Joe Johnston’s 1991 action adventure romp “The Rocketeer” held a special place in my heart. Along with films such as “The Phantom” and “The Shadow”, “The Rocketeer” harked back to a more innocent time of filmmaking. A time where good guys where good, bad guys got their comeuppance, and when
adventure was everywhere. “The Rocketeer” is a joyous, exciting, genuinely brilliant film that despite being anachronistic feels incredibly vibrant and relevant today.
Based on Dave Stevens’ graphic novel of the same name, “The Rocketeer” tells the story of Cliff Secord, a racing pilot in 1930s Los Angeles, who stumbles upon a prototype rocket pack. Unbeknownst to him, this was created by Howard Hughes, was stolen by the mob, and is also being coveted by the FBI and the Nazis. Needless to say Cliff gets embroiled in a deadly plot and soon everything he cares about is in danger. In order to stop this evil he must don his custom design helmet and become the Rocketeer.
And it really is that fun!
Billy Campbell plays Secord with just the right amount of recklessness and honour, and had “The Rocketeer” been a success (it bombed at the box office), Campbell surely would have been propelled into the Hollywood elite. Alongside him as his faithful mechanic friend Peevy, Alan Arkin is particularly delightful. The gruff teacher with a heart of gold, his wily hair and tash make him instantly likeable and throughout the film he continues to impress. As Secord’s girl, the lovely Jennifer Connelly proves herself adapt in an action(ish) role. She’s full of Hollywood sass and looks as if she could have stepped straight out of an Indiana Jones movie. Finally, as the villain of the piece, Timothy Dalton is a delight. Chewing up the scenery like a rabid dog, he is a spectacle onscreen and as he channeled Dick Dastardly I was in heaven. Alongside those guys there are some great moments with Paul Sorvino and Terry O’Quinn, who just round off a superb cast.
Why “The Rocketeer” performed so abhorrently at the box office is beyond me. Some say that the original poster had something to do with it, however I feel it’s got to be one of the finest I’ve seen for a while. Others may claim that because this was a Disney picture, people were turned away thinking it was a kid’s film. The truth of the matter however, is that “The Rocketeer” is just brilliant fun. It’s not a pastiche of 1930s serials, rather a true re-envisioning of one. The actors and the script play the premise completely straight and that’s why it works.
It was a joy to relive this highlight of my youth and discover that all these years on, it’s still wonderful
This guy knows some GOOD stuff.