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"It's unlike anything you've seen," says producer Jon Avnet, who's been dubbed "the godfather" of this epic, unprecedented film for his hyphenate role as Conran's mentor-producer-protector. "There are crucial elements that set the film apart when I first saw it, and continue to make it quite unique on many levels." When Avnet showed the six minutes to Jude Law, who portrays flying ace Sky Captain Joe Sullivan, Law was so enthralled with "The World of Tomorrow" short, he not only agreed to play the feature film's title character, he also jumped on board as one of its producers. "What I watched was the most exciting and inspiring retrospective piece of cinema I'd ever seen," Law says. "I'd never seen anything like it before .... I couldn't work out how it was done, but it had this feeling that reminded me of the classical serials of the 1930s and '40s and had a place in today's, if you like, blockbuster, moviegoing appetite. It absolutely bowled me over." 

"When I first watched the six-minute video, I understood finally, exactly what they were talking about, and it just looked unlike anything I had ever seen," says Gwyneth Paltrow, the Oscar-winning actress who was Avnet and Law's first choice to play reporter Polly Perkins. "Before I even read the script, I said, 'OK, I'll do it, I'll do it. I'll be in it,' because what I had seen was just amazing." 

While boasting elements from many genres and sources, Conran's original six-minute film short was unlike anything anyone had seen. Working alone, the computer software whiz and aspiring filmmaker seamlessly merged classic styles and iconic images with today's cutting-edge digital technology, juxtaposing the Empire State Building, circa 1939, with wild, whip-lashing, point-of-view aerial action shots straight out of today's most intense virtual reality or simulated flight experiences. 

"It's mind-blowing," says Giovanni Ribisi, who portrays technical genius Dex. 

"Absolutely overwhelming." Using his laptap computer, Conran had not just re-created a world that almost existed, but he had taken the twists and "What If's...?" of science fiction, fantasy, history and destiny and given them fully rendered, vividly rich life. For years, Conran spent nearly every free moment toiling on his Mac, experimenting with ideas, software, trying to turn his idealized world vision into a virtual reality. Through a quiet, painstakingly modern digital effort, Conran has not only achieved an astonishing re-creation of a long-lost world we all once knew; he launched a filmmaking revolution in the process. 

"There is an enormous amount of action, but that's not all," says Avnet. "Kerry has such a special vision, a sense of scale, of graphic composition, of the use of light and the use of darkness that it is somewhat overwhelming. The result is that you take a ride; that the suspension of disbelief is uncanny.  

Avnet knew that Conran's "World of Tomorrow," grounded as it was in a collective cinematic memory of classic films, Saturday morning serials and comic book superheroes, was familiar yet entirely new. Conran's short was defined as much by what it did not resonate as by what it did. It wasn't camp or self-conscious or ponderous. It wasn't kitsch or too serious. There may be a twinkle in Sky Captain's eye, but no wink at the camera. There was a glimmer of the inexplicable and unbelievable, which only served to heighten the film's overwhelming sense of the real and wondrous. 

The style, tone and story was everything Conran -- and Avnet -- loved about the movies. It was an alternative reality, how things might have been ... once upon a time ... if only. It was a pure, adrenaline rush.  

"With all our technology, they were much more future-thinking than we are now," says writer-director Kerry Conran about the mass consciousness and culture of the 1930s and '40s. "My film was a sort

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