Whatever happened to the men of Tomorrow?
July 15, 2015 5:52 PM   Subscribe

 
[Fixed the link, carry on. ]
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:57 PM on July 15, 2015


(The link is fixed)

Man, Sky Captain was some good cheese. Angelina Jolie shouting "DEPLOY... the amphibious squadron!" and there are these spitfires going underwater from the Heli-carrier thing, and Nazi robots and all that good pulp.

The article seems to sum it up best here:

"This may be part of what kept the Conrans out of the Hollywood playground, their inability and discomfort with hustling or acting as if they belong. The brothers have never been good at self-promotion. In a New York Times interview from the set of Sky Captain, the reporter noted that the first two things Kerry said to him were, “I’m shy” and “I am basically an amorphous blob of nothing”. "

Too much dreaming, not enough moxy.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 5:58 PM on July 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


My guess? Because it bombed at the box office. Just a thought.
posted by SansPoint at 6:00 PM on July 15, 2015 [16 favorites]


Lots of directors get second and third chances after bombing. It's weird that Conran hasn't done a single movie since.
posted by octothorpe at 6:02 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


That was an amazing film.
posted by Nevin at 6:03 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


A lot of directors have first time modest hits at the box office then go and direct a huge movie as well.
posted by gucci mane at 6:04 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Interesting to see this now when there is also so much chatter about a return to practical sets and effects in the new Star Wars films.

The lack of critical, and particularly financial, success seems to explain the issue, for the most part. But they're white guys, so maybe they'll get another chance.
posted by jimw at 6:04 PM on July 15, 2015


While it was great at being visually impressive it wasn't very good at anything else. It really needed the kind of command of story and pacing that Raiders of the Lost Ark had. Instead it had a couple of unknowns who were very good at this one thing, but not the other things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:05 PM on July 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


Crimson Skies was better. Also, what is this genre called? Skypunk?
posted by clorox at 6:09 PM on July 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Someone like Soderbergh or the Phantom Edit guy could probably have come up with an edit of Sky Captain that was about ten to fifteen minutes shorter and didn't drag quite so much. Conran was probably just too enamored of his beautiful special effects to cut out any of them.
posted by octothorpe at 6:10 PM on July 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


It's been over ten years??? That movie still lives in my memory like it was just last year. Yeah, it was pretty much just eye candy, but, god almighty , it was damned tasty candy. I just might have to give it yet another look, now.

Thanks for the reminder!
posted by Thorzdad at 6:10 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile the pretty comporable Iron Sky has a sequel planned for 2016. I guess in this case the Nazis have won.

Sorry.

Sorry

I suspect that while they are both garage-born demo reels blown up to feature length and have similar strengths and flaws (visually impressive, wooden acting) not landing a name cast and so remaining a bit of a cult artifact really helped Iron Sky.
posted by Artw at 6:16 PM on July 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


“I am basically an amorphous blob of nothing.”

If I am ever interviewed, this will be my first line also.
posted by misterbee at 6:17 PM on July 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


(Personally I am solidly in the target demographic for this film: I memorized every panel of the Whiz Comics #1 reprint that my dad gave me when I was 10. I wanted a film like it to be made long before it was possible.

And y'know what? I watched it with my initial pants-pissing glee turning to chagrin and damn near walked out of it. Because it looked perfect and was fucking stupid and was full of Jude Law. Remember that episode of Doctor Who where among other silly suspension-of-disbelief breakers, a squadron of spacegoing Spitfires is conjured out of nowhere? Remember how annoying that was? Sky Captain was basically like that from beginning to end. Plus the romantic comedy subplot about the camera running out of film was a deeply lame contrivance, and yet they hung the whole conclusion of the film on it.)
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:17 PM on July 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Sky Captain is the ultimate ‘geekgasm’ years before the word was invented.”

What a magical world that was.
posted by crashlanding at 6:18 PM on July 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yeah, I remember being excited about the idea of this film (I love me some Amazing Stories etc) but really underwhelmed by the final result.
posted by misterbee at 6:20 PM on July 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


That movie still lives in my memory like it was just last year.

Mine too - it was so godawful stupid that my friend got more of a kick out of me ranting at the screen about how terrible it was than he did out of the movie itself.
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:21 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Remember that episode of Doctor Who where among other silly suspension-of-disbelief breakers, a squadron of spacegoing Spitfires is conjured out of nowhere? Remember how annoying that was?

