East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Where’s the Remake: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow


I swear I was ready to do it.
I took the Sky Captain anfd the World of Tomorrow DVD from the shelf, and I slipped the disc in my PC – and the frigging thing won’t run.
Not on VLC, not on Movie Player.
Now this is a true disappointment, because I wanted to watch it again, and then try and pinpoint what doesn’t work. Because admittedly this movie looks like a million dollars, it has a great cast, and it thoroughly bored me quite a bit1.

The fact is that it should not bore me.
There’s action and adventure, super-science, evil robots out of an old Fleischer Superman cartoon… the opening scenes with the airship docking on top of the Empire State Building are breath-taking.
There’s a stellar cast, too!
So what’s the problem?

Me, I blame the dialogues.
Stuff like…

Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan: Polly, this may be our last moment together. There’s something I need to ask you.
Polly Perkins: Yes, Joe?
Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan: Did you cut my fuel line?
Polly Perkins: Damn it! I didn’t sabotage your lousy airplane!
Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan: Fine.
Polly Perkins: Our last moments on earth and this is all you have to say to me?
Joe ‘Sky Captain’ Sullivan: Could we just for once die without all this bickering?

What a laugh (yawn).


I’ve spent a good chunk of the last year re-watching screwball comedies, and I am pretty sure what the writer was attempting here was the sort of rapid-fire dialogue one would expect, say, between Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery.
Only it does not work. It lacks rhythm.


The old screwballs were much more dynamic. Sky Captain lacks dynamic.

And I can’t say why – it’s been correctly observed that you can’t talk about a script without reading it, because the movie is not just the script, but it is the script as interpreted by the director.
But as a result of the stilted dialogue, the two characters – that should come across as smart and funny, and ultimately win our loyalty and support – turn out to be petulant and, in the long run, insufferable.
The film looks great, but tells the story of characters about whom we really do not care.
And it is a pity, because I remember how much I expected themovie, and how i got out of the cinema feeling like I had seen something that could have been really good, but somehow was not.


I caught the in-jokes, the references and the homages, I loved the retro look and the pulp/dieselpunk feel, but somehow the pieces did not fit.

In this age of continual reboots and remakes, I think Sky Captain should really get a second shot at making it right.
It could be absolutely great, if only…

Oh, actually, check out the original short, presented as a chapter in an old serial.
This is absolutely great!

  1. indeed, I was reminded of this movie after writing about the third Mummy installment, and how it put me to sleep. 

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

4 thoughts on “Where’s the Remake: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

  1. I have this movie. I actually got it specifically because of those Fleischer robots. Every time I watch it, I try a bit harder to like it, because it seems wrong that it should have so many awesome things and yet be dull. I agree about the dialogue. For me personally, the main issue is the digital backdrops. It’s all so smooth. I think I’d find it more engaging if it was just animated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to agree about the backdrops – and more in general about the “flou” hazy look of the photograph, that makes it look like one of those old black and white classics after an ill-advised colorization.
      And I too strive to like it – but dull it remains, alas!


  2. Exactly the same sentiments. Nothing more frustrating than a book or movie that you SHOULD love, but can’t.

    Jim Cornelius


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