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I love this film. Absolutely love it. Can't help it. I'm a child of the 40s and this movie is about when I was a kid. The sets are great, the story is 40s, the cars, the cafe with the bizarre little gingerbread giving an impression of a gnome's hangout, the costumes, the hero with his wiffle hair style, the airplanes and even Howard Hughes. What more could you want? No, this isn't The Matrix with a lot of slick computer effects with mind twisting is it or isn't it real. It's clear who the bad guys are-- and they're bad, except when, of course, the mob types are swept away by patriotic feelings and fight the Nazis. It's got it all. A wonderful trip back into the 40s with near superhuman villans, beyond the pale heros and lovable sidekicks.
This movie is what "Spysmasher" and "The Red Skull" wanted to be, but
couldn't because special effects were too lame then and their budgets were
too small. It's sad how a lot of critics dumped on Bill Campbell's
performance in this movie, when he does precisely what he should -- he's the
square-jawed, slightly naive, optimistic hero who is repeatedly
double-crossed by the wily villain (if he were less of a Boy Scout and more
of a James Bond, there wouldn't be any movie). Connelly and Arkin are just
great as, respectively, the beautiful and plucky girlfriend and the
brilliant mechanic father-figure/sidekick. If you liked those old serials,
you'll love this movie.
Maybe the movie didn't have an audience, but if you watch the trailer it wasn't marketed right -- the trailer makes it seem like an Indiana Jones movie, and it is much more innocent (and sweeter) than that. Apparently Disney was planning to make another one, but pulled the plug because this one bombed at the box office. I recall expecting something else when I went into the theater, and being very pleasantly surprised by it. I was also very surprised when the movie wasn't a hit, but I even sort of liked the old Flash Gordon serials, so...
Another thing that is disappointing me at the moment is that I can't find any entries for the Spysmasher or Red Skull serials (the latter was the first one I know of with the Commando Cody character, although I don't recall him being referred to by that appellation -- I saw it 40 years ago, and then managed the catch the last hour or so in the middle of the night about 15 years ago one sleepless night, so it's kind of a blur).
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Panavision)
Sound format: 6-track Dolby Stereo SR
(35mm and 70mm release prints)
Based on Dave Stevens' graphic novel, this very un-Disney-like Disney movie is a joy from start to finish, a two-fisted tribute to the serials of yesteryear which combines nostalgia for the innocence of ages past with the Art deco gloss of a world on the brink of war. Bill Campbell (from TV's "Tales of the City") plays a 1930's air ace who stumbles on a jet-propelled device that allows its wearer to fly at high speeds, a device coveted by law enforcement agencies, gangland criminals, Howard Hughes (!), and a Nazi villain (Timothy Dalton) masquerading as a Hollywood heartthrob.
Handsome and talented, Campbell plays the title role with just the right amount of wide-eyed candor and boyish charm, and he's supported by a veritable who's-who of Hollywood's finest character actors, including Alan Arkin, Paul Sorvino, Terry O'Quinn, Ed Lauter, Jon Polito and Eddie Jones, alongside Tiny Ron as a hulking henchman clearly modelled after Rondo Hatton (courtesy of Rick Baker's rubbery makeup), whose speciality is - you guessed it - *snapping spines*! Sadly, Jennifer Connelly is unable to make much of an impression as Campbell's eye-candy girlfriend, an old-fashioned heroine who lacks autonomy and is almost entirely dependent on her co-star's strength and bravery. That small blip aside, director Joe Johnston (HIDALGO) plays the whole thing straight, without even a hint of camp (when Campbell asks how he looks in his spiffy 'Rocketeer' outfit, Arkin deadpans: "Like a hood ornament!"), and while the characters are mere stock figures, they're played with real integrity by an enthusiastic cast, and the film's many set-pieces culminate in a showstopping finale on board an exploding zeppelin high above the Hollywood hills! Yep, this is one movie where you *definitely* get your money's worth!!