The main difference between you and I, George_Spiggott, is that I want Angelina Jolie calling up her heli-carriers of amphibious fighter planes whenever I run out of butter, or need a piece of string, or when I'm feeling a little low, practicality or indeed feasibility be damned.

In any event I am literally watching the movie now, I hope you're happy, MetaFilter.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:27 PM on July 15, 2015 [11 favorites]


I mean, you can't have a villian be called 'deaths head' and have him be dead dead.
posted by clavdivs at 6:31 PM on July 15, 2015


The brothers have never been good at self-promotion.

I can relate. I saw it in the theatre and enjoyed it despite its many flaws; as said above, nothing but eye candy but damn fine candy and fuck diabetes.
posted by Bringer Tom at 6:32 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


I wish I could find the trailer for this a friend of mine made set to the theme from TailSpin.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:35 PM on July 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


I saw Sky Captain at a midnight premiere and I have this vivid memory of the entire theater leaving at the end in kind of a stunned silence because none of us were totally sure what we'd just seen. It was like we all felt bad that it hadn't been very good.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:38 PM on July 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


Wait I think this scientist actor is the same scientist actor from the Doctor Who episode.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 6:46 PM on July 15, 2015


I think the problem with Sky Captain is that the Conran's had a bunch of vingettes that they just couldn't tie together. For example, this clip starts off at near perfection: a lone propeller driven aircraft flies through a gauntlet of laser blasts from giant robots as the orchestra triumphantly swells in anticipation of what will happen next. The scene is PRIMED FOR AWESOME, but then the music inexplicably cuts out and there's a disappointingly hurried resolution to the situation. What the hell?

The whole movie sputters along like that.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:50 PM on July 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


[Kerry], still stung, no longer discusses it at all. Despite several requests, made via Kevin, including an offer to conduct the interview by email, Kerry declined to participate in this feature.

In a New York Times interview from the set of Sky Captain, the reporter noted that the first two things Kerry said to him were, “I’m shy” and “I am basically an amorphous blob of nothing”.


This is sad and worrisome. I hope he's okay.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:02 PM on July 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh man, this movie, my friend and I who, at that time, went to every single movie in theaters, and had sat through all kinds of awful dreck, almost walked out.

I can still get him to go on ten minute rants merely by mentioning the name Polly Perkins.
posted by M Edward at 7:05 PM on July 15, 2015


Hey John, POLLY PERKINS

*sends link to this thread*
posted by M Edward at 7:06 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I adore this movie unabashedly.
posted by Celsius1414 at 7:10 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


The quintessential cult movie is one that has all the right parts, but doesn't seem to be put together quite right, in a way that's hard to pin down. That was true for Buckaroo Banzai and Mystery Men and arguably even The Rocky Horror Picture Show (which is not that great if you watch it at home without the props or people yelling out lines). WRT the Conrans not working in film again, by comparison, W.D. Richter directed one film after Buckaroo Banzai, Late for Dinner, similarly unsuccessful at the box office, although he's had some scripts produced since; Mystery Men was Kinka Usher's only feature film, although he's been an award-winning commercial director before and since; and Jim Sharman was similarly a successful stage director before and after RHPS, but hasn't directed a film since the sequel, Shock Treatment. These are all obviously highly talented people, just not at making a movie that people will go see in the theater (with the obvious exception of RHPS, and even then as a very singular exception).
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:16 PM on July 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


The only thing wrong with Buckaroo Banzai is that it didn't go on forever and I don't live in it. Okay, that's two things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:27 PM on July 15, 2015 [53 favorites]


Meanwhile the pretty comporable Iron Sky

Iron Sky promised cool retro thrills but turned out looking like a feature length Mad TV sketch, not to mention its all-too-apparent Third Reich fetishism and kinda sketchy racial politics. Just an amazingly huge gulf between what was promised in the trailer and what we got in the final product.

At the very least, Sky Captain was exactly what it advertised, a tribute to old movie serials, the Fleischer Bros. and Golden Age comic book tropes. It was pretty inert dramatically, but it was still a terrific visual expression of that era's key motifs. Joe Johnston did much better at this sort of thing with both The Rocketeer and the first Chris Evans Captain America film, but the Conrans had a good grasp of the setting and atmosphere. Part of me wishes that they'd continued in the industry, not as on-the-marquee creatives, but as behind-the-scenes SFX and production design consultants.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:34 PM on July 15, 2015 [13 favorites]


It never worked for me; it felt like they had a bunch of ideas for cool visual moments which were awesome, but stitching those together do not necessarily create a story.
posted by nubs at 7:38 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Now that I've read the whole article, I see that Kevin Conran is still involved in the mainstream movie biz at least. I'm kind of stunned at their failure to maintain ties to at least some of the Hollywood players they got to rub elbows with -- you'd think that those connections would have gotten them something further down the line, but apparently not.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:49 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


What went wrong with Sky Captain was that it was nothing but a few fairly good action sequences with utterly forgettable characters and plot.

