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Episode 189 - Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: LIVE!

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Haven't listened to the pod yet, but whenever I see the title of this movie I have this scene in my head, so I must post:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiwA0JrGfjA

It also reminds me of "Skytanic," one of my favorite episodes of Archer. Cuz of all the dirigibles.

 

archer_107_skytanic.jpg?quality=0.85&width=664&height=374&crop=true

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What's interesting in this film in comparison to Sin City is that Robert Rodriguez clearly looked to see what went wrong with this film and made sure not to make those mistakes with his film. While Sky Captain was so focused on showcasing big robots and city scapes along with dogfights, Sin City was almost always small locations and focused on the characters, thus hiding the early flaws in digital-backlot films. I do kinda get the director's skepticism about the end budget as he really only had three A level actors and a couple character actors in the cast, while Sin City had an entire cast made up of recognizable celebrities, but I think what I mentioned about them using so much CGI for the overall environment in comparison to Sin City led to that bigger budget.

 

Also this film further cements my feelings that Roger Ebert was one of the most overrated movie critics of all time as he gave this film 4 out of 4 stars, which is more than such classics as The Godfather part 2 and Shawshank Redemption. I have to assume that the reason this has such a high RT score is because people were into the idea of the digital backlot style of filming and what could be done with it.

 

Lastly, I would love for them to cover Den of Thieves on the show, although it really is a slog at 2 1/2 hrs. Gerard Butler is easily the best part as an unhinged cop and the handful of gunfights are pretty well shot and exciting.

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I really want to know if the captain in Sky Captain is a rank or a title. Given Captain American, Captain Britain, Captain Marvel, etc. we know that "captain" is just attached to superhero types. Heck you don't have to have a military background to be named captain just look at Captain Planet and Captain Caveman. The name "Sky Captain" sounds very superhero-y and invokes classic characters and serials so it is safe to assume it just a title. However, when Sky Captain returns to base we see him go into his office and on the door is written "Captain H. Joseph Sullivan" which would seemingly imply that he is also ranked captain as well. Sky Captain is in charge of the whole operation seemingly thus them being called "Sky Captain and his army for hire" but captain is not the highest rank there is in the air force, army or police. You have major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and general all above it. Not the mentioned the starred tier ranking of generals after that. It's a classic chicken and egg problem, was he a captain first or was he sky captain first? Did he call himself Sky Captain and then applied the rank of captain to himself, or did he achieve the rank of captain then start his own mercenary business and call himself Sky Captain based on his highest earned rank?

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I am still in several states of shock that Olivier was in this movie. Olivier was a big part of my PhD thesis (which included the chance to examine his personal annotated shooting script for 'Richard III' which is held at the Folger Shakespeare Library in DC) and along with Branagh, I've become very sentimentally attached to him over the years. As such, it was a real surprise to see his likeness in this awful movie: which makes me wonder what on earth his estate was doing giving permission for it. Olivier was well known to be a curmudgeonly old bastard, and famously played Zeus in 'Clash of the Titans' entirely for the paycheck, with no real interest in the product (a lot like another of the Theatrical Knights around the same time, Alec Guinness, who slummed it to play Obi-Wan Kenobi and was vocal about what he thought of the content he was asked to say). I know that Olivier is reputed to have sold the portrait Salvador Dali made of him as Richard III to pay for his grandchildrens' schooling, and I know that Joan Plowright, Larry's widow, played a teacher in 'The Last Action Hero', showing the 'Now Might I Do It Pat' scene to a class full of kids, introducing him as "the man from the Mr Coffee commercials", so he's no stranger to selling out. But THIS? This is mind-boggling to me. They can't have possibly paid enough for his likeness for THIS to be his final film role, could they?

 

ETA: it seems they were pretty up-beat about it at the time: https://www.eonline....-in-sky-captain

Totally coincidentally - I am catching up on all the eps of HDTGM that I missed over the course of this school year, and just listened to The Jazz Singer this morning. At the end of that episode, when Paul is asking the team whether they would recommend this movie, each of them come up with casting ideas for a potential future reboot. After a bunch of suggestions, Chris Gethard makes the point that the movie couldn't be the same without Laurence Olivier in the main role, to which Paul replied that they should bring Olivier back in CGI, just like in Rogue One. It's spooky how exactly specific this was to Sky Captain: A MOVIE YOU HADN'T EVEN SEEN YET PAUL. Are you some kind of seer?

