The Rocketeer is one of the more enjoyable comic book movies of yesteryear. Remember when the average comic book movie was a low budget crap fest instead of the great stuff released nowadays? Well chances are that if you’re over 30 you probably do. For every Batman there were at least ten Superman 4’s. Back in the 80’s and 90’s being a comic book fan meant that big screen adaptions probably raped the character you loved and made you feel disgusted afterwards. But every so now and then studios would find a character suitable for a movie and delivered a decent product. One of these features was the box-office bomb The Rocketeer.
The Rocketeer is about young aviator Cliff (Bill Campbell) living in the 1930’s who one day stumbles upon an experimental jet-pack and gets it to work properly becoming the first flying man. This is when aviation was still taking its first foot steps and the Nazis were gaining power in Europe. The reason I’m mentioning Nazis is because they are the villains in this movie, though they are represented by the lead villain Neville Sinclair, played by then James Bond Timothy Dalton. Neville is the #3 box-office star in America of the 1930’s but wants what every diabolical villain at the time wanted: world domination.
It’s a flying man against a villain actor and caught in between is wannabe actress, girlfriend of The Rocketeer and sex-bomb Jennifer Connelly as Jenny who’s constantly sporting just enough cleavage to give men a certain tingle. Other interesting supporting characters are Alan Arkin as mechanic Peevy, Paul Sorvino as a patriotic gangster and Terry O’Quinn as Howard Hughes giving the whole movie at least one foot set in realism.
The Rocketeer is a fun movie, but it also takes very few risks. The movie is a nicely constructed period piece but as with most movies set in those times the characters are not really conflicted. It’s all basically black and white, especially when it comes to the lead character. Billy Campbell plays it straight but his character is hardly given any depth. Jennifer Connelly is just here for the eye-candy and damsel-in-distress scenes and aside from knocking out the bad guy one time her only function is to be pretty. The effects are decent and since it was made in 1991 almost all are practical which I nowadays find refreshing.
But what really is an achievement is how it holds up against other comic book movies, at least those ones made at the same time. Together with the Tim Burton Batmans, Dick Tracy and Darkman it holds up really well considering movies like The Phantom, The Shadow, Captain America and The Punisher were released around the same periode and basically sucked… though I do hold a soft spot for The Punisher though, but I am not one of many with that opinion.
The Rocketeer might not be known as a classic, but it’s an enjoyable flight!