I watched it from beginning to end when it came out, and I can't remember what the plot was supposed to be. I think I remember that there were dinosaurs at the end, and that's about it. And the characters were completely forgettable as well. Was the female lead in a sort of love triangle thing with the titular Sky Captain and some other dude? I think so? I don't remember and I never cared.

Nice FX and a kind of cool dieselpunk vibe don't make for a good movie by themselves. You've got to have a plot that works and characters the audience cares about. Sky Captain had neither. It tried to coast along on the strength of the FX and the dieselpunk thing and that just won't carry a movie.
posted by sotonohito at 7:50 PM on July 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


I enjoyed it; visually it was a treat, and I thought the acting and even the iffy plot were perfect for the Sunday funnies/Saturday serial vibe. Any amount of Angelina Jolie made up for a bit much Jude Law, and Giovanni Ribisi, Bai Ling and Gwyneth Paltrow did their parts quite well. I was disappointed by the amphibious Spitfire, but loved Dr. Totenkopf's spaceship. Certainly not perfect, but I still put it in the DVD player now and again.
posted by lhauser at 7:53 PM on July 15, 2015


I think Marvel's Agent Carter does a better job of delivering than either Iron Sky or Sky Captain ever did.
posted by cleroy at 7:57 PM on July 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


Uh, all of this summers movies were effects driven? No, f you, article, I saw Mad Max.

Seriously, stop reading the article at that point. To be that wrong is just... Nope.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:00 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Mad Max I saw was chock full of special effects. What one did you see?
posted by octothorpe at 8:09 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah, don't confuse FX with CGI. The former is pretty much anything: explosions, throwing paint around, springboards, fake heads falling off, wire-fu, you name it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:10 PM on July 15, 2015


I recently was randomly reminded of Sky Captain, and it took a solid 10 minutes of contemplation before I remembered what the hell the stupid plot was. Still, I loved it when it came out. I specifically bought the DVD (one of my first!) because I wanted to support this sort of movie. Guess it ended up not helping.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:13 PM on July 15, 2015


Though by that same criteria, effects-heavy movies pre-dated Sky Captain as well. The Matrix pre-dated it by five years. Star Wars by over two decades.
posted by RobotHero at 8:16 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sometimes for fun I read one-star user reviews on IMDB; they're frequently quite entertaining. Something I've noticed from them is that, generally, fanboys hate retro. Not that they explicitly say so: They'll usually criticize plot holes or something, but you see the pattern after a while. I guess it seems like history homework or health food to them. And they sure don't care about this Laurence Olivier dude who's supposed to be someone special. "Boring!"

Not that that's the whole explanation.
posted by Rich Smorgasbord at 8:16 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


There were over 2000 visual effects shots in Fury Road.
posted by octothorpe at 8:17 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


George_Spiggott: "The only thing wrong with Buckaroo Banzai is that it didn't go on forever and I don't live in it. Okay, that's two things."

wishes for a Pony - MeFi allows multiple favoriting of one post
posted by Samizdata at 9:34 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I loved it when it came out but I'm afraid if I saw it now, the suck fairy might have visited it. Also I don't know which world this is where there's too much Jude Law. More for me! I could understand why Polly Perkins was worried that Angelina Jolie would take him away.
posted by immlass at 9:47 PM on July 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Hell, at least it was better than Wing Commander.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:51 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm kind of stunned at their failure to maintain ties to at least some of the Hollywood players they got to rub elbows with -- you'd think that those connections would have gotten them something further down the line, but apparently not.

Hollywood doesn't like a loser. I'm not surprised at all. I don't think JJ Abrams would return a Conran's call after the movie wasn't a hit.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:57 PM on July 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


There's a moment in Sky Captain when Gwenyth Paltrow bursts into Michael Gabon's office and says, "Editor Paley, you've got to listen to me!" or words to that effect. it jarred me out of the movie and bugged me during the rest of the showing. Whenever I read a review, I thought about that line. And now, ten years later, that's what popped into my head when I saw this post. That one goddamned line that made me think, "What reporter would call her editor by his title?" and brought the whole movie crashing down.

