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Film / Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

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"This is Sky Captain. I'm on my way."

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is a 2004 movie homage to the Two-Fisted Tales of the 1930s, written and directed by Kerry Conran.

The film follows the adventures of Ace Pilot H. Joseph "Joe" Sullivan, known as Sky Captain (Jude Law) and Intrepid Reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow). Angelina Jolie also appears as Royal Navy Commander Francesca "Franky" Cook. They begin investigating the affairs of the mysterious German scientist, Dr. Totenkopf, after his machines attack New York City, searching for something. Further implicating Totenkopf is a string of kidnapped scientists, all of whom point back to Totenkopf's work...

The film also stars Giovanni Ribisi as Dexter "Dex" Dearborn, Michael Gambon as Mr. Paley, Bai Ling as the Mysterious Woman and Omid Djalili as Kaji.

The plot shamelessly uses the outrageous gadgets and cliches of the Pulp Magazine and Comic Book genres, plus numerous shout outs to other media of the period. The film is notable for being one of the first to be filmed on a completely digital backlot, with all shots being done in the studio and against a substantial amount of blue screen.

The movie was originally planned to be the start of a franchise, but due to poor box office performance, a sequel never happened. An anime was also planned, but that was also cancelled. While the film was ultimately unsuccessful at the box office, Sky Captain has garnered a cult following in the years since its release.

Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow provides examples of:

  • Absurdly Dedicated Worker: Dr. Totenkopf's machines carry on his work of assembling a "Noah's Ark"-type rocket and loading animals on it despite him having died 20 years prior.
  • Ace Pilot: Joseph Sullivan, the "Sky Captain".
  • Action Dress Rip: Polly tears her skirt to run better during the NYC robot attack. But leaves on the heels...
  • Action Girl:
    • Commander Francesca "Franky" Cook of the Royal Navy, who sports an Eyepatch of Power. She is also part of a Love Triangle in the movie.
    • There's also the Mysterious Woman, a silent but deadly woman who controls Totenkopf's machines and turns out to be a Robot Girl.
  • Advertised Extra: Angelina Jolie's Frankie appears for about fifteen minutes despite the very heavy presence of Jolie in the film's marketing. Disappointment over this has been blamed for some of the film's negative audience reaction.
  • Aerial Canyon Chase: The title character flies his fighter plane along the streets of New York just above ground level while trying to escape Dr. Totenkopf's robot ornithopters.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: Franky's heliocarrier, which serves as mobile recon outpost for the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy has a lot more of them, as seen in the end of the movie.
  • Alternate History:
    • There is a Hindenburg III zeppelin in the opening scene, which implies either that the first Hindenburg did not explode, or else its explosion was not an impediment to further airship construction.
    • There are some subtler Alternate History implications as well, such as the apparent absence of Nazi Germany and an American/British evacuation of Nanjing, which of course implies that Japan still annexed Manchuria and China. The point of divergence is either the outcome of World War I, where Germany apparently ended on a stronger position than they did in real life, or just after it where either the Nazis failed to rise to power, or the Weimar Republic didn't fail.
  • Anachronism Stew: Natch for a Diesel Punk movie, but while the P-40 Warhawk existed in 1939, the Flying Legion are using the P-40E model, which was barely on the drawing board at the time. They also have a fleet of later-model B-24s, an aircraft that was just being prototyped, and whose powered gun turretshadn’t been designed yet.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Spoofed. Joe Sullivan believes Polly Perkins deliberately sabotaged his plane in China while Going for the Big Scoop. When they're trapped in a cave packed with dynamite that's about to explode, Joe looks her in the eyes and asks ... if she really did cut his fuel line. Polly is understandably annoyed that they're going to spend their last moments on Earth discussing this point. And on Totenkopf's island, she admits she did. A pissed off Joe then admits that he did sleep with Franky.
  • Apologetic AttackerPlayed With: The note Totenkopf leaves at his death chair reads "Forgive me", and there's indications he tried to shut down his entire project, and it's implied his robot assassin/kidnapper rebelled when he tried to shut everything down.
  • Artistic License – Physics
    • Skyscraper-sized giant bipedal robots wouldn't have been able to stomp down the streets of the Big Apple. With their first step, they would have crashed through the streets and kept sinking until they hit bedrock.
