featuring Laurence Olivier as the Master Control Program
Jen received Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow as one of her mystery Netflix movies[*] so I watched it with her. Sky Captain, a pulpish flying-ace tale with a dash of screwball comedy, is set in an alternate 1939 with giant robots and rocket ships; I'd call it art-deco-punk except that it's not punk about its early sci-fi tech. It's earnestly but somewhat soullessly retro, sort of the cinematic equivalent of a PT Cruiser.

It's also close to 100% computer animated. The actors are apparently the only elements that aren't rendered; there aren't even any sets, really, just bluescreens. In this respect it reminded me of Tron. I saw Tron for the first time a couple of years ago and liked it, but figured that I would quickly forget about it... as it turned out, though, I think about it often and have become very fond of it in retrospect. I doubt the same will be true for Sky Captain. Its computer animation suffered from the "uncanny valley" effect for me... not remotely real enough to be convincing, but also not fake enough to create a pleasing animated world. Instead it landed in between — just fake enough to be off-putting. I am completely serious when I say that I thought Tron had better graphics. The geometrical Tron landscape really struck a chord with me that I didn't realize fully at the time. Maybe it has something to do with the way that Scott McCloud argues that a stripped-down cartooning style makes for better reading than a more realistic one. Though I'd also bet that The Youth of Today™ had a very different response, given that the level of reality of Sky Captain's graphics is very much in line with that of the Xbox games I've seen... which is part of why I don't play console or modern PC games. I never imprinted on that level of reality — I grew up with actual reality and with pixellated graphics. Texture maps and things just look wrong to me. Come to think of it, so does anime. Weird thought: my generation gap extends beyond slang and mores into the realm of visual vocabulary. Goddamn whippersnappers — back in my day we had lightcycles and recognizers and we LIKED it!

[*] (Whoops, this turns out not to be true — she chose this one. Her Netflix overlords chose Ms. 45. Dr. Forrester, is that you?)

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