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The Rocketeer (1991) Review

Review; Feb. 9, 2012; Channels: Movies; By Charles Rector

The Rocketeer is a greatly underrated science fiction action flick set during the late 1930s in the Great Depression while the world was inching toward World War II. This particular movie was made in 1991 and based on a graphic novel by Dave Stevens.

The Rocketeer

This movie is of the same flavor of the Republic serials of the 1930s and 1940s, and it captures the spirit of the pulp magazines of the time. This is fitting because the original Dave Stevens comics captured the spirit of 1930s aviation pulps, as well as Doc Savage and Republic Studios. Unfortunately, Doc Savage could not be included in this movie, but Howard Hughes made a great substitution. The film was full of action and humor, cliffhangers and character, just like Stevens’ creation.

The movie opens in 1938 when air races were as important to the American people as auto racing is today. Heroes were made out of aviators. Airplanes that later became famous as fighters in World War II, Curtis P-40s and the British Spitfires, were originally designed as racers.

Hollywood is at its zenith, and Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) and his friend/mentor Peevy (Alan Arkin) are getting their newest stunt plane ready for a national flying competition. Meanwhile, Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) is a struggling young actress trying to make it in Hollywood, one bit-part at a time. Cliff finds and dons an experimental rocket pack.

Unknown to Cliff, actor/Nazi agent Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) wants the rocket pack very badly indeed, and when he overhears bit-player Jenny and her boyfriend Cliff talking about the rocket while on the set of his latest film, he immediately sets out to seduce the young actress in an attempt to get to Cliff and his coveted jet-pack.

Although the film does have its credibility stretched pretty thin in places (why doesn’t Cliff ever run out of fuel or get his legs burned off?) the story is solid and enjoyable, and the visual effects still hold up quite nicely. The movie also features a neat explanation for how the “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign was shortened to “HOLLYWOOD."

The acting is consistently good. Campbell was perfect for the role of Cliff Secord. Arkin made a great Peevy, although he's a bit less cantankerous than in the original comic. He was more of a Connecticut Yankee than grouchy mechanic. Dalton made a great Errol Flynn type, and this was the first on-screen hint of Flynn’s involvement with the Nazi’s during World War II. Much has been written on the subject, but nobody, until this picture, dared to dramatize it.

This movie has everything: Hollywood in its golden age, German spies, G-men and gangsters, elaborate nightclubs, big band music, and best of all, a hero who flies around like a bat out of hell with a jet-pack strapped to his back. The fact that during his first few times with the rocket he kept crashing into everything made Cliff Secord more believable as the Rocketeer.

The Rocketeer is a “feel-good” movie. It has an all-American, baseball, and apple pie feel, to it, and for that quality, it's great. It’s a very good movie for kids and adults alike. That’s why this movie is wonderful.

Editor's Note: This review originally appeared on OMGN's former sister site, FlickZone, on Feb. 10, 2005.

Comments

Review Score
9.4

Parental Guidance Suggested

A PG-rated motion picture should be investigated by parents before they let their younger children attend. The PG rating indicates, in the view of the Rating Board, that parents may consider some material unsuitable for their children, and parents should make that decision. The more mature themes in some PG-rated motion pictures may call for parental guidance. There may be some profanity and some depictions of violence or brief nudity. But these elements are not deemed so intense as to require that parents be strongly cautioned beyond the suggestion of parental guidance. There is no drug use content in a PG-rated motion picture.

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