    • While the P-40 really is an amazing airplane, banking around Manhattan streets at taxicab-altitude with one is not even remotely possible at any flyable airspeed.
  • Attack Drone: Radio-controlled ornithopters armed with multiple autocannons.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Polly and Joe bicker throughout the movie.
    Joe: Could we just for once die without all this bickering?
  • Bedmate Reveal: After an Outrun the Fireball moment, Polly wakes up naked in a bed next to an equally naked Joe. An embarrassed Polly tells him to turn around, which a grinning Joe does only to find he's also in bed with their guide, Kaji, who is also naked.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Thanks to understanding what "Totenkopf" actually means, German-speaking viewers will figure out a crucial plot twist long before the rest of the audience does.
  • Bilingual Dialogue: Polly can understand both written and spoken German.
  • Blatant Lies: Joe looks Polly in the eyes and earnestly says he never had an affair with Frankie. Polly confesses to cutting his fuel line. A pissed-off Joe promptly confesses to the affair.
  • Body Horror: The results of the radiation was not pleasant to those who worked in Totenkopf's uranium mines, as evidenced by the last surviving worker.
    Kaji: [acting as translator] He says that in exchange for this information, there is something you must do for him.
    Sky Captain: Yes, anything.
    [The Survivor lifts his face up to show the absolutely grotesque tumors and deformations on his head.]
    Survivor: Kill me.
  • Brick Joke: Polly really did sabotage Joe's plane in Manchuria.
  • Bring It: The Mysterious Woman makes a gesture to Sky Captain before fighting him outside the rocket ship.
  • "Bringer of War" Music: The Holst tempo can be heard in the track "Calling Sky Captain", as Totenkopf's war machines are let loose on New York City.
  • Camera Obscurer: Polly Perkins spends much of the movie with only one frame left on her only roll of film, and wants to save it for a truly awesome photo. In the film's denouement, she decides to take a photo of Joe Sullivan, only for him to look at her and say "Lenscap".
  • Catchphrase: Joe (Sky Captain) says "Good boy, Dex" whenever his Sidekick Dex does something good.
  • Chair Reveal: Doctor Totenkopf is revealed to be Dead All Along when a light is turned on, showing him sitting in a chair.
  • Chekhov's Gun
    • The two metal tubes that Polly Perkins received from Dr. Jennings.
    • Dex also built Chekhov's Ray Gun and is seen chewing Chekhov's Gum.
  • Chroma Key: The actors used only the most basic sets and props, with CGI backgrounds used in every shot. This was allegedly done for two reasons: One, the producers wanted to give the movie a "comic book" atmosphere, and two, the studio was too small to accommodate such large sets.
  • Cool Plane: Joe's extensively-modified P-40E Warhawk. The Flying Legion has dozens more just like it, plus some B-24 Liberators, though they all get get shot up on the ground. Franky's amphibious fighters also count.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: Toward the beginning of the movie, just after the robots attack Manhattan, Sky Captain lands at his base and drives his plane into a huge hangar. At the top of the doors of the hangar are these huge windows of 8x10 panes. In every window, some of the panes are broken. In every window, it's exactly the same panes that are broken.
  • Cutting the Gordian Knot: Polly breaking the window of the locked door to Dr. Jenning's lab, allowing her and Sky Captain to unlock the door and get in.
  • Dead All Along: Dr. Totenkopf is dead long before the movie starts. He died in 1918, and his corpse was not discovered until 1939.
  • Desaturation: Filmed in colour and desaturated, then resaturated again to make it more like a painting than a photorealistic movie.
  • Diesel Punk: With a healthy helping of Tesla Punk and Raygun Gothic, to boot.
  • Disintegrator Ray
    • Gadgeteer Genius Dex is shown testing a Buck Rogers raygun that can burn a hole through solid metal with luminous rings of energy.
    • To a lesser extent, the superelectric field outside of Totenkopf's room that disintegrates anyone who steps on it, first stripping them to a skeleton, then pulverizing that to dust. An unfortunate no-name scientist finds this out the hard way.
  • Distress Call: As a horde of giant robots is attacking New York City, a radio signal is sent to Sky Captain asking for his help.
    Radioman: Emergency protocol 90206. Calling Sky Captain. Come in, Sky Captain. Repeat. Calling Sky Captain. Come in, Sky Captain. This is an emergency protocol, 90206. Calling Sky Captain. Sky Captain, do you read? Repeat. Calling Sky Captain. Come in, Sky Captain.