I think it sums the problem I have with this movie: it's pretty, but it doesn't work. The writers or director or whoever was so in love with the spectacle they didn't pay attention to the nuts and bolts of the story. Build the story first, and make the bones and sinew so strong that it won't matter what kind of skin you wrap around the whole thing. Otherwise you've just got a really long demo reel.
posted by RakDaddy at 10:59 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe they're just over Hollywood. As someone who works in the industry and has had moderate success, let me tell you, it's not all it's cracked up to be. You have to really like going to meetings, for one thing.
posted by roger ackroyd at 11:20 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


In this case we can chalk it up to a rookie mistake, but putting any amount of Bai Ling into your movie will almost certainly kill it dead.
posted by xigxag at 11:21 PM on July 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Though by that same criteria, effects-heavy movies pre-dated Sky Captain as well. The Matrix pre-dated it by five years. Star Wars by over two decades.

Effects-heavy movies go back to Melies' Le Voyage dans la Lune from 1902. If you need feature-length, 1933's King Kong.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:22 PM on July 15, 2015 [4 favorites]


Buckaroo Banzai had a sequel, but it was directed by Wes Anderson and was about a guy named Steve Zissou.
posted by maxsparber at 1:53 AM on July 16, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's possible to come back as a director after a mega-bomb early in your career but it is by no means easy... especially when you can't get your hustle / huckster on.

I noticed the other day that the director of last years (and this coming years) climax episodes in Doctor Who, Rachel Talalay, directed Tank Girl early on in her career and she managed to come back from that... but it's all been for television.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:55 AM on July 16, 2015


Hollywood doesn't like a loser. I'm not surprised at all. I don't think JJ Abrams would return a Conran's call after the movie wasn't a hit.

Movies that weren't hits: Blade Runner, Brazil, Labyrinth (also Highlander, which I thought was stunning and influential, but makes this sort of a "one of these things is not like the others" thing)
posted by hippybear at 1:56 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


This movie always blends together in my head with SkyGunner(gameplay) which is a surprisingly good, fairly originaly, cheeky, enjoyable game... that no one bought or played.

Interestingly, they came out pretty close to eachother. For some reason when i think of that time period there were sort of a lot of movies with similar vibes. Wild Wild West, Van Helsing, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, even Dark City arguably had more than a bit of that vibe. And they all came out within 4-5 years of each other.

I saw Sky Captain at a midnight premiere and I have this vivid memory of the entire theater leaving at the end in kind of a stunned silence because none of us were totally sure what we'd just seen. It was like we all felt bad that it hadn't been very good.

I had this exact same experience with Snakes on a Plane. We actually camped out in line(i'm somewhere around this photo, and i know essentially everyone named), everyone went in and freaked the fuck out and it was like the funnest rocky horror show ever at all the silly beats everyone already knew were coming, Plastic snakes flying around, everything... but then at the end we all kind of realized it totally sucked.

It was awkward. A lot like reflecting on a greasy drunken late night meal the next day.
posted by emptythought at 2:54 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


artw: Meanwhile the pretty comporable Iron Sky has a sequel planned for 2016. I guess in this case the Nazis have won.

For alt-history fans, PDK's The Man In The High Castle is heading to Amazon for a mini-series.
posted by dr_dank at 4:24 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to play this movie on housecleaning day because you can come in anywhere and there's something visually interesting but you don't have to pay too much attention to it to know where you are in the story. That's not really a complaint as far as I'm concerned. It's one of the most visually interesting movies I've ever seen and one of my favorite films, dumb plot and all.
posted by lordrunningclam at 4:48 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't think it was even all that visually impressive. I mean the imagery is fine, but the actors are so poorly integrated into the effects. They almost never don't look like they're in front of a green screen, mostly detached from whatever it is they're supposed to be reacting to. It comes off like a store brand Star Wars prequel but with a less engaging story. When George Lucas kicks your ass in storytelling and directing actors, it probably shouldn't be surprising that your filmmaking career doesn't quite take off.
posted by Enemy of Joy at 5:32 AM on July 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I remember seeing Sky Captain when it came out and thinking I was really glad they made it, loved the style, but it just couldn't overcome the limitations of shooting everything on green screen. It's REALLY hard to direct a single scene on a green screen as there are no references for the actors or the director. An entire movie? Good luck.