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I really want to know if the captain in Sky Captain is a rank or a title. Given Captain American, Captain Britain, Captain Marvel, etc. we know that "captain" is just attached to superhero types. Heck you don't have to have a military background to be named captain just look at Captain Planet and Captain Caveman. The name "Sky Captain" sounds very superhero-y and invokes classic characters and serials so it is safe to assume it just a title. However, when Sky Captain returns to base we see him go into his office and on the door is written "Captain H. Joseph Sullivan" which would seemingly imply that he is also ranked captain as well. Sky Captain is in charge of the whole operation seemingly thus them being called "Sky Captain and his army for hire" but captain is not the highest rank there is in the air force, army or police. You have major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and general all above it. Not the mentioned the starred tier ranking of generals after that. It's a classic chicken and egg problem, was he a captain first or was he sky captain first? Did he call himself Sky Captain and then applied the rank of captain to himself, or did he achieve the rank of captain then start his own mercenary business and call himself Sky Captain based on his highest earned rank?

I thought Sky Captain's office was a weird addition. Why does a Sky Captain need a Ground Office? For maps and radios? Or is there a lot of paperwork that goes along with being a Sky Captain? And clearly he's there a lot, since he has his name on the door and all. Why doesn't his door say 'Captain Joseph H. Sullivan, "SKY CAPTAIN"'? For that matter, does anyone actually call him "Sky Captain" except for the beat cop on the radio at the beginning? His faithful pet Dex calls him 'Cap', while Polly calls him 'Joe' and Angelina calls him 'Joseph'. 'Sky Captain' might indeed be his superhero name, but anyone who knows him even a little bit doesn't call him that. Even the troubling racial stereotype who craves sausages and helps him in Tibet calls him Joe.

 

With that in mind, I was struck by how little time Sky Captain actually spends in the sky.

 

He's in his plane between the following timestamps:

11.29-16.48

29.40-38.21

41.06-43.52

58.44-1.03.10

1.06.28-1.08.47

1.08.07-1.13.25 (underwater)

 

Out of the entire 104 minute running time, Sky Captain is in his plane or in the air for 23 minutes total. Another 3 minutes is spent underwater (I guess he's Sea Captain then). The rest of the time he's running, spying, punching women, all things that have very little to do with the Sky. How can he really be called Sky Captain when he's only in the sky for a fifth of the movie?

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Oh I hope Transcendence gets talked at some point thanks to that conversation Joe had with that Uber driver!

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I really want to know if the captain in Sky Captain is a rank or a title. Given Captain American, Captain Britain, Captain Marvel, etc. we know that "captain" is just attached to superhero types. Heck you don't have to have a military background to be named captain just look at Captain Planet and Captain Caveman. The name "Sky Captain" sounds very superhero-y and invokes classic characters and serials so it is safe to assume it just a title. However, when Sky Captain returns to base we see him go into his office and on the door is written "Captain H. Joseph Sullivan" which would seemingly imply that he is also ranked captain as well. Sky Captain is in charge of the whole operation seemingly thus them being called "Sky Captain and his army for hire" but captain is not the highest rank there is in the air force, army or police. You have major, lieutenant colonel, colonel, and general all above it. Not the mentioned the starred tier ranking of generals after that. It's a classic chicken and egg problem, was he a captain first or was he sky captain first? Did he call himself Sky Captain and then applied the rank of captain to himself, or did he achieve the rank of captain then start his own mercenary business and call himself Sky Captain based on his highest earned rank?

 

My guess is that, being a mercenary, aka a freelancer, "Captain" is a good rank to self-market with. As they always say in marketing, your job is to make the customer feel like the hero - Mayor So-and-So saved the day by calling in Sky Captain! Ranked any higher, he might not sound like a guy who actually goes into battle himself; so he essentially runs the Flying Legion with the equivalent rank of a Squadron Commander, but that name for potential customers to remember is Sky Captain. These days he'd be building his brand on Instagram.

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My guess is that, being a mercenary, aka a freelancer, "Captain" is a good rank to self-market with. As they always say in marketing, your job is to make the customer feel like the hero - Mayor So-and-So saved the day by calling in Sky Captain! Ranked any higher, he might not sound like a guy who actually goes into battle himself; so he essentially runs the Flying Legion with the equivalent rank of a Squadron Commander, but that name for potential customers to remember is Sky Captain. These days he'd be building his brand on Instagram.

Also, Captain flows off the tongue so much smoother than a rank like Lieutenant or Corporal, which helps with branding. Sky General sounds like a store and Sky Major could work but to me doesn't have the same kind of grandeur that Sky Captain does.

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I thought Sky Captain's office was a weird addition. Why does a Sky Captain need a Ground Office? For maps and radios? Or is there a lot of paperwork that goes along with being a Sky Captain?

 

Oh for sure. He probably has to deal with insurance claims and lawsuits constantly for all the collateral damage he causes in the city.

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I'd also like to point out that Totenkopf's name literally translates to KILL HEAD, the most unfortunate villain naming in a long time. I believe it's supposed to properly translate to 'Death's Head', which explains the skull motifs on all of the robots, but I think we can all agree that it's a lot more amusing to have a villain named KILL HEAD.