    Sky Captain: This is Sky Captain. I'm on my way.
  • The Dragon: Dr. Totenkopf's Robot Girl Action Girl agent. A rather extreme case of Dragon Their Feet.
  • Dragon Ascendant: The agent acts as the effective Big Bad after we learn that Totenkopf's long dead.
  • Drill Tank: The giant drill machine in Totenkopf's uranium mine.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The planet-colonizing rocketship seems benign, until it's revealed that its afterburners will ignite the Earth's atmosphere.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Sky Captain is given a staff and told to "Follow Rana. The staff will lead you to Totenkopf".
    Polly: Have you looked at this? There's markings on it, like a ruler. And there's a moon and a star.
    Joe: "And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by." A star. He wasn't talking about a place, he was talking about a star! Rana is a star! Ancient sailors used to navigate by using the night sky. They could determine their position by the moon and the stars. The Vikings were known to create maps for certain stars, latitude tables that required a key to decipher them. The key was called Jacob's staff. This has to be the key!
  • Eyepatch of Power: Franky (Angelina Jolie's character)
  • Fake Shemp: Laurence Olivier, via the magic of stock footage and CGI, comes back to life as Dr. Totenkopf.
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: As a deliberate throwback.
  • Foreshadowing
    • "Totenkopf" is German for "corpse's head" (i.e. the skull of a corpse), which is a subtle clue to the fact that he's been Dead All Along.
    • Totenkopf's monster has starved to death. This would seem like simple cruelty, except the master isn't around to feed it, and the robots aren't interested in pet care.
  • Flying Car: The hoversleds in Totenkopf's Elaborate Underground Base.
  • Forgot to Feed the Monster: Totenkopf's lair has a giant, now-skeletal beast chained up outside his lair. The other one, however, is either alive or something is tugging on its chain just offscreen, so Joe and Penny opt to use a drainage pipe instead of risking it. This is the first hint that the robots are running the show.
  • Gadgeteer Genius: Dex works for Sky Captain. He is an expert on radios and Humongous Mecha and can create and use advanced avionics and Disintegrator Rays.
  • Genre Throwback: to 30's sci-fi and 40's-50's war fiction.
  • Giant Flyer: The protagonists encounter giant prehistoric birds on Totenkopf's island.
  • A God Am I: Totenkopf, in the video that plays while his rocket is rising through the atmosphere. It plays a twisted version of the first few verses of Genesis, replacing him as God and him seeing that "Man was evil."
  • Gratuitous German: The German in this movie is often mangled.
    • A particularly noticeable example is a button labeled with "Dringlichkeitsfreigabe", which then gets translated as "Emergency Release", while it actually means "Urgency Release". It should be "Notfallfreigabe/-abkopplung/-entriegelung/-freisetzung". (But then they'd have needed a bigger button.)
    • The German newspaper headline about the robot invasion translates to "Very Big Metallc [sic!] Machines Steal Steal Reserves"
  • The Grotesque: The sole survivor of Dr. Totenkopf's uranium mining and experiments.
  • Gunship Rescue: An entire fleet of heliocarriers turns up to rescue the protagonists at the end, though they don't really need saving by that stage. And Dex has a Big Damn Heroes moment when he arrives in a hoversled just in time to save Joe and Polly from the swarm of flying killer robots.
  • He's Dead, Jim: Dr. Jennings slumps and his hand opens, spilling two metal vials. Polly tells Sky Captain "He's dead" and pulls a blanket over his head without checking his life signs.
  • Herr Doktor: All the scientists are German and Austrian.
  • Hindenburg Incendiary Principle: The film, set in an alternate timeline, has multiple Zeppelins from Another World. The zeppelin Hindenburg III arrives safely in New York, but when Dr. Totenkopf's robots attack Sky Captain's base, the zeppelins moored overhead are set aflame by enemy attack.
  • Holding Hands: Joe is helping Polly out of the cockpit, only to quickly drop her hand and leave her to clamber off the plane when Frankie shows up.
  • Homages
    • The attack by giant bipedal robots is copied from the 1941 Superman cartoon "The Mechanical Monsters".
    • The giant robots' laser sound-effects are the same as the Martian heat ray in the 1953 The War of the Worlds film.
    • Polly's phoned-in report on the attack uses lines lifted from the famous Orson Welles radio broadcast.