While Sky Captain was ground breaking in bringing a wonderful design aesthetic / point of view to an entire film I don't think it's fair to say "they laid the foundations for today's effects driven block busters" as they didn't find a way to overcome the fundamental limitations of performance on green screen. Cameron made big strides in solving this for Avatar. His tech team had low rez previews of the environments track his (random) camera motion and displayed a composite of the actors and the rest of the scene on his monitor in real time.
posted by Dean358 at 6:04 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I couldn't make it through the entire movie. So beautiful and yet so wretched. As others have done above, compare this to Agent Carter or Captain America - The First Avenger you see what can be done with retro if you do it right. My biggest disappointment was that we didn't get to see more Cap adventures in WWII before catapulting him into the present day.
posted by Ber at 6:29 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Can anyone address the $20 Million vs $70 Million cost estimates? Were these guys taken for a ride? Were they terrible at contracting the work out? That was the most interesting part of this article for me, the fact that no one understands why this movie cost so much. By a lot of money.
posted by eustatic at 6:36 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


What went wrong with Sky Captain was that it was nothing but a few fairly good action sequences with utterly forgettable characters and plot.

Wow, it really did lay the foundation for today's blockbusters.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 6:50 AM on July 16, 2015 [14 favorites]


Can anyone address the $20 Million vs $70 Million cost estimates? Were these guys taken for a ride?

While I'm tempted to blame it going from a basement movie to a bloated failure on the inclusion of expensive stars it does sound like something else is going on - probably bundles of cash being chucked down some marketing black hole.
posted by Artw at 7:12 AM on July 16, 2015


This happens every so often, a talented visual artist makes a demo of some kind on a bare bones budget and it's great and would be a great entry into "the business" if that's what the artist wants to do. I think it worked for the Jet emergency landing guys. Certainly worked for Robert Rodriguez, to some approximation. I once talked with an artist that did an amazing full length effects feature essentially by himself. "The Wizard of Speed and Time" Such an incredibly talented really nice guy, but not someone that was ever going to fit into the odd shaped hole compromises required to get work in the effects industry.

What it seems happened was the artists wanted to make one perfect film. Did it. And were done. And they were probably exhausted and it probably took years to build up the inspiration for a new effort. Perhaps there'll be a new amazing work from them at some point.
posted by sammyo at 7:13 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


it does sound like something else is going on -

Hollywood Accounting?
posted by Mezentian at 7:18 AM on July 16, 2015


Can anyone address the $20 Million vs $70 Million cost estimates? Were these guys taken for a ride?

While I'm tempted to blame it going from a basement movie to a bloated failure on the inclusion of expensive stars it does sound like something else is going on - probably bundles of cash being chucked down some marketing black hole.


That (as it was originally intended to be a spring sleeper) and also possibly the way it was farmed out to 'multiple effects houses around the world' for expedited rendering to meet Paramount's shortened release deadline.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:19 AM on July 16, 2015


One way it laid groundwork for CG/digital sets movies that have come since, is the sense of claustrophobia it had. Shots that are supposed to be grandiose and sweeping feel like they're in a terrarium or pressed between sheets of glass like dried flowers. I see this all the time now.

Plus Jude Law was not cartoon manly enough. Plus I don't like Gwyneth Paltrow -- that's just me.

And the Lawrence Olivier thing just felt ghoulish.

This all from someone who really, really wanted to like that movie, and was really pulling for it because of the romantic story of its making. And who loves the retro-futurism thing.

If they told me they were remaking Sky Captain, I'd be looking forward to it again.
posted by Trochanter at 7:27 AM on July 16, 2015


I mean, look, these brothers tried something out. They had a genuine vision and they went for it. It was a bit of a dud for all the reasons mentioned here, but it had an earnest heart. Is that enough to vindicate it for posterity? No, but I think it's enough to elicit some sympathy from movie-goers who get weary of more of the same. While I haven't seen Iron Sky, it seems like the nerd culture exploitation version of Sky Captain made by people who are probably better hustlers than these schlubby brothers: all flash, no heart. I wonder how Sky Captain would fare if it was made today? Seems like it arrived too early and that it would have benefited from the current genre zeitgeist. Or maybe it would have faded into the background? I guess it could go either way.

