The Rocketeer

An Ordinary Man Forced to Become An Extraordinary Hero.

Action Adventure Science Fiction
108 min     6.457     1991     USA


A stunt pilot comes across a prototype jetpack that gives him the ability to fly. However, evil forces of the world also want this jetpack at any cost.


John Chard wrote:
Rocketeer is directed by Joe Johnston and co-written by Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo and William Dear. It is based on Dave Stevens' comic book The Rocketeer. It stars Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton and Paul Sorvino. Music is scored by James Horner and cinematography by Hiro Narita. It took eight years to get to the screen, with many rewrites, changes in personal, changes in setting and etc, the only thing consistent was Disney's inconsistency. Once out the film received generally positive reviews but posted only a small profit, in the wake of a Tim Burton inspired reinvention of the Super Hero genre, Rocketeer fell away into cultdom, sequels planned were shelved and its reputation remains to this day one of being a misfire. Unfair say I! Rocketeer is a lovingly crafted adventure film, nodding towards the serials of the 1930s, it's awash with period Hollywood delights, Art Deco imagery, has a damsel in distress, square jawed heroics, Nazi villains, wonderful effects and a blunderbuss Zeppelin finale. Backed by beautiful smooth tone photography and an evocative heart stirring music score, it's a family friendly blockbuster that ticks all the requisite boxes. The quality of the action sequences still hold up today, and Johnston, who wanted the job big time, directs with a knowing grasp of the setting, and crucially he never once loses a grip on tone and pacing. There's no self parody here, no deep Fruedian dissection of the main character, just a honest to goodness good against bad axis, with a romantic cause deftly wafted over proceedings. The role of Cliff Secord (Rocketeer) proved hard to cast, where Vincent D'Onofrio turned it down and "name" actors such as Dennis Quaid, Emilio Estevez, Kurt Russell and Bill Paxton auditioned for the part. Paxton, it's believed, was very close to getting it as well. Disney wanted an A list man, Johnny Depp and Kevin Costner were mooted, but Johnston had a feel for unknown Billy Campbell and managed to convince nervous Disney heads that he was perfect. Much of the scorn that has flown towards Rocketeer has landed at Campbell's door, again, this is unfair. It's hard to tell if one of those A list actors could have made the character work better, for it helps in this instance to not have a familiar face propelling the adventure. There's an innocence, an awkwardness to Campbell's portrayal that just sits right for a guy stumbling upon a rocket pack and finding himself submerged in a chase and harry battle against bad. He also has the looks, a handsome dude who creates a homespun based chemistry with the sensuous Connelly. It's Dalton's movie, though, he's having a devil of a time as the chief villain. Modeled on Errol Flynn and the spurious notion that he was once a Nazi spy, Dalton has the looks, the gusto, the moustache twirling shiftiness and a voice perfect for such material. A roll call of great character actors fill out the support slots, with Terry O'Quinn, Paul Sorvino and Ed Lauter particularly striking the right chords. A smashing piece of escapism, no pretensions or ideas above its station. The willingness to tap into the basic premise of a comic book actioner and entertain in grand Hollywood terms, to be applauded. And I do, and I do love it so. 8/10
r96sk wrote:
Very much enjoyable, this. 'The Rocketeer' exceeded my expectations in truth, I wasn't expecting much given the opening few minutes. However, thankfully, it ends up producing an entertaining 108 minutes. Cool superhero, great score and a likeable cast list. The premise is properly bonkers, especially towards the end, but they make it work and deserve credit for doing so. There are numerous recognisable faces onscreen, all of the main talent give good performances. Billy Campbell plays the lead role, Cliff. I've (relatively) recently become aware of him via television's 'Cardinal' - which is outstanding btw, check it out if you can - and loved him in that, he's also very good in this. Jennifer Connelly (Jenny) and Alan Arkin (Peabody) are also involved, as are Paul Sorvino (Eddie) and Timothy Dalton (Neville). I enjoyed Dalton, he portrays his role very well. The pacing is solid, thanks also to the noteworthy action and James Horner's score. All in all, this is a film I would definitely recommend; it's certainly nearer the top than the bottom of Disney's live-action offerings up until 1991.
GenerationofSwine wrote:
Billy Campbell was actually extremely believable in this and, honestly, I don't think that they could have found anyone better to play the evil Nazi Erroll Flynn styled actor than James Bond's Timothy Dalton. But, also, I always kind of feel that Campbell has gotten the short end of the acting stick. In all honesty, it's really a horribly fin superhero movie, right down to that amazing retro 1930s serial feel. The entire thing was great and warranted far more fan fare than it received.