 

With a name like that, I guess we shouldn't be surprised about the nefarious plan, but was I the only one who felt like the "and also then the earth will be incinerated" plot point was tacked on at the last minute? I feel like if the plan is to take off with animals and jizz vials to travel to NO ONE KNOWS WHERE - essentially Totenkopf is planning to recreate the flashback scene from 'Wall-E' - then no one on earth is harmed aside from having had their stuff stolen and shot into space. The only way to raise the stakes for everyone is to ADR in some dialogue which says "also by the way he's going to kill us too". But there's nothing stated about HOW we are going to all be incinerated: there's no Star-Killer base warming up and getting ready to kill the planet, and there's no countdown in KILL HEAD'S lair that will detonate. We just take it for granted that oh yeah by the way I think he'll kill us all too. How will he incinerate the earth? And why? You're leaving, you're going to the World of Tomorrow (with no humans to populate it, of course: what about THAT?), just wave goodbye and enjoy your retirement, KILL HEAD!

This makes me think of nominative determinism which is the idea that your name determines what your future to an extent. Some notable examples are Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the flush toilet, or Igor Judge, who became a Chief Justice. The idea is that, had these people had different names, they might have had totally different careers. While I'd typically write this off as coincidence in real life, we know that many common last names came from people's professions: blacksmiths inherited the name Smith, coopers (barrel makers) became Cooper, and so forth. So, it stands to reason if your name surname was Taylor and you became a tailor in real life, there could be some family history leading you down that path.

Creating names for characters that line up with their character traits is pretty common in art but imagine you are in the world of Sky Captain and your name is Killhead. If nominative determinism holds any weight, you probably are going to be a murderous disembodied head at some point.

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Paul kept asking about Sky Captain's profession and asked the nagging question "What is a sky captain?" I want to address this, but the answer involves one of the weirder aspects of this alternate 40s US ... weirder than the three generations of Hinderburgs and the British accents of New Yorkers.

 

First, I think it's obvious that "Sky Captain" is not a profession or a thing ... it's just Joe's superhero name. The public calls him "Sky Captain" just like it calls Tony Stark "Iron Man."

 

What if it was the other way around, so that Tony Stark's day job is literally just to iron clothes? And if other superheroes had occupations that were literal versions of their names?

 

Superman would be a superintendent.

 

Batman would be a baseball player.

 

The Punisher would be a dominatrix.

 

But the thing is, "Sky Captain" is not a superhero ... he's a mercenary. The news broadcast clearly states that the city is waiting on Sky Captain "and his army-for-hire." Army-for-hire means mercenaries. Sky Captain is in it for the money, and some way some how probably expects to be paid for all the hero work he's doing. That's how he funds his tricked out dogfighter and his cool base with a huge hanger and cannons and a crackerjack weapons development/radio triangulation/gum chewing wing for his best friend/sidekick/submissive.

 

And in this alternate reality, there appears to be NO standing military of any kind. When the robots attack, we see a few cops firing tommy guns at them but otherwise, no one is doing anything to combat them except for Sky Captain. Again, the radio news guy immediately puts all the city's hopes squarely on Sky Captain, which implies that that is standard procedure because they have no army. The modern day equivalent of this would be if we had to call in Blackwater in emergency situations. And we see Sky Captain breaking some pretty severe rules of engagement like firing weapons and dropping bombs in highly populated areas and flying 10 feet above paved city roads.

 

He's a cavalier merc with a million dollar operation and no overseeing regulatory body that the whole country relies upon for its security. How and why, in a world where Germany is wrangling secret cabals of scientists and Britain has a fucking armada of flying aircraft carriers, has this been allowed to happen?

 

The idea of giant flying robots invading the streets of NYC comes from the Superman cartoon The Mechanical Monsters, where they carry out the villain's diabolical evil plan to... steal jewelry. So in that context, it does make sense that their only opposition besides the hero would be local cops armed with Tommy guns.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DadH3KjHZws

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Superman would be a superintendent.

Batman would be a baseball player.

The Punisher would be a dominatrix.

 

Surely based on your justification for SUPERman and BATman, then the PUNisher would be a writer for Carrot Top?

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Wanted to address Tawny’s complaint that fire doesn’t work under water:

 

tenor.gif

 

No, but really, while it’s true that you can’t have “fire” like the campfire above, welding underwater creates sort of a fire.

 

OJS1nev.jpg

 

And ignited thermite burns so hot that can burn underwater too.

 

giphy.gif

 

Anyway, really enjoyed Tawny on the episode and love her for referencing “toepick” from my favorite sports rom com, The Cuttng Edge.

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FYI anyone with $700 to spare looking to own a replica mask of the "only survivor of Totenkopf's experiments," you are in luck:

 

349231.jpg

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Paul says at one point that Qbert had a weird eyebrow above his ... nose.