When I saw the movie, I thought to myself that while no, this isn't great, I will be curious to see what their second, or, probably, their third movie is like. It's too bad they weren't given the second chance a lot of Hollywood crap merchants certainly have been.
posted by picea at 7:30 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


a bloated failure on the inclusion of expensive stars

Pretty sure I read that Paltrow and Law both did it on the cheap and that helped it get made.
posted by Trochanter at 7:30 AM on July 16, 2015


I think 99% of the movie's problems come from casting Jude Law as the hero - basically, he comes across as the Mitt Romney of action stars, all good hair and strong chin but nothing else. Law is much better at playing Robert Downey Jr's uptight sidekick than he is at playing Robert Downey Jr himself.
posted by Kiablokirk at 8:10 AM on July 16, 2015


he comes across as the Mitt Romney of action stars

You haven't seen The Island or AI.
Jude is.... *dramatic pause* THE LAW.
posted by Mezentian at 8:12 AM on July 16, 2015


Pretty sure I read that Paltrow and Law both did it on the cheap and that helped it get made.

IMDB says Paltrow did this after seeing part of the Conran's demo reel. It doesn't say anything about Law, but Angelina Jolie's part only took them three days to shoot, so it's likely she didn't bank $20M from it either.
posted by Etrigan at 8:14 AM on July 16, 2015


While I haven't seen Iron Sky, it seems like the nerd culture exploitation version of Sky Captain made by people who are probably better hustlers than these schlubby brothers

To reiterate my earlier comment upthread: If only.

Iron Sky turned out to be the version of Sky Captain that appeals to people who really get into cosplaying Nazis at gaming conventions, and/or who liked Jar-Jar Binks not in spite of, but because he was a racist caricature. It's not a harmlessly, bloodlessly "bad" movie like Sky Captain was, it's a maliciously bad movie made by filmmakers with a disingenuous grasp of the things they claim to be satirizing.

For my money, the true nerdsploitation version of Sky Captain is a toss-up between Kung Fury and Danger 5.
posted by Strange Interlude at 8:18 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


For my money, the true nerdsploitation version of Sky Captain is a toss-up between Kung Fury and Danger 5.

This, gospel.

(I loved Sky Captain. And I am sorry if my love led to The Spirit.)
posted by Mezentian at 8:20 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Without Willis and Rourke, don't you think Sin City could have gone south in somewhat the same way?

I think your leading man has to have a special kind of gravitas in these cartoony movies. Note I'm not especially talking about acting talent. Just that old school movie star, hold the screen type of thing.

EG: I don't think a lot of Gerard Butler, but he did that thing I'm talking about for 300.
posted by Trochanter at 8:24 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really wanted to like Iron Sky, the concept was cool, the trailers looked good, and the result was just waful. Not only did it have the creepy pro-Nazi vibe previously mentioned, but it was also boring. The humor mostly fell flat, too.
posted by sotonohito at 8:31 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sky Captain has a home in my video library as I was in that low percentile where everything kind of hit home. It's not a perfect film in any way, but I totally enjoyed seeing it in the theater because I loved the passion that went into creating the wonderful world of giant robots, miniature elephants, and a killer robot played by the yet to be mentioned Bai Ling. It was the throwback to the adventurous fun of the serials, not really seen since the original Star Wars trilogy.

I definitely agree if the budget had remained low, allowing for a sequel, then both the brothers and the film would be held in probably higher regard. Success breeds an optimistic view of a film, failure turns on the light to all its flaws. I enjoyed it, for example, more than Iron Man 2 or any of the past Fantastic Four films. (themselves not highly rated, but deemed successful enough by Hollywood).

So it goes Comic Book Nick Fury and Helicarrier > Angelina Jolie and Helicarrier > Samuel L. Jackson and Helicarrier.
posted by Atreides at 8:47 AM on July 16, 2015


The humor mostly fell flat, too.

You mean Sarah Palin jokes will date?
posted by Mezentian at 8:51 AM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


You mean Sarah Palin jokes will date?

Not to mention everything revolving around the main character: The first black astronaut on the moon, who turns out to be an unqualified, buffoonish actor hired by NASA for publicity purposes, because the whole idea of an actual competent African-American astronaut was apparently just too crazy for the filmmakers.

It's not hard to imagine a version of Iron Sky where they handled the racial themes differently/better. Maybe have a super-capable badass African-American (or maybe Jewish? Or gay? Or maybe all of the above?!?) astronaut who ends up taking on a whole moonbase full of leftover Nazis, effectively putting the lie to their whole ideology in one big sci-fi action extravaganza.

