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Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
Composed, Co-Orchestrated, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
Edward Shearmur

Co-Orchestrated by:
Robert Elhai
Brad Warnaar
Jeff Toyne

Performed by:
The London Metropolitan Orchestra

Co-Produced by:
Teese Gohl
Steve McLaughlin

Sony Classical

Release Date:
September 7th, 2004

Also See:
The Rocketeer
Jurassic Park
Medal of Honor
Reign of Fire

Audio Clips:
2. The Zeppelin Arrives (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

3. The Robot Army (0:32):
WMA (209K)  MP3 (258K)
Real Audio (160K)

9. Treacherous Journey (0:28):
WMA (186K)  MP3 (230K)
Real Audio (143K)

17. Back to Earth (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

Regular U.S. release.


Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
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Sales Rank: 131340

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Buy it... if you can immerse yourself in shamelessly high-flying, patriotic orchestral adventure scores no matter their general simplicity or relentless level of bombast and tempo.

Avoid it... if that genre's music becomes tedious and repetitive for you when it is clearly derived from other superhero scores, especially ones as obvious as those by John Williams and James Horner.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow: (Edward Shearmur) Originally titled The World of Tomorrow and scheduled for an early summer 2004 release, this comic book-style action flick dashed into theatres several months and several thousand CGI-effects later. Named appropriately after the motto of the 1939 World Fair in New York City, the film takes the style of an old serial and uses every modern technological method of movie-making to glorify it for a new generation. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow makes no attempt to step out of the shiny-silver and imaginative assumptions that visionaries of the 1930's thought the future of the world would be like, although the characters are symbolic of the black and white notions of good and evil that ensure that the appeal of the film is rooted in easy spectacle rather than novel concepts. The handsome Sky Captain and the beautiful city newspaper reporter team up with iconic secondary characters on their journey around the world in search of the evil Dr. Totenkopf, who wants to use his technological genius to cause planetary death and destruction. From the swarms of flying robots to the digitization of actor Laurence Olivier as the villain, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is the purest and most innocent form of comic book eye candy. From a filmmaking standpoint, this project stands out because it was the first production to be shot entirely in a studio against a blue screen, with all backgrounds and other larger cinematic shots rendered by computers. When newcomer director and screenwriter Kerry Conran hired up-and-coming young composer Edward Shearmur to provide the music for the film, it's easy to hear in the final product that Conran was not interested in rooting any aspect of the production in reality. Instead, Shearmur was sent on an expedition to the heights of unabashed 1930's adventure as well, dispatched with a license to shake the walls through an adaptation of scores like The Rocketeer and soar to even more patriotic and heroic extremes. Shearmur had already proven himself capable of handling a wide range of assignments, including those that rely heavily upon genre inspirations for their success. At the time, he had made waves with Reign of Fire and Johnny English, and together with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, this body of work raised hopes of an illustrious career to follow.

Unfortunately for Shearmur, the output never got much more glitzy than Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, his career somewhat fizzling thereafter. That doesn't stop film score collectors from fondly recalling the score as one of the most entertaining of 2004, however. The stylistic similarities to previous adventure music of the digital era by John Williams, James Horner, and Michael Giacchino are obvious, with these inspirations causing both the strengths and weaknesses of Shearmur's work. With the pace, instrumentation, and themes of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow remaining so consistent in their swagger and enthusiasm from start to finish, these inspirations become blindingly obvious by the latter half of the score. Shearmur engages listeners with unrestricted heroism, fanfares, and nobility without a single note of caution, and optimistic parades of easily tonal sound with little deviation from consistently passionate tempos. Technically, the structure of the music is very similar to early Williams heroics and more recently follows the familiar lines of Horner's The Rocketeer and Giacchino's first "Medal of Honor" video game music. In retrospect, it also sounds like a cross between David Newman and Andrew Lockington's styles for equivalent situations. The percussion section earns its pay, with snares maintaining the constant tempo, crashing cymbals gracing every measure, and the clanging of metal highlighting the faux-futuristic atmosphere. Layers of brass (including an enhanced role for lower trombone and tuba tones) follow textbook Williams methodology, with parts of the Jurassic Park scores even heard in secondary passages of the title primary. The pulsating building of steam for that title theme is a blatant adaptation of the anticipation that precedes the Superman theme. The swaying, romantic strings, while restricted often to a more auxiliary role, serve up the same longing, romantic passages in the latter half of the score that have been heard in Horner's interpretation of 1930's innocence. While occasionally performing a few bars of thematic material in between full ensemble blasts, the woodwinds would be easy to completely miss due to the sheer magnitude of sound in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. That last fact is both a strength and weakness of Shearmur's score; the music never takes a breath. Even in its reflective passages, the listener never has more than one minute of downtime from the relentless presentation of bombast before the next action sequence begins. The output is both impressive and admirable in its clear direction, but tiring in its perpetual efforts to excite.

