Tomorrow never comes

The new movie with an old-time feel blurs gender lines in unusual ways.

by Adrienne Baker

Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow” is the comic book, fantasy future of any child born in the 1940s. World War remnants and budding technology of the age are harnessed to give the film a style rare on the modern screen, and to create an intellectually stimulating action flick.

Easily comparable to the Indiana Jones series, the film is littered with motifs and symbolism that allude to issues of gender roles, the U.S. hero and U.S. martyrdom.

A group of scientists stationed near Berlin following WWI are forced to conduct inhumane experiments for megalomaniac Dr. Totenkopf. Approximately 30 years after the experiment, the scientists who worked under Totenkopf, organizing a doomsday project, begin disappearing.

Overzealous reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow), while chasing the story, stumbles on information connecting the disappearances and series of mysterious “robot monster” attacks. With the help of former love interest Joe “Sky Captain” Sullivan (Jude Law), they set off to save the world.

The first half of the film is an introduction, in heavily shaded, gothic frames, to King Kong-like catastrophe, symbolically pitting man, woman and foreigner against one another. Paltrow’s character, despite her lack of fear and stubbornness, succumbs to her femininity when Sky Captain enters the picture.

The introduction of Captain Francesca “Franky” Cook (Angelina Jolie), however, sends the gender roles of the film into flux, leaving the audience to decide among fast-paced action sequences, whom the hero of the story will be.

Under the rubric “The World of Tomorrow” (the theme for the 1939 World’s Fair), the movie juxtaposes the major social questions about the role of technology in the 1940s with similar questions of today.