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Friday, January 30, 2009

How to ruin a movie

I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on TV the other night. It was, in a way, a painful experience. Sky Captain is a vaguely steampunkish alternate-history movie with giant killer robots, cool plane dogfights and an impressive and unusual sepia-toned look, using a mix of live-action and CGI a la Sin City. By rights, I should have loved it. And I nearly did.

A few glaringly stupid things go a long way to make an otherwise cool thing bad. When those stupid things could easily have been fixed, or better yet turned into something cool, it stings all the more.

Here's an example: There's a scene where the two main characters, Sky Captain and Polly, are in Sky Captain's plane, flying over some water while being chased by other planes. They dive down towards the water, and moving at several hundred kilometres per hour, slam straight into it. Underwater, the plane continues to dive down and then converts itself into a submarine, with SC and Polly unharmed.

Call me a pessimist, but I'm pretty sure if a plane did that it would be completely destroyed. Even if by some miracle of engineering it was able to withstand such an impact, its occupants would still be instantly killed. Suspension of disbelief can only go so far - I'm willing to accept a plane that can turn into a submarine, but not one that can slam straight down into water at flight speed.

They could have turned this into a really cool sequence, where SC pulls up, and they barely miss slamming the water, with their enemies shooting all around them, and then they skid along the water all Hudson river-style with water spraying everywhere before slowing down enough to dive under. It would have eliminated the need to shit all over the laws of physics, while making the scene awesome. But they didn't.

Another example: [SPOILER ALERT] Later in the movie SC and Polly arrive at a facility where there are all these robots that are just hovering through the air. There are also platforms that are hovering through the air. There is no apparent way they are doing this, and no explanation is given. The least they could do is give some vague hand-wavey explanation about it being "like magnetism". Or better yet, they could go all steampunk and have cool propellers holding them up like little helicopters. It would have looked great and not crossed the line into ridiculousness.

Last example: [SPOILER ALERT again] Towards the end of the movie, our intrepid hero and heroine are standing on a flat platform at the top of a rocket that is being launched into space. Let me repeat that: They are standing on a flat platform at the top of a rocket that is being launched into space. You don't have to work for NASA to know that the G-forces involved in a rocket launch are pretty impressive - there's no way in hell you could stand upright inside a launching spacecraft, let alone on top of one, with the air blowing past at several thousand km/h. And yet they can not only stand comfortably, but talk to each other audibly! There are other technical problems, like the fact that the rocket clearly didn't have the fuel capacity to reach escape velocity.

I could offer some suggestions to fix this scene, but the whole thing is just so insultingly stupid that I won't bother.

Fuck this movie.

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