I saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow again today, and my adoration of Polly Perkins is confirmed. And here’s why. (Spoilers, of course.)
First and foremost, she is a woman who stands on her own two feet. Her career is important to her and by all evidence she’s pretty good at it. On second viewing, the triangle created by the skills of Polly, Dex, and Joe is fairly obvious: Polly notices, Dex analyzes, and Joe acts. Time and time again, Polly’s the one who notices things first. She makes contact with Doctor Jennings. She finds the scrap of map that Dex left behind. She figures out that the staff is important. She realizes the purpose of the rocketship.
And heck — she knew Joe was fooling around on her in Nanjing. A key point, that; it’s clear that Joe fooled around on Polly before she sabotaged his fuel line, and from context (“You’re not going to leave me again!”) it’s also pretty clear that Joe bailed on Polly at least once before. Why, he doesn’t even protest the accusation. It’s not terribly surprising that Polly’s willing to lie to Joe when he’s already proven that he’s not entirely trustworthy himself.
(Speaking of which, why can’t Polly take pictures of the giant robots? It’s supposed to be a big secret even after all the capitals of the world have been attacked? Joe’s a secretive type at heart, clearly.)
In any case, the triangle was crystal clear on second viewing. Joe barely ever figures anything out on his own; he can’t even get the wires cut. Polly is not a deep thinker, but she is very perceptive. She also only has one moment of action, albeit a crucial one. And Dex’s status as the thinker is the clearest of them all.
Other moments of interest: the jettisoning of the rocketship’s cargo. Polly says it needs to happen. Joe agrees, but claims there isn’t time — note once again the emphasis on action. Polly looks at the control panel and spends about two seconds figuring out how to trigger the emergency release, triggers it, and moves on. Joe gets entirely sour, perhaps because he couldn’t have done the same.
Oh, and at the end? The lenscap wasn’t on. Joe and Polly will play their little games with each other until they die, I expect.