    • On seeing one of the robots, Dex mutters "Shazam!!"
    • The silhouette of Godzilla can be seen in a newspaper from Japan. The headline indicates that the big G popped up to fight off the robots, anachronisms be damned.
    • During an underwater sequence we see both the wreck of the RMS Titanic and the ship from King Kong (1933), complete with ape-holding cage. King Kong himself can be seen at the top of the Empire State Building during one shot with the robots in the streets.
    • The flying robots on Totenkopf's island have the same chest controls as Commando Cody's Jet Pack.
    • The Wizard of Oz is seen playing in the cinema where Polly meets with one of the scientists, and the entire Totenkopf hologram head sequence is a massive homage to the The Wizard of Oz's giant head scene (Captain Sky even mentions the film when the Hologram appears and starts speaking).
  • Hostage for MacGuffin: When Dr. Totenkopf's thugs capture Polly Perkins in the uranium mine.
  • Hologram Projection Imperfection: As the protagonists approach Dr. Totenkopf's office, a Tesla-type generator creates a Huge Holographic Head of Totenkopf that explains his motives and warns them to get out or die. Both the image and voice are distorted when powering up, highlighting the more primitive 1930's zeerust technology of the film. The imperfections also hint this is a case of The Tape Knew You Would Say That.
  • Humongous Mecha: Giant bipedal robots armed with Frickin' Laser Beams stomp through the streets of New York. They can fly as well.
  • Hyperspace Arsenal: The many many things concealed in Joe's P-40 Warhawk. It's anyone's guess where the plane's builders found room to put the fuel and engine.
  • Infodump: Dex and the scientists explain Totenkopf's entire plan (as well as mentioning an offscreen escape where the majority of them got killed) in a single moment of exposition. Although not unusual in the Comic Books on which the movie is based, the scene appears clumsy on screen.
  • Intimidation Demonstration: When Sky Captain fights The Dragon Robot Girl in order to enter the rocket ship, The Dragon twirls her energy staff to show how proficient she is with it.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Polly.
  • Island Base: Dr. Totenkopf's island base, complete with robots, prehistoric animals and a space ship. In addition, it isn't on any map.
  • Island of Mystery: Totenkopf's Island Base.
  • It Is Beyond Saving: This is Totenkopf's motive in creating his World of Tomorrow: the Great War convinced him that Earth was doomed to be torn apart by strife and internal conflict, so he began working on The Ark to take a sample of every living creature on Earth, along with the genetic essence of humanity, dubbed "Adam and Eve"—and then launch it all into space to seek out a new world elsewhere. However, as he believed Earth itself to be doomed, he designed his ark's rocket boosters to incinerate the Earth's atmosphere and destroy the planet as it sped away, ostensibly to spare the world's population from destruction by war.
  • It's the Only Way: Spoofed.
    Sky Captain: Is it safe?
    Dex: Well, there's only one way to find out.
    [Sky Captain and Polly step across the booby-trapped threshold, holding hands and in lock-step, and are relieved to be unharmed]
    Dex: ... I meant throw something.
  • Jet Pack: Action Girl and Ace Pilot Francesca 'Franky' Cook ejects from her submersible airplane just in time to avoid a Macross Missile Massacre. After breaking the surface of the water a Jet Pack boosts her the rest of the way up to her Airborne Aircraft Carrier. Even the rival for the hero's affections is impressed.
  • Justified Title: The Character Name and the Noun Phrase title is obviously a reference to the retro-futuristic nature of the movie, but "Sky Captain" is the nickname of the main character, and the villain calls his scheme to seed life on another planet the "World of Tomorrow".
  • Knuckle Cracking: After Joseph "Joe" Sullivan (AKA Sky Captain) enters his office and pours out some Milk of Magnesia he cracks his neck, presumably to relieve stress.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang!: Sky Captain, while in Dr. Totenkopf's abandoned uranium mine.
  • Mad Scientist Laboratory: The laboratory of Dr. Walter Jennings (with mutated fetus and tiny elephant), and the room in Shangri-La (shown in a deleted scene) where Totenkopf conducted experiments on radiation victims from his uranium mine.
  • Meaningful Name: "Totenkopf" is German for "dead man's head" or "skull" (Totenkopf wanted to destroy the world and create a new one out in space). It also harkens back to Nazi Germany's SS "Totenkopf" division, which was in charge of the concentration camps. It's most likely an allusion to the fact that he appears as a Huge Holographic Head and that he's actually been Dead All Along.
