And at last the movie I went to see: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which finally opened here. I'm a bit torn on it; I loved the movie almost entirely for its visual design. It may be a decade before steampunk like this gets out of the comic books and science fiction novels again, but this is almost enough to hold us over. (It needed more of those flip-panel displays and Telefunken pre-Nixie tubes.)
But the dialogue, wow. The Fleischer Superman shorts -- homaged almost to plagiarism -- knew perhaps instinctively that when your visuals stun enough, there's not one word any of your characters can say that doesn't weaken the experience. (Quick quiz: quote from memory any line of the original King Kong besides ``Twas beauty killed the beast.'' See? The characters can't compete with the spectacle.) As a result many of the Superman shorts are almost silent cartoons, and Sky Captain was at its best when they followed the lesson.
You flew a submersible plane onto an unknown island from a sky aircraft carrier and now dinosaurs frolic before you; how can you possibly care whether your boyfriend cheated on you three years ago? Not talking almost minimizes the plot holes and continuity errors you have time to create, e.g., how the Royal Navy Air Force (I guess?) had maps to the submerged path into an island they said wasn't on their charts.
The other frustration: it took half the film for the director to learn bright and long shots make the effects work. That's because everyone knows dark scenes and quick cuts are how directors hide flaws in the special effects. Nothing convinces people what they see is real like getting a good long view at it; and nearly all the Manhattan scenes are dark with far-too-rapid fading between shots. Considering for the most part the actors weren't there, even if there was a real there, holding shots to convince the audience the actors really are where they appear to be is critical.
They could only tinker with the brightness a bit without wrecking the rainbow-progression of color in the film, but they could certainly linger on one picture of the Hindenburg III docking at the Empire State Building, instead of jumping between several, as an example.
This sounds pretty negative -- well, Golden Village provoked me -- but I enjoyed the movie; I'm picking on its missteps because it had so many steps right. I expect to get the DVD release, if for nothing else to figure why the movie had one British and one Robot grandmother of Cobra's Baroness. And, really, just look at Manhattan. The sounds (as opposed to dialogue) and the visual tour of the radio signal were delights as well.
Trivia: The famous ``Faster than a speeding bullet'' introduction to Superman was created for the Fleischer cartoons. Bullets, trains, and tall buildings were not the only comparisons drawn; the opening varied as the cartoon series progressed. Source: The Fleischer Story, Leslie Cabarga.
Currently Reading: The Best of Edmond Hamilton, Edmond Hamilton.