/IronSkyDerail
posted by Strange Interlude at 9:15 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


This is one of the few movies I have ever turned off and not completed. I wanted to love it. I hated it. It's interesting to read this sort of history, because before this article it really was a cartoonish version of "bad movie" to me.
posted by OmieWise at 10:51 AM on July 16, 2015


I remember seeing Sky Captain in the cinema and thinking it was AMAZING. Later on when it got lacklustre reviews I thought maybe I was wrong and watched it again on DVD. Still AMAZING.

For me, as a BIG BIG old film fan, it was like a big birthday present from someone who knew me really well. 1939 is often considered the best year for films - Goodbye Mr Chips, Gone with the Wind, the Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach. For some reason Sky Captain seems to be a big amalgame of everything that was great about 1939 and the years after. It sends me right back to the delirium ofThings to Come - one of the greatest and most underrated scif-fi flicks ever, of King Kong, of Sunrise. It has LAURENCE OLIVIER - not any Laurence Olivier, but lesser-known 1930s Olivier - as the main villain.

I haven't watched it recently though so it will be interesting to see how five more years of CGI and Game of Thrones and LOTR have muddled my reactions.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 11:11 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Buckaroo Banzai had a sequel, but it was directed by Wes Anderson and was about a guy named Steve Zissou.

How dare you
posted by phearlez at 11:15 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


THIS IS HOW I DARE
posted by maxsparber at 11:29 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


I remember being SO EXCITED about the three all-digital backlot movies that came out right around the same time: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow from the US, Casshern from Japan, and Immortal from France. All of them had the same problem: they looked pretty cool and had good concepts that sounded rad, but the execution was too much eye candy, not enough understandable plot.
posted by sleeping bear at 11:30 AM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Rachel Talalay, directed Tank Girl early on in her career and she managed to come back from that

come back from..? TG is one of the best movies ever made. It's deliriously bonkers. A double bill of 5th Element and Tank Girl would be ideal come to think of it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 11:37 AM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tank Girl mostly needed to be faster paced. There are parts that have a lot of energy but some parts that drag. Oddly enough, if it had been made with the World of Tomorrow technology (lots of digital compositing) I think it would be easier to maintain that energy within budget.
posted by RobotHero at 12:16 PM on July 16, 2015


Tank Girl was perfect

waterguns at dawn, sir
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:19 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]




For me, as a BIG BIG old film fan, it was like a big birthday present from someone who knew me really well. 1939 is often considered the best year for films - Goodbye Mr Chips, Gone with the Wind, the Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach. For some reason Sky Captain seems to be a big amalgame of everything that was great about 1939 and the years after. It sends me right back to the delirium ofThings to Come - one of the greatest and most underrated scif-fi flicks ever, of King Kong, of Sunrise. It has LAURENCE OLIVIER - not any Laurence Olivier, but lesser-known 1930s Olivier - as the main villain.

Yeah, I think that might be the key for those who (like me) love it. There are certainly flaws to be found in the movie, but as I wrote about it in 2006 (9 years holy crap):
I am the sort of person who is equally comfortable in the past or the future (though not so much in the present, naturally). Indiana Jones or Han Solo, in other words. And what this movie accomplishes stylistically fits into that sense of historical futurism that is very dear to me. (Blade Runner is another favorite that marries noir and SF.)

Are there flaws in the film? Dear Lord, yes. But forget all that: there is a freaking Zeppelin moored to the Empire State Building, unloading passengers after a trans-Atlantic flight! A WWII-era fighter plane is battling robotic bad guys!

Having been an ardent viewer of old movies since I was a little kid, seeing the “tribute” shots hearkening back to those was a joyride full of happy moments. It’s obvious the filmmakers share that joy. It’s Saturday afternoons all over again.

And that’s the thing: this is supposed to be fun. It’s not supposed to be an Ironic Commentary On Historical Films, or Accurate At All Costs, or A Story For The Ages. It is just a movie that pays homage to some of the most entertaining bits of the early 20th Century.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:12 PM on July 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Tank Girl was awesome. There are not nearly enough fantasy/scifi movies with female leads who actually have personalities. TG is fun and doesn't take itself seriously, and its campy plot is a part of that. Also it has Malcom McDowell. Could it be done better? Hell yeah, I'd love a TG reboot. Would I put it in the same box as Sky Captain? No way.

