Just a Guy and His Rocket – The Rocketeer (1991)

When The Rocketeer premiered way back in 1991, it did not have an easy time of it.  Its biggest obstacle was the fact that it was now a post-Batman world and everyone was clamouring for grim and gritty, not light and cheerful.  Now that did not necessarily mean that the movie was a bad one, in fact, it was far from it, but it simply was not something the audience wanted at the time.  Because of that, the picture did not do as well as it could have which was a bit of shame.  The Rocketeer as it were, is your quintessential Disney movie featuring some clear cut good guys and bad guys, it has the hero’s journey, it has the damsel in distress and it sees those selfsame good guys win.  Disney does love to be a little formulaic with their films, be even so, they usually turn out pretty good and whether you see it once or a million times, you always enjoy it.  Having been sourced from Dave Steven’s comic book of the same name, The Rocketeer was equal parts Steven’s and Disney – a winning formula if there ever was one.

rocketeerThere were three main players in the film, the first of which was the Rocketeer himself, Cliff Secord as played by Bill Campbell.  He is your classic hero figure – the underdog and the boy next door who comes into powers and thus his confidence.  He is almost a Superman analogue, though without the powers of course.  He is the guy that everyone likes to be around and wants to be friends with.  Tall, handsome and personable, Campbell nailed the portrayal of Secord, the everyman and you as a viewer, by the end of the film, wished you could be like him.  His best gal would be depicted by the beautiful Jennifer Connelly, not only a lookalike for the comic book character, but also the inspiration for her, the one and only Bettie Page.  As Jenny Blake, Connelly would give her the fire and determination needed to bring her to life.  She is not your classic woman in need of saving as she refuses to take things lying down and though she might get herself into trouble a little bit throughout the film, she only does so by looking out for her man.  The Rocketeer might have been the focus of the movie, but Connelly would steal the show more than once.

timothy daltonLastly would be Timothy Dalton as the villain of choice and you could hardly ask for better casting.  As one of the top movie draws in the world, Neville Sinclair is perfectly positioned as a Nazi spy.  Dalton would pay homage to the classic villains from the golden age of cinema with his performance, being just as campy and over the top as they were.  Dalton would also provide the comedic relief of the film, whether meaning to or not and while the film was not a dark one, his vibrant performance really brightened it up.  Also starring would be Terry O’Quinn, Paul Sorvino, Eddie Jones, Margo Martindale and Alan Arkin as Secord’s pal Peevy.

The film was a big, bright, pulpy adventure in all right ways with vibes of Indiana Jones crossed with Andy Hardy’s innocence.  Top to bottom from the script to the score, the film hit all the right notes and was a pure joy to watch as you found yourself immersed in it without even trying.  Superheroes might have taken a turn towards darker, edgier fare in 1989 and as such, this film may not have been as appreciated as it should have. Now, twenty plus years later, Joe Johnston’s superhero spectacle still holds up as not only an excellent picture, but one of the best of the genre.

4.5 out of 5

6 replies »

  1. I saw this in 1991 in the theater and loved it, but I seemed to be the only one. I still think it was very well done and had never gotten the credit it deserved. It looks great, had a solid cast, plenty of action and it gets better with repeated viewings.

    Liked by 1 person

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