I quite liked Tom Cruise playing the bad guy for once, rather than the clean-cut hero; and I quite liked Tom Cruise playing his age ("silver fox", as the Guardian Weekend put it) rather than being forever spookily stuck in late-20s roles.
I liked the use of Los Angeles as the location; not the glossy LA that gets so lazily and incestuously used in films ("yeah! let's get a shot of the Hollywood sign! let's do something with the Capitol Records building") but a grimy, dark LA. And I really liked the recurring use of straight-down helicopter shots tracking the protagonists in their cab through the night-time streets.
Ultimately though I don't think the film had much to say: it tries to take a moral stance by watching bad-guy Vincent through average-Joe Max's horrified eyes, but then it confuses us by lingering lovingly on Vincent's violence.
2.5 out of 5: Adequate.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: hmm. Stunning, as long as you don't care about character or plot.
The style is amazing: a mixture of 30's sci-fi, film noir, and comic strip. The computer-generated backgrounds are fantastic and convincing. It's creative and just sheer fun to watch, particularly if you keep an eye out for the frequent references to classic movies: some scenes in particular pay very clear homage to Metropolis and King Kong.
I loved the way the actors were lit. Very noir directional lighting, with strong highlights and dark shadows. This really helped anchor them into the style and blend them into the virtual sets.
But: the characters are paper-thin. The plot is little more than an excuse to throw a succession of stunning locations on the screen. The actors struggle with their dialog and their eyelines.
Raiders of the Lost Ark did comic-strip-as-movie well by realising that adventure alone isn't enough: you need strong, human characters underneath it to make the audience care about the outcome. Sky Captain fails at this: it's all glamour, no heart.
Visuals: 5 out of 5. Plot: 1 out of 5.
Now, if only the upcoming Cruise/Spielberg War of the Worlds remake could look like this. Wells's plot, Sky Captain's looks; what a movie that could be! As it is, though, I'm worried it'll be little more than a rehash of Independence Day. Filming in New York, says IMDB; bah. The book's British to the core; set it in Surrey where it belongs.