The Rocketeer 1991
I know I watched this movie ages ago when I was younger, but rewatching it today I realized that the only thing I remembered from my first watch of this movie was that the guy had a rocketpack and it took place in the 30’s. When watching it again, I was really impressed with the style and the feeling of the movie. I also recognized so many different actors in this movie that I didn’t realize were in here. Mainly it was Alan Alda who I’ve been seeing in a lot of great roles recently. I did think there were some overly ridiculous plot points towards the end of the movie, but overall I quite enjoyed it. It’s been something pretty different than a lot of the movies that I’ve been watching lately for this site. It does slightly make me want to re-watch Captain America which was done by the same director, Joe Johnston. I don’t think it quite lives up to the quality of Captain America, but it still has quite a few charms to it.
The Rocketeer is set in the late 1930’s right before World War II and the hero of the film is Cliff Secord who’s got a lot of talent, but not quite so much money to go with it. He was played by unknown at the time Billy Campbell. He’s basically a brave over brains kind of guy that always does the right thing no matter the danger. Unfortunately, I never really felt like he had a very interesting personality. He was too much of a boy scout with doe eyes for his gal. And while he did make the occasional wrong turn here or there, it was usually just a moment of slapstick before getting immediately back on track. On top of that, he had his flight jacket which he wore constantly. There’s even a point where he puts on a waiter’s jacket as a disguise, and he puts it on over his flight jacket. I can understand that he’s wearing it every time he flies, but the only time he isn’t wearing it is during a brief date with his gal Jenny early in the movie. And while the outfit and rocketpack both look pretty snazzy, he barely gets to do anything super heroic while being the Rocketeer aside from his first mid-air rescue. Everything else he does as the Rocketeer is just fly around so he can do his fighting or chasing or whatnot firmly on the ground.
Jenny Blake is really a pretty great character in comparison. She’s a strong, independent woman working in Hollywood as an extra, but she doesn’t put up with any of Cliff’s nonsense. She walks out on him when she learns that he was trying to protect her from hearing about his plane crash, she also almost holds her own against the main villain of the movie after she has been captured. She outsmarts him, overpowers him, and even finds his secret plan. Pretty good for a supposed damsel in distress. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s played by Jennifer Connelly. Of course, aside from how much I enjoyed her onscreen, I also never really felt that much chemistry between the two. It doesn’t help that it starts off almost immediately as being antagonistic and in trouble, even though one of the most important things to Cliff is his picture of her that he keeps in his plane. Half of the movie is spent with her being annoyed by him and trying to get together with big time movie star Neville Sinclair played by Timothy Dalton. And that whole relationship is based on him using her to try and get the rocket, which immediately nullifies any possible chemistry between them either. Even when Jenny and Cliff get together in the end, it feels more like that’s what’s expected of them rather than they are genuinely right for each other.
The villains in this movie don’t fare too well either. The main villain at the head of all the other villains is Neville Sinclair. He’s a hot shot actor who *spoiler* turns out to be a German spy, although once it’s revealed that he is a spy he dons a poor German accent that comes and goes at random times throughout the rest of the movie. I thought the whole Nazi angle was a little too far fetched, or at least not well plotted enough. It kind of comes out of nowhere in the third act and from then on takes over the rest of the movie. I also really disliked the very rubber looking makeup of the giant tough guy thug. It also felt like there were way too many villains. There were the gangsters who were being paid to work for Sinclair, there was the giant rubberfaced thug who was Sinclair’s right hand man, there was Sinclair himself, and there was also the random German soldiers, the German guy on the Zeppelin, and even the FBI agents were kind of villains in the sense that they were very antagonistic towards Cliff.
I’ve gone on quite a bit about several of the things that I didn’t like about this movie, but there was still plenty here to enjoy. The movie has a great style to it, from the look of the Rocketeer to the look of everything else around him. Throughout the first part of the movie there’s a real sense of wonder about flying in general as well as technology. The music is a great part of the movie, helping with that sense of wonder and amazement. There’s some fun bits of comedy as well, usually the great little one liners delivered by Alan Arkin as PB, Cliff’s genius tech guy and somewhat of a Doc Brown analogue only less crazy. It’s not a perfect movie, but it’s a fun little trip to the retro pulp stories of the 30’s. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.