Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A high level of stylization made the picture Captain tough to evaluate objectively, but within its parameters, the movie looked solid.
I guess. Honestly, the photographic choices really did make it difficult to accurately assess the visuals, as a lot of softness seemed to occur due to the source.
Despite its technological ambition, Sky Captain enjoyed a fairly modest budget, and that meant its computer generated visuals often came across as somewhat fuzzy.
The challenge became to assess how much of this softness stemmed from the original material and how much came from the Blu-ray’s reproduction of the footage. This disc came out early in the format’s existence, ad many releases from 2006 don’t hold up well in 2019.
Does Sky Captain join that club? Again, I find it hard to say. The image certainly varied a lot in terms of accuracy and could be rather ill-defined, but I could rarely declare decisively that these issues were Blu-ray based and not an artifact of the computer created material.
I noticed no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes remained absent. I also detected no source defects.
Technically, we’d have to call Captain a color film, but it looked awfully monochrome. The majority of the flick presented images that were essentially black and white, blue or sepia tone.
Even when other hues popped up, they were extremely subdued and desaturated. Dark elements heavily dominated the flick, and the colors looked fine within those parameters.
Blacks seemed tight and dense, while the many low-light shots demonstrated good clarity and distinctiveness. Given my uncertainty about aspects of the image, I thought a “B” seemed fair.
I didn’t need to qualify my thoughts about the film’s audio, as that side worked better in an objective manner. The Blu-ray included Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks, both of which sounded virtually identical to me. I didn’t discern any notable variations between the two mixes.
An active and involving affair, the soundfield provided a great sense of environment. Quieter scenes kept us in the game with nice atmospheric elements, and the action sequences brought the mix to life in a wonderful manner.
This started with the initial robot attack, and similar sequences worked equally well, as the movie consistently used all five channels to strong effect. The surrounds played an aggressive role as they fleshed out the audio.
Speech was consistently natural and crisp, with no issues related to intelligibility or edginess. Music sounded bright and vibrant, so the score was always rich and showed good definition.
Effects blasted home the action nicely, as they were accurate and dynamic and kicked into high gear when appropriate. I felt impressed with the track’s bass response, as low-end was tight and firm. All in all, this soundtrack satisfied.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the original DVD? Audio was virtually identical, as the absence of a lossless option meant no upgrade there.
The Blu-ray did provide a DTS 5.1 option that didn’t appear on the DVD, but as noted, I didn’t think it improved on the Dolby Digital mix. While I liked the audio a lot, I still felt I needed to dock the disc some points for the absence of a lossless track.
Visuals worked better than on the DVD, though the nature of the source tempered the improvements. Still, I felt sure the Blu-ray offered the superior reproduction of the material.
The Blu-ray reproduces the DVD’s extras, and we find two separate audio commentaries, the first of which comes from producer Jon Avnet. He offers a good running, screen-specific chat that gets into many of the challenges - both low and high tech - encountered during the production.
We find out how he came onto the project, got financing and developed it, and cast it. Avnet also discusses the ways he had to nurture the introverted director and helped pull him out of his shell.
There’s a lot about the technical issues and various innovations. Avnet presents a good look at all aspects of the production and makes this an interesting and informative piece.
For the second commentary, we hear from writer/director Kerry Conran, production designer Kevin Conran, animation director/digital effects supervisor Steve Yamamoto, and visual effects supervisor Darin Hollings. All four sit together for a running, screen-specific chat.
I’ve heard worse commentaries, but this one’s decidedly mediocre. Most of the remarks revolve around reminding us about the absence of sets and props. We get many notes about the sparseness of the shooting environments. The participants also often just tell us who performed various tasks.
A few story notes appear, and a little wry humor enlivens the proceedings on occasion. We also get a few insights into references to other works. Not many long gaps mar the piece, but a fair number of examples of dead air occur.
The track moves at a decent pace, but it just doesn’t bring a lot to the table. I can’t say I learned much from this extremely low-key commentary.
After this comes a two-part documentary called Brave New World. Taken together, the piece fills with notes from Kerry Conran, Kevin Conran, Avnet, Hollings, Yamamoto, producer Marsha Oglesby, visual effects producer Daniel Rucinski, special photographic process Stephen Lawes, animation supervisor Robert Dressel, CG lighting director Michael Sean Foley, production supervisor Matthew Feitshans, modeling supervisor Zack Petroc, director of systems engineering Brian Chacon, editor Sabrina Plisco, and actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, and Angelina Jolie.
We learn of the roots of the film and its early guises, the concepts behind the processes used to make it, initial designs and other work for the original six-minute version, pitching the film, casting, pre-production and various planning processes, the visual design, technical challenges and shooting without sets, post-production and visual effects, the use of color, technological challenges and fears related to on-time completion.
At times, “World” comes across as self-congratulatory, as we get more than a few comments about the remarkable nature of the film. However, it offers plenty of good notes about the production.
Usually audio commentaries are the most effective methods to convey lots of information, but due to the unusual nature of Captain, a documentary works best. It’s great to get a look at the raw footage and see what went into making this flick. The program packs in lots of solid information and moves at a reasonable pace to create a useful documentary.
Next we find a featurette entitled The Art of World of Tomorrow. In this eight-minute, 20-second program, we get notes from Kevin Conran as he discusses the movie’s look and art design.
Conran covers the general visual presentation as well as the specifics of some sets, clothes and prominent pieces. We see a lot of planning sketches and learn many good details about the film’s visual influences and decisions. It’s short but tight and satisfying.
An interesting element, we get the Original Six-Minute Short (6:04). Used to pitch the viability of all-CG settings and helped get financing for the flick, we see parts of this in the documentary, but here we watch it in its entirety. It’s very cool to see this seminal work in full.
Two Deleted Scenes fill five minutes, nine seconds. We get “Totenkopf’s Torture Room” (1:13) and “The Conveyor Belt” (3:56).
The first is a fairly redundant look at Totenkopf’s victims, but “Belt” offers a more interesting piece with a little more action and insight into Totenkopf’s lair. It’s unfinished and crude but interesting to see.
More unused material appears via a Gag Reel. The two-minute, 32-second clip shows a lot of the usual goofs and giggles, but we get some cool shots due to the nature of the film.
I like being able to see more of the sparsely-populated sets and unusual techniques, and we also watch some wacky CG shots. I’m not a fan of gag reels, but this one’s worth a look.
In addition to three trailers, we get Anatomy of a Virtual Scene, a seven-minute, 55-second piece with Dressela and Lawes. As expected, they offer notes on all the technical work used to create one specific sequence. This becomes a dry but informative reel.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow provides a flick with great looks but little substance. Despite a strong cast, it suffers from bland performances, and its dull plot doesn’t help. The Blu-ray brings generally good picture and audio along with a solid roster of bonus materials. A spotty film, Sky Captain has its moments but not on a consistent basis.
To rate this film visit the DVD review of SKY CAPTAIN