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Listeners who may have been troubled by Giacchino's extremely loyal adaptation of Willaims' styles in "Medal of Honor" may have similar difficulties with Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. The familiarity of nearly everything heard in its contents gives them a legitimate argument when advising caution about the score. Shearmur's employment of chorus and electronics is sparse in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, the choral impact diminished by its very slight placement in the mix during "The Zeppelin Arrives" (otherwise a distinctive highlight of the entire score), possibly a result of licensing/re-use issues for solely the album. Perhaps had the composer chosen to employ these elements to a greater degree, or even varied more of the existing instrumentation, the less anonymously uniform the score would seem to learned film music collectors. Unlike similarly optimistic scores that change tempo often enough to create a diverse listening experience (Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas was such an example from the previous year), Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow does not make much attempt to paint itself in a three-dimensional fashion through unconventional instrumentation, performance emphasis, or compositional structures. When Shearmur does employ electronics as part of the ensemble, such as the background pace-setter in "Flying Lizard," they sound misplaced. Even with that said, Shearmur surely accomplished more than what the film probably needed, accentuating the fairy-tale historical environment with a more than sufficient blend of comic-book heroism and fantasy romanticism. There's even a touch of "When You Wish Upon a Star" manipulated into the "h-770-d" cue (whether intentionally or not). The adaptation of "Over the Rainbow" for the end credits is an interesting and effective extension of the era, and while its performance may not be as spectacular as the score, its purpose is well served. Whether or not you can enjoy Shearmur's work for Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow depends completely on how able you are to suspend your memories of other high-flying adventure scores and immerse yourself in this particular fantasy world. If all you hear is the music that inspired Shearmur for this assignment, or if the constantly elevated volume from start to end induces a headache, then this score could make for one extremely tedious hour. But no matter that opinion, you have to appreciate Shearmur's pinpoint accuracy for the sub-genre's expectations, as well as the breezy fun with which he has produced this outpouring of melodic patriotism. Just remember to pause the album presentation a couple of times to take a breath. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.58 Stars
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:50

• 1. The World of Tomorrow (1:07)
• 2. The Zeppelin Arrives (1:53)
• 3. The Robot Army (3:01)
• 4. Calling Sky Captain (3:26)
• 5. Back at the Base (2:49)
• 6. The Flying Wings Attack (6:31)
• 7. An Aquatic Escape (2:29)
• 8. Flight to Nepal (4:38)
• 9. Treacherous Journey (2:22)
• 10. Dynamite (2:26)
• 11. Three in a Bed (0:57)
• 12. Finding Frankie (5:02)
• 13. Manta Squadron (6:33)
• 14. h-770-d (1:14)
• 15. Flying Lizard (1:06)
• 16. Totenkopf's Ark (5:01)
• 17. Back to Earth (3:14)
• 18. Over the Rainbow* - performed by Jane Monheit (3:54)

* composed by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film. The album is dedicated to the late composer Michael Kamen, under whom Shearmur worked and studied.

  All artwork and sound clips from Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow are Copyright © 2004, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/3/04 and last updated 9/23/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2004-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.