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The Rocketeer

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.

rocketeer

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.

Rocketeer flying

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 somewhat happy couple.

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.

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About Bubbawheat

I'm a comic book movie enthusiast who has watched and reviewed over 300 superhero and comic book movies in the past four years, my goal is to continue to find and watch and review every superhero movie ever made.

Posted on May 14, 2013, in 90's movies and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Still not sure how the rocket pack didn’t burn his legs off.

    • haha, yeah. Especially since it seems to set everything else on fire. Needs a bit more than double walled cooling systems to protect from the exhaust flames.

  2. This is an underrated film Bubbawheat. Sure it’s silly in places, but it plays just like the old serials. An informative review.

  3. I actually LOVE this movie, it’s an underrated gem IMO, and Dalton’s Neville Sinclair is one of the best parts about it. I do agree with your last paragraph about what you love about this movie 😀

    • Yeah, sometimes when I start thinking about the downsides of a movie I get on a roll. But I did enjoy the movie when I watched it. It’s got a lot of great stuff in there as well as a handful of problems. I can easily see how someone could love it.

  4. This review pretty much sums up most every movie I loved as a kid. When I was young, I LOVED them (including The Rocketeer), but watching them now… yeah, they just don’t really hold up as well. Fun for nostalgic sake, which I suppose is pretty good thing.

    • There’s a lot of movies I loved as a kid and still love as an adult, but there’s just as many that I can’t believe I thought were good back then.

  5. Victor De Leon

    Looooove this movie. Great write up, Bubba!

  6. I haven’t seen this since it was new, but I remember it with a lot of fondness. I’m sure the flaws you’ve pointed out are fair, though; I wasn’t all that discriminating on character development at that age (and sometimes I’m still not :D). But I loved the style of it then, and I think I still would today. There’s just such a sense of fun about the old serials and pulp fiction stories.

    • It really does carry a lot of that great sense of style, but it’s no Indiana Jones by a longshot. If you rewatched it, you’d probably enjoy it but not as much as you did the last time you saw it.

  7. Kitsune9tails

    Trivia: The rubber-faced thug was made up to look like Rondo Hattan, a real actor from the 1930s who often played villainous thugs due to his features. He got a starring role in the movie The Creep.

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