Produced today, the script (by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo) might have been co-opted by some overpriced 'star' whose off-screen notoriety could sap the magic out of every frame. It's the fact that Campbell WASN'T a household name during filming, and that the production dares to celebrate the movies of a bygone era without simultaneously mocking its references, which makes THE ROCKETEER so special. It carries none of the baggage that a major celebrity would have brought to it, and is simply a thrill-ride, no more or less, packaged and presented as a widescreen spectacle for audiences young and old (and DO try to see the film in its original Panavision dimensions). Incredibly, the movie underperformed at the American box-office, despite playing in 70mm (blown up from the original 35mm) at selected venues, though it has since found an appreciative audience on TV and home video. Originally released in the UK as ROCKETEER, an unnecessary abbreviation.
I was chomping at the bit, waiting for this movie to come out, back in
I had loved the Dave Stevens comics since I first encountered them
(ironically, at the same time I had read about Bettie Page in an article
about Bunny Yeager, in a photography magazine). The comic captured the
spirit of 1930's aviation pulps, as well as the Doc Savage crowd. It also
brought along that Republic Studios flavor. I couldn't wait to see this
The movie captured the spirit of the comics beautifully. Sure it was disappointing that Doc Savage couldn't be included, but Howard Hughes made a sensible substitution. I was a bit annoyed that Disney felt they had to change Betty into Jenny, but with Jennifer Connelly in the role, I was in a forgiving mood. The film was full of action and humor, cliffhangers and character; just like Stevens' creation. If there was anything to criticize, it was the toning down of Betty/Jenny. Yeah, I know, this is Disney, and she was far tamer in the comics than the real Betty/Bettie Page; but, hey, a guy can hope.
Bill Campbell was perfect for Cliff Secord. He had that All-American look, with an impish twinkle in his eye. Watching the movie, you could see the excitement when he was flying, and that he was head over heels in love with Jenny.
Alan Arkin made a great Peevy, although he was far less cantankerous than his print counterpart (incidentally, Peevy was based on Doug Wildey, creator of Jonny Quest). He was more of a Connecticut Yankee than grouchy mechanic.
Timothy Dalton made a great pseudo-Errol Flynn. I wasn't too happy that they trotted out that Flynn-as-Nazi Spy nonsense; but, it works beautifully for the story. Paul Sorvino made a great 30's mobster, too. Add Tiny Ron as Lothar, modeled after Rondo Hatton, and you have some pretty fun villains.
Then, there's Jennifer Connelly, one of the most beautiful and talented actresses in Hollywood. As I said, I had hoped for a little sexier character; but, the compromise was still pretty good. Connelly brought both a wholesomeness and sex appeal to the role. She looked great in the period clothing, too.
Everything about this film worked. The period detail was first rate, from the costumes, to he set design, to the slang. The only thing that would have improved this would have been to make more films. This is a great film for the whole family and captures the spirit of Republic and the pulps as well as Indiana Jones did.
I've always surprised when people don't like this movie. It was one of
my favorites at the time, and it has aged very well. It's a real "retro
30's" picture, like "The Shadow", instead of being a modern
reinterpretation of such movies like the Indiana Jones films (which I
also like very much).
The reviews cover the plot enough, and there are no real surprises here, but it's great family fun. My kids really love this movie, and I end up watching it every year or two, and I have never tired of it. When it came out there were apparently sequels planned, but it got killed at the box office by T2, which ran over everything that summer, so Disney never did anything with the show. They have recycled the atmosphere and the music in the "Soaring over California" ride at DCA, and I have to say it always makes me wistful that the movie never got a sequel.
By the way, the movie doesn't follow the comics that closely, which I don't mind, but if you are a purist and a fan of the "graphic novels", you might keep that in mind.
