The year's most anticipated cinematic experiment turns out to be pretty much what we had feared: A sumptuous but empty exercise in chapter-play reanimation. The retro-futurist environments are all desktop-generated as a high-flying mercenary (Jude Law) and his reporter girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) fight to stop an evil genius who's threatening the world with rampaging robots. You'd better believe the movie scans great, boasting a soft-edged-but-precise look that suggests a Fleischer Studios Superman cartoon repainted by Alex Ross. But beneath the visual luxury is an unimaginative story that blithely confuses the terms "homage" and "hackneyed." Expect no emotional foothold from leads Law and Paltrow: They're every bit as artificial as the backgrounds, visibly straining for an old-Hollywood élan they used to come by naturally (see The Talented Mr. Ripley).
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