In fact, I would say TG has the opposite problem from Sky Captain, in that the acting saves an otherwise mediocre film, while I just couldn't get myself to give a shit about the plot in the latter. I don't even remember the characters' names, despite loving dieselpunk.
posted by Feyala at 4:00 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


I thought that 'Sky Captain' was the coolest retro/SF/fantasy film that I'd seen, and that the virtual collapse of Conran's career afterward was a Hollywood tragedy. I can't imagine how anyone who likes action-fantasy-adventure would not like it, but all of the "meh"s I'm seeing in the comments here are reminding me once again that other people don't always like the things that I like. Okay, I get it.
posted by ovvl at 4:47 PM on July 16, 2015


My Year Of Flops Case File # 45 Tank Girl

That pissy critic saw a different movie with that title than I did.
posted by ovvl at 4:49 PM on July 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


But forget all that: there is a freaking Zeppelin moored to the Empire State Building, unloading passengers after a trans-Atlantic flight! A WWII-era fighter plane is battling robotic bad guys!

Interesting to note that all the things you cite were in the demo reel. Which still exists and is as good as it ever was. The trouble with the film is it feels like it was rushed into production without allowing it anything like the care and attention that the demo reel got. In particular it needed a script that was worthy of it. I don't think anyone's dumping on Conran here. They're dumping on something that the studio system chewed up and spat out for time-to-market reasons instead of allowing it what it deserved.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:01 PM on July 16, 2015


Rachel Talalay, directed Tank Girl early on in her career and she managed to come back from that

come back from..? TG is one of the best movies ever made.


I bet the people who put up the budget that was 5x what it grossed in the box office would have a moderate difference of opinion.
posted by phearlez at 7:34 PM on July 16, 2015


From that Nathan Rabin review of Tank Girl:
The character quickly became an icon in the burgeoning riot grrrl movement, though I strongly suspect that the term "Riot Grrrl" is one of those annoying buzzwords that are considered ludicrous, insulting and reductive mere seconds after first being coined. Apparently the nineties created a massive groundswell of women so enraged by the corrupt patriarchy that they took to emulating the linguistic quirks of noted feminist icon Tony The Tiger. Needless to say, these riot gals found sexism, impossible beauty standards and gender inequality to be far from "grrreat".
This goes a bit beyond mere snark into sheer assholery. It's an indication of why the AV Club commentariat started to give up on Rabin well before he left.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:06 PM on July 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Mezentian: " For my money, the true nerdsploitation version of Sky Captain is a toss-up between Kung Fury and Danger 5.

This, gospel.

(I loved Sky Captain. And I am sorry if my love led to The Spirit.)
"

Like that could ever be forgiven.
posted by Samizdata at 1:18 AM on July 17, 2015


maxsparber: "THIS IS HOW I DARE "

There is no comparison unless both have Carl Lumbly in dreads. Otherwise, your dare is invalid. So say the rules. [connery]Thus endeth the lesson...[/connery]
posted by Samizdata at 1:24 AM on July 17, 2015


Sky Craptain
posted by nathancaswell at 6:02 AM on July 17, 2015


*gasp*
posted by Artw at 6:05 AM on July 17, 2015


Boo. More like Sky Captainawesome.

In another universe, there's the break out Kurt Russell hit, Sky Captain Ron and the World of Tomorrow.
posted by Atreides at 6:52 AM on July 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


In still another universe, there's a film about a fortune teller countering a plot to take over the world called Scry Captain and the World of Tomorrow
posted by nubs at 7:39 AM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sky Captain Ron and the World Of Tomorrowland

It's the movie that tanked so hard the studios paid audiences to see it.
posted by hippybear at 9:33 AM on July 17, 2015


Sky Captain Ron and the Waterworld of Tomorrowland was so bad that Adam Sandler said "Nah."
posted by Etrigan at 9:41 AM on July 17, 2015


Iron Sky turned out to be the version of Sky Captain that appeals to people who really get into cosplaying Nazis at gaming conventions, and/or who liked Jar-Jar Binks not in spite of, but because he was a racist caricature. It's not a harmlessly, bloodlessly "bad" movie like Sky Captain was, it's a maliciously bad movie made by filmmakers with a disingenuous grasp of the things they claim to be satirizing.

It's one of the most purely wehraboo things i've ever seen. In fact, the discussion here made me immediately think of that phrase.
posted by emptythought at 6:13 PM on July 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why Huge Budgets Can Ruin Movies
posted by Artw at 5:18 PM on July 18, 2015


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