  • Military Mashup Machine: Sky Captain's Curtiss P-40 can change into a submersible. It also has the ability to project limpet mines and grapnel-wires.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: Kidnapping scientists -> Plot to build a spaceship that will destroy the Earth's atmosphere.
  • Misguided Missile: Twice, both by Frankie and Sky Captain.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Totenkopf, realizing the error of his ways and unable to stop what he started (the rocket he's sending off the planet will destroy the Earth's atmosphere to escape its gravity), simply leaves a note on his corpse: "Forgive me."
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Dr. Totenkopf (Dead man's head [skull] in German). Subverted, he's literally a dead man and it is implied that he was rather a Well-Intentioned Extremist. It's more commonly used by Germans as a name for the bare skull, hence the skull motif.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Angelina Jolie is in the movie for all of 15 minutes, but from the movie's advertising, you'd think she was a main character.
  • Noah's Story Arc: Dr. Totenkopf believed that Earth was doomed due to the destructive nature of humanity, so he built a rocket ship to carry two of every animal on Earth (and genetically engineered humans) to another planet. He intended them to create a technological utopia there.
  • Noodle Incident: Polly is visibly annoyed when fellow fliers (and implied ex-lovers) Franky and Joe share an incomprehensible nostalgia moment.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The walkways inside the rocket ship. They're barely wide enough to walk on, and have no railings. Justified Trope, in that the "actual" Dr. Totenkopf is long dead, and his operation is being carried out automatically via robots, drones, and mechs. Obviously they would not bother with human safety hazards.
  • "No Peeking!" Request: Subverted, after Joe and Polly wake up naked in the same bed, Polly tells him to turn around, and Joe seemingly assumes she wants him to turn for her privacy, but it's actually to point out that Kaji is also behind him in the same bed.
  • Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Despite being an American, Joe speaks with Jude Law's natural British accent.
  • Novelization: By Kevin J. Anderson.
  • One-Book Author: This is Kerry Conran's only theatrical film as a director. He would later go on to direct a few short films not long after that.
  • One Bullet Left: Polly is down to one shot left in her camera, so she's forced to forgo the chance to photograph the lost kingdom of Shangri-La, a top-secret flying aircraft carrier, a giant prehistoric bird, and every creature on Earth being loaded two-by-two into a giant rocketship. In the end Polly passes up the Scoop of the Century for a photograph of Joe ... who promptly informs her she left the lens cap on. note 
  • Outrun the Fireball: As tons of dynamite inside a uranium mine are about to explode, Sky Captain, Polly Perkins and Sky Captain's friend Kaji try to run out of the mine to safety. When the dynamite explodes they're blasted out of the mouth of the mine and wind up flat on their faces in the snow.
  • Percussive Prevention: Joe knocks out Polly to stop her from accompanying him on a one-way trip to destroy Totenkopf's rocketship. It doesn't work.
  • Plummet Perspective: Happens on at least three occasions.
  • Practical Voiceover: A radio announcer (along with a Spinning Paper montage) is used to show that the robot attack on New York is part of a worldwide phenomenon.
  • Prophetic Names: Totenkopf, literally "dead man's head" (i.e. "skull") in German. Not only alluding to the skull symbol on his creations, but guess what you find him as. Well, still sorta... intact.
  • Punched Across the Room: Doctor Totenkopf's Action Girl The Dragon does this several times to Joe (Sky Captain). When she first faces off against him in Dr. Jennings's lab, she backhands him across the face and knocks him across the room. When she fights him on Doctor Totenkopf's island, she knocks him up into the air and back about ten yards using a metal quarterstaff. Her tremendous strength makes more sense after it's revealed that she's a Robot Girl.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: One of Dr. Totenkopf's Mooks tries this on Joe in the Tibetan uranium mine.
  • Put Them All Out of My Misery: What Totenkopf resolved to do after being disillusioned with humanity.
  • Putting on the Reich: Dr. Totenkopf's emblem looks very much like Nazi Germany's coat of arms, with a death's head in place of a swastika.
  • Raygun Gothic: While the movie is primarily Diesel Punk in style, Dex's and Dr. Totenkopf's inventions add this to the mix, especially in the last third of the film in Dr. Totenkopf's lair.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Joe emphasizes his Get Out! to Polly with a brandished Webley pointed at her stomach with his finger on the trigger.