This movie has the tendency to fly off the screen at you, especially if you saw it on the big screen like I did. I was 9 years old when the Rocketeer came out, and after seeing it I couldn't help but day dream about flying, and winning over the girl. Of course I tended to have the same day dreams after watching Superman the movie. But this film is a little different. It seemed more believable to me, as a kid, in that it incorporated some semi historical facts with the story line. I believe it to be one of Disney's finnest films, perhaps a modern epic. It's one of those films you've got to watch at least once a year. However I do have a question concerning it, "How did the Rocketeer manage with all those flames blasting at his ass?"
I liken this movie to movies such as "Indiana Jones" or "The Mummy". It's
one of those action-packed, adventurous movies with just enough romance,
humor, and drama to make it in my top five movies of all time list. Cool
special effects and happy ending. It's safe enough for kids, satisfying
parents, and teens probably enjoy it the most. Set in the 1940's, it
true to its setting and gives a good look back at what American culture
like then. It gives a little history lesson, too (Howard Hughes, Nazis,
etc.) The acting is also wonderful- probably Billy Campbell's ("Enough")
best performance, Timothy Dalton plays a great villian, and Arkin always
does good. Jennifer Connelly, who recently made it big in "A Beautiful
Mind", looks surprisingly different, but still quite pretty. Her
performance is also grade-A.
Who wouldn't want a jet pack? EVERYONE should see this movie.
Disney hasn't made a whole lot of movies over the last decade that have
really been able to capture my interest. One of their better efforts,
1991's "The Rocketeer," is one of the luckier films.
"The Rocketeer" soared high and mighty upon its release in 1991, from the graphic novel by Dave Stevens and onto the big screen, with Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) dawning an experimental rocket pack that is coveted by gangsters and Nazis during World War II.
The movie does remind some people of the serials of the 1930s and 1940s, some of which helped to spawn the mega-successful "Raiders of the Lost Ark" in 1981 and this year's "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow."
"The Rocketeer" is a great movie, and it should be viewed by everyone.
I liked this movie for the same reasons most people do.
It illustrates that Hollywood can make a user friendly movie when it sets it's mind to it. The movie was reasonably successful, so there was no reason not to copy the formula over and over again, just like they do with so many others. I'm sorry they chose not to do it. Since Stallone, Willis, Norris, and company have pretty much passed into history, I find that the new breed of action heroes like Vin Diesel (do you believe that name?) all blend together. On the odd occasion that I watch one of these mindless bombs, my eyes start to glaze over. Kind of like looking at a kaleidoscope on acid. No story. No identifiable characters, no background, no nothing - except explosions, car chases, splattered guts and so on. The Rocketeer may be a cartoon, but it's a cartoon with a heart.
In 1938, in Los Angeles, the pilot Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) crashes
his plane after being hit in the air in a shoot-out between gangsters
and FBI agents in a car chase; completely broken, his best friend and
mechanics A. 'Peevy' Peabody (Alan Arkin) tries to fix an old plane to
raise some money in an exhibition show. However, Cliff finds a package
hidden by one of the gangsters with a rocket with belts and they find
that the device allows man to fly. Meanwhile, his beloved girlfriend
and aspirant actress Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly) succeeds in an
audition to make a small part in a movie of the great actor Neville
Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) that is ranked the third in box-offices.
During a flight exhibition, the mechanic Malcolm (Eddie Jones) has an
accident, and Cliff uses the rocket to save him, being called Rocketeer
by the public. With his picture in the front page of the newspaper,
Cliff is chased by the FBI, the gangsters and German spies that abduct
Jenny and forces Cliff to rescue her.
"Rocketeer" is a delightful adventure that recalls those classics from the old times of Hollywood. There is a handsome hero, a gorgeous heroine, gangsters, Nazi spies, betrayals, in a pace of cartoons with a magnificent art decoration, cars and costumes recreating Hollywood in the late 30's. The story has great lines and uses real characters, like Clark Gable and Howard Hughes, in fictional situations. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): "Rocketeer"
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