Up With People

About an hour or so into Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Capt. Angelina Jolie, sporting an eye patch, a hip-hugging military uniform, and the world's juiciest British accent, responds to a state of emergency by barking something like "Alert the amphibious squadron!" I nearly wet myself in those two seconds of happiness; it was the only human moment in an hour and a half of computer-generated complacency.

Angelina Jolie says, "Alert the amphibious squadron!" in that intensely sporting way that Ann-Margret rolled around in baked beans in Tommy—because it's her job, and if the script says that one must alert the amphibious squadron or roll around in baked beans, why, one must do so to the utmost of one's abilities, no questions asked. I would happily pay $10 to see an hour and a half of Angelina Jolie alerting the amphibious squadron. What does Sky Captain give us instead? Ninety minutes of Gwyneth Paltrow blending into the digitized art direction. Gwyneth Paltrow wouldn't know how to alert the amphibious squadron if the amphibious squadron handed her a bullhorn, requested a few words, and politely perked its ears up.

I guess I'm getting older and grumpier, because I'm now officially wearying of going to the movies and being confronted with impersonal technology, like CGI or Gwyneth Paltrow. Call me old-fashioned, but I want to see people. Didn't people used to be in big, cheesy, blockbuster movies, and didn't we enjoy them? Even crap escapism needs a pulse, for chrissakes. It's as though HAL, the malevolent computer from 2001, were behind some secret Hollywood plot to get us to accept software as a viable substitute for warm-blooded entertainment. Spider-Man 2 made a zillion dollars, despite the fact that it looked like Tobey Maguire spent most of the film in his trailer while someone's iMac battled someone else's iMac high above the streets of someone's iMac.

Cuckoo George Lucas—can we all admit that George Lucas has gone completely round the bend?—finally releases the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD, and he worries about rejiggering the special effects. As if we care. Yes, George, I stood in line with my big brother for several hours in 1983 to see Princess Leia flying that groovy speeder bike through the trees in Return of the Jedi. But what made it memorable was Princess Leia flying it. It wouldn't be any fun seeing some tricked-up thing speeding along with someone you don't care about in the driver's seat. (Anybody remember Tron? No, neither do I.)

Resident Evil: Apocalypse has Milla Jovovich kicking ass in a mesh halter top, but spends a lot of time trying to look like the video game it's based on, as if looking like a movie would be too disorienting. And even something as basic and stupid as Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid couldn't come through for me; it was just a few digital snakes attacking an assortment of cardboard nobodies. I saw the original Anaconda on opening weekend: Jennifer Lopez was an ambitious documentary filmmaker, Ice Cube was her cameraman, and Jon Voight (Angelina's father!) showed up with a ponytail, ulterior motives, and some goofball dialect he picked up from old Speedy Gonzales cartoons. A giant serpent threatening to eat them all was basically gravy.

I never thought I'd live to see the day that I'd be drowning in my own tears over Anaconda. Alert the amphibious squadron!


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