 

Umm, what?

 

qbert-wreck-it-ralph-65.5.jpg

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I'd also like to point out that Totenkopf's name literally translates to KILL HEAD, the most unfortunate villain naming in a long time.

7FH6smB.gif?noredirect

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Speaking of, Wizard of Oz came out in 1939. Was this a revival showing?

So when they find Totenkopf's body they say his final entry is from October 1918

41474054965_d223a0b715_o.png

Where Dex says "He's been dead for over 20 years"

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which makes my spidey sense tell me that it is 1939 putting The Wizard of Oz in its 1st run.

 

And yes... waaaaaaay too early for Godzilla references

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I'm surprised by the vitriol directed at this film by the hosts. I don't disagree with any criticisms about the plot or the characters (both are very thin), but I do disagree with their take on the visuals and the tone. It seemed to me that the filmmakers wanted to do a homage to cheesy 1930s serials, which means dumb jokes, nonsensical plots, fake-looking effects, and so forth. It's not supposed to look realistic. And IMO, the director did a fairly decent job of framing the live actors against the fake backgrounds. Perhaps if this had remained a small independent project as it was originally conceived it would have been taken in that mode, but the big-name actors make it seem like it "should" be a prestige project angling for awards or big box office.

 

As for Roger Ebert's review, long-time readers should know that he was notorious for giving unusually high ratings to films when he loved the visual style, even if he knew there were big story problems. Sky Captain fits right in that pattern.

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So when they find Totenkopf's body they say his final entry is from October 1918

 

Where Dex says "He's been dead for over 20 years"

 

which makes my spidey sense tell me that it is 1939 putting The Wizard of Oz in its 1st run.

 

And yes... waaaaaaay too early for Godzilla references

Well if you want to get technical the newspapers we see at the beginning of the film are dated. The start of this film takes places in March of 1939. The earliest dated newspaper is the Japanese one at March 9th and the last paper we see is dated March 20 something 1939. Which makes this all doubly odd seeing as Wizard of Oz didn't debut until August of that year.

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These "collectors mini comics" were handed out at the box office. Mint condition 2018 value: $0.

 

post-123743-0-84168100-1527478281_thumb.jpeg

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These "collectors mini comics" were handed out at the box office. Mint condition 2018 value: $0.

 

post-123743-0-84168100-1527478281_thumb.jpeg

I like how they don't even really try to make anyone look like their characters in the movie.

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I'm having a hard time thinking deeply about this movie anymore, so just a few more quick observations:

 

- When the robots attacks, Polly rips her skirt so that she can run faster, but she doesn't take off her heels. She wasn't running more effectively, just slightly more sexy. That was dumb.

 

- Re: the bird jets ... Planes need jets for lift. Birds flap their wings for lift. Something that has jets doesn't need to flap its wings, and vice versa. That was dumb.

 

- Sky Capt's hanger has a logo on the floor that depicts a lion surrounded by clouds over the words "Ille Caelum Fremitus," which translates to something close to "That roaring sky," but the internet pretty much agrees that this is crappy Latin. So, that's dumb, too.

 

- This movie occupies a world that has developed levitating robots and laser-ring melt-o-rays but is otherwise so technologically backward that giant robots could be attacking at random around the world for two fucking years and no one has heard about it. Dumb.

 

- And finally, a question: Is there such a thing as a Wilhelm Scream, but for monkey shrieks? During the climax when some of the animals are escaping, there's a monkey sound that I swear I've heard in every movie that ever had monkeys.

 

EDIT: Sorry if any of these are repeats. Whenever this movie enters my consciousness, I fall asleep.

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I'm having a hard time thinking deeply about this movie anymore, so just a few more quick observations:

 

- When the robots attacks, Polly rips her skirt so that she can run faster, but she doesn't take off her heels. She wasn't running more effectively, just slightly more sexy. That was dumb.

 

- Re: the bird jets ... Planes need jets for lift. Birds flap their wings for lift. Something that has jets doesn't need to flap its wings, and vice versa. That was dumb.

 

- Sky Capt's hanger has a logo on the floor that depicts a lion surrounded by clouds over the words "Ille Caelum Fremitus," which translates to something close to "That roaring sky," but the internet pretty much agrees that this is crappy Latin. So, that's dumb, too.

 

- This movie occupies a world that has developed levitating robots and laser-ring melt-o-rays but is otherwise so technologically backward that giant robots could be attacking at random for two fucking years and no one has heard about it. Dumb.

 

- And finally, a question: Is there such a thing as a Wilhelm Scream, but for monkey shrieks? During the climax when some of the animals are escaping, there's a monkey sound that I swear I've heard in every movie that ever had monkeys.

 

EDIT: Sorry if any of these are repeats. Whenever this movie enters my consciousness, I fall asleep.

You saved the best for last! Excellent set of observations.

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