    Dex: [staring at the gun] Oh great. We all made up.
    Joe: Escort Polly off the base, Dex. If she resists, shoot her.
  • Traitor Shot: Two of the guides look at each other while standing under Joe's plane as sinister music plays.
  • Transforming Mecha: Franky's Manta Squadron, Cool Planes that can transform in mid-dive into submersibles armed with cluster-torpedoes. They also have an Ejection Seat with built-in Jet Pack, leading to a Crowning Moment Of Awesome for Angelina Jolie.
  • Travel Montage: As Joe and Polly fly around the world, lines of latitude and longitude, and other cartographic symbols, appear superimposed on the scenery below.
  • Trespassing to Talk: When Joe (Sky Captain) returns to his dark office, he's surprised by a voice coming from the shadows. He pulls out his pistol and turns a desk light toward the intruder. He's surprised to discover that it's his old girlfriend Polly Perkins. She got in by talking with Dex, one of Sky Captain's subordinates.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Implied. When they finally find Dr. Totenkopf, the good doctor is in no state to argue, and the note reading "forgive me" left on his corpse seems to suggest that he had second thoughts about his plan and tried to shut down his machines, only for them to shut him down first.
  • Undressing the Unconscious: After Sky Captain, Polly and Kaji Out Run The Fireball of the explosion in the uranium mine, they are knocked unconscious. When they wake up in a room in an unknown location, they find that they are all completely naked under a sheet and in the same bed together.
  • Visionary Villain: Dr. Totenkopf plans to restart the world with an Ark of his own design.
  • Wait Here: Sky Captain tells Polly Perkins to "stay here" when he goes after the person who mortally wounded Dr. Jennings, and tells the group he's with (including Polly) to "wait here" when he's about to confront the robots guarding Dr. Totenkopf's lair. In each case Polly obeys him, which is a surprise because of how assertive and independent she is.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?
    • The last we see of Sky Captain's Flying Legion (mercenary pilots) at the base is when Dex says he needs 30 more seconds to find the source of the robots' transmissions. We never see any of them for the rest of the film, so what happened to them? Were they all killed by the robots attacking the base? Did Sky Captain just forget about the survivors?
    • A survivor of Totenkopf's experiments asks for one last favor: to be killed. We never find out if Joe obliges, although his rather sad look after they've left Shangri-La implies that he did it.
    • The two treacherous agents of Doctor Totenkopf manage to obtain the two metal vials from Polly and Joe. Totenkopf's female Robot Girl The Dragon is later shown taking off with the vials, so presumably the agents turned them over to her offscreen. However, what happened to the agents afterwards? Were they captured and punished? Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves? Return to their normal lives?
    • Commander Cook's Red Shirt Army, the Amphibious Squadron/Manta Team (planes that can convert from flying to underwater travel and back again). Most of them are killed during the approach to Dr. Totenkopf's Island Base. After the last few survivors fire their cluster torpedoes at a robot, they mysteriously disappear and are never seen again, with no explanation.
  • Why Won't You Die?: Invoked word-for-word when The Dragon, beaten, revealed as a Robot Girl, and left for dead at the villain's island, sneaks into the rocketship to attack Joe one last time.
  • Within Arm's Reach: While the robots are attacking Sky Captain's base, Dex fights them with a Disintegrator Ray pistol. A large beam falls on his legs and knocks him down, causing him to drop the pistol. He has to reach out desperately to grab it and continue the battle.
  • Would Hit a Girl: In a rare heroic/noble example, Joe knocks Polly out to keep her from needlessly putting her life in danger.
  • Wouldn't Hit a Girl: On the other hand, when Sky Captain first encounters the Mysterious Woman, he stops to say he doesn't want to hurt her, giving her a chance to escape.
  • Wronski Feint: Subverted. It looks like Joe is doing this with the ornithopters chasing him out over the water, when actually he has every intention of actually crashing into the ocean. His plane is able to transform into a submersible mode!
  • Zeerust: Basically the whole point of the film. Influences include the futuristic designs of Norman Bel Geddes, Raymond Lloyd and Hugh Ferriss.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: The Hindenburg III docks at the Empire State Building in the opening scene, though in reality the docking spire was inoperable from the beginning due to strong updrafts and the lack of a mooring point for the other end of an airship.