In 1939 Los Angeles on the eve of WWII, amateur airplane racer Cliff Seacord (Billy Campbell) stumbles upon an experimental rocket pack prototype that not only turns him into a kind of superhero, it also thrusts he and his struggling actress girlfriend Jenny ( Jenniffer Connolly) into a world of danger and international intrigue.
“What On The Spacecraft Still Looks Good?”
Some of the big pluses for this film, are for one, how true it stays to its original source comic book (okay GRAPHIC NOVEL) material…at least, in design. The “costume” of The Rocketeer is exactly as depicted in the original early 80’s comics, which is itself a nice homage to 30’s and 40’s matinee serials. (Cliff Seacord, Cliffhangers, Cliff…CLIFF…get it?? )
There’s a lot of good old fashioned action adventure here, lots of great period look and feel…
,,,solid casting of then-unknown (and still mostly unknown 😉 ) actor Billy Campbell in the lead, who it seems is clearly supposed to be a Jimmy Stewart/Mr. Smith stand-in with a jetpack, but for this movie…
But, that’s really not a bad thing.
There’s also lots of sly, subtle references to “vintage” pop-culture and flyboy lore, which are still amusing and funny even if only the grandparents (and history geeks like me) fully get the joke.
The best/most memorable element to this film is James Horner’s original musical score, which is gives the movie a “golly gee shucks” spirit of old-fashioned “can-do” Americanism and throttle jockey ingenuity.
Who wouldn’t be inspired listening to some of that? 😉
“It’s Like People Only Do Things Because They’re Paid..And That’s Just Really Sad.”
It should be noted in the “minus” category the undisputed fact that this movie in its original release was a HUGGE flop, though, it may not have been entirely deserved. After all, Rocketeer is not The Creeping Terror, Daredevil, or (god-forbid) Freddy Got Fingered. However, as I WAS a kid when this movie first came out (and as such the filmakers target audience) I could probably still offer some reasons as to WHY it didn’t do so well the first time around. I can still distinctly remember not wanting to see this movie, and having my mother AND FATHER practically having to beg me to go see it….and I’ll tell you why. I should’ve liked this and been itching to go see it, but THEY OVER-MARKETED THE HELL OUT OF IT TO THE KIDDOS!!
In the Summer of ’91 TheRocketeer’ was EVERYWHERE! You couldn’t turn on the TV, go into a toy store or a kiddie aisle at K-Mart or Wallyworld’s without seeing some Rocketeer stuff.
Rocketeer special featurette on the Disney Channel that they aired like 20 times, Rocketeer toys, Rocketeer bookbags, Rocketeer Peejaays, Rocketeer lunchboxes, Rocketeer soap dispensers. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’d made Rocketeer diapies too.
I recall getting SICK of seeing that golden metal “rooster head” everywhere I went. GET OFF MY BACK DISNEY, LEAVE ME ALONE!! I HAVE NINTENDO GAMES TO PLAY, SHEESH!!
Oh, and did I mention, they made a Rocketeer game for Super Nintendo too??
Their relentlessness drove me away. I was like, “Screw you Disney, I’m gonna go see Kevin Cosner” as Robin Hood!!”
Yeah, we all know how that one turned out…
*in Kevin’s poor English accent*“Father….faaaaaaather?? Nieeew!!”
In hindsight, The Rocketeer wasn’t THAT bad of a film, and probably deserved a better fate than it got at the box office. But, if we’re being brutally honest here too, it’s not a stand-out GREAT film either, certainly not worth all the hype it got at the time. I think many people saw all that, and it soured people to it unnecessarily. It’s a shame. There’s enough story here and action to make a fantastic summer blockbuster, but it’s like they never eally gave us enough time for the characters to be fleshed out and developed, and the overall plot is a little too simple and perhaps…hokey…at times.
It’s not my all-time favorite film or anything, but if it happens to be on when I’m flipping through the channels like a speed-freak, I almost always stop and start watching it.
Sure there are rumors of a Rocketeer remake in the works but I really think they should leave well enough alone. So what if the public didn’t buy this one the first time. No need to go “Michael Baying it up” just to try and get the dollars you didn’t get before. It’s a cult classic now. Let it be.
All and all, The Rocketeer mostly delivers on what it promises. It’s a little corny and old-fashioned, it’s very straight-forward, but sometimes, particuliarly on a lazy Saturday, that’s just the kind of film your looking for…a straight-up action adventure for the whole family with nostalgic flair.
Hey dude, you’ve got kids now, doncha?? Pop this one in your DVD/Blu Ray Player, and see what happens…Maybe they’ll like it.