The problem is that said stuff is so campy that I giggled throughout the whole film.

    I was entertained. I liked it. But I won’t be seeing it again, unless Sandra wants to see it after it comes out on DVD. Or MAYBE if my kids want to see it — I bet they’ll love it.

    1. I had no problem with the campy super-science stuff; I expect that and I’m willing to suspend my disbelief for it. Where the movie lost me was the little things…let’s see, how to phrase things so as to not spoil too much…the battery still working in the device at the mine, or the door on the large transportation object (near the end of the movie) being set to close with one second left, or the way the automated announcements in said large transportation object were in English, or the way Sky kept letting Polly fly without a seatbelt. (And don’t get me started on how much they abused the adventure movie time-stretch thing.) Every time one of these came along, it jerked me out of the movie, and if a movie like this can’t grab you and take you along for the ride, then it’s failed in a pretty fundamental way.


      1. *Chuckle* Actually, the only part that really got me was the reference to “World War One” – this being in 1938 or ’39, mind you. The rest of it was pretty standard pulp-action fare, and actually much better done than a lot of the originals. Definitely one I’m going to get on DVD.

  3. Yeah – not much science in this science fiction, but for all that, kinda true to Old School Sci Fi. Ornithopters? Giant robots? Zeppelins and flying aircraft carriers? Hand held ray guns? It was a great send-up of that genre. I especially liked the “shake the gun to recharge it” like it was a can of soda.

    I would have liked it if the ending sequence had included a bunch of the “rescue troopers” opening a landing pod to reveal the cows though 🙂

    1. Yeah… but it’s only funny the first time you see the film. The NEXT time you see the movie you’ll think the ending was weak. Har-har.

      Sitcoms can end that way, but cinema should stand up to repeated viewing.

    1. Sure: Humans discover ancient ruin under the ice and go to investigate, and end up interfering in an adulthood ritual to their fatal dismay (and to the dismay of the Predators.)

      It was ALMOST too simple to screw up. This did not prevent the director from screwing it up, mind you, but it DID mean that the plot didn’t get in the way of the AvP fights.

      With Sky Captain the attempts at character development and plot twisting detracted heavily from the GORGEOUS movie.


      1. I confess I loved “Sky Captain” and hated AVP, but when Joe & Polly walked into that abandoned frozen mining camp and started poking around I was wishing I had something AVP relevant to shout out.

  4. I think the usual excuse for mecha is a neural link that makes it intuitive to pilot, wider terrain-crossing ability, or the agility to dodge incoming fire(?!). Of course, the first would be solved by, oh, say, a training program and software that translates, say, running into forward motion, and at that tech level you really shouldn’t be able to dodge ANYTHING. Oh well.
    I do suspect that the Bolo novels demonstrate the right way to build a ground attack vehicle, even if it IS a little unwieldy. But the Hellbore cannon makes up for it. ^_^

    1. I remember the very first article that I read about virtual realities — in Science 1988 (not to be confused with Science, mind) or something like that. The author found that being in a virtual reality where he was a lobster and forearm and upper arm motions were mapped onto separate arms of the lobster only took him an hour or so to get used to. Or so I remember from the article, anyhow.

      I expect that a command system that translated moving one’s legs back into the vehicle rolling forward (what’s the point of running — that’s tiring!) would become intuitive pretty darn quick. From what I noticed of driving a backhoe a month ago, the trick has nothing to do with making the machine act “just like” a body, and everything to do with getting a direct mapping between the human’s motion and the machine’s motion (in particular, having the reaction speeds be the same — and, if necessary, restricting the human’s motion to no faster than the machine can do) and having some sort of tactile feedback.

      1. Yeah, and more to the point, a few months ago some scientists trained a monkey to move a mouse cursor around using its mind. Basically, they read the impulses from the ‘planning’ section of the brain while it used a joystick, then used those impulses instead of the joystick, then took away the joystick. The monkey moves the mouse pointer by THINKING about moving a joystick!

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