Well okay, it wasn’t called Blackhawk the Movie, it was called Sky Captain And The World of Tomorrow, but it should have been called Blackhawk the Movie. This film does for Pulp Aviators what Indiana Jones does for Pulp Archeologists. Jude Law is the Sky Captain, leader of a band of aviators who hire themselves out to the world’s free governments. The set up is pure Blackhawks! Somebody has been capturing leading scientists from around the world and now powerful mechanical robots have begun attacking the city – it’s up to the Sky Captain to stop the attackers and locate the missing scientists.
If you are familiar with the original Fleicher Superman cartoons, or even just the earlier Timm/Dini Batman cartoons, you’ll recognise the artistic influences of this film. Kerry Conran creates an amazing world of 1939 as it might have been if the depression had never happened. This is the world of unbound science where heroes played before WWII gave everybody a nasty wake up call. This is the mid-twentieth century has it should have been.
The entire film is brought to life entirely by computer graphics with only the human actors filmed for real. It manages to get away with this because of its sense of style. CGI is good, but it always (even now) has a slightly unreal quality to it. The film bends that to its advantage by creating an unreal world – a world as a 1930s director would have filmed it, with dark shadows and fog bound cities. I can’t even begin to think of the number of homages and tips of the hat this film includes (the DVD is crying out for a Jess Nevin commentary). If you do go and see it keep an eye out for references to the Wizard of Oz and to King Kong, they are some very obvious and some not so obvious.
And if you do enjoy the film think about picking up JSA Strange Adventurers – the first few issues should still be in stock in larger comic shops and it has a very similar tone.
(Oh and that opening shot of the airship and the Empire State Building – in the 1930s they could really do that and they planned to do it more than the once of twice it was tried, but real world weather condition were just too unstable for it to be safe. )