Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

All that technology for Kerry Conran to play with, and yet he did so little with the toys I'd be most excited to play with, and that's Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Angelina Jolie. No, most of the $70 million budget of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow was spent on drawing the art deco backdrops, not in crafting the plot, which reminded me of Saturday morning cartoons I watched as a kid, or in writing smart dialogue.
Law, Paltrow, and Jolie come off as flat, both physically since they are clearly superimposed over blue-screen drawings and emotionally as they do what they can with harebrained sci-fi/fantasy dialogue. The movie reminds me of crazy stories I dreamed up and enacted with toy action figures when I was just a kid, and some of Conran's boyish enthusiasm for his childhood influences comes across in the fusion of the swashbuckling soundtrack, fantastical plot twists, and often grand landscapes. Ultimately, though, I outgrew my action figures and such shallow stories.
For all the time spent in illustrating this digital world, the movie feels strangely underpopulated. All the people besides those played by real people (the three leads, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Gambon, and a handful of scientists) are about as animated as video game characters, which is to say not very (Laurence Olivier makes a cameo, and in one nice bit of irony, we realize he's dead on multiple levels, not just in real life or because he's been digitally resurrected). It doesn't feel like there's anyone else in the movie, further lessening the importance of the main characters' mission to save the world. It's a planet that feels empty, and by the end of the movie so did I.