Late to the Party: The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer was recommended to me by both Kim and Brendon, as well as one of my best tweeps, so I thought I’d give it a go. I had high hopes for it when I discovered that it was a Disney film, so I hunkered down to give it a good watch.

Click here for the live-tweeting stream and here for the Twitter account I use for such tweeting streams. A couple of tweets were accidentally posted from my personal account, but I’m sure you’ll deal! You will not be able to see the entirety of the stream if you are not signed in on Twitter — apologies.

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A young pilot becomes entangled in a matter of (inter)national security when he happens across an abandoned jetpack after a botched landing. He uses it to save a life, and immediately after, his life, as well as the lives of his beau and his friends, is threatened by the men who want to take it back.


The Rocketeer is one of those films that has a cheesy, made-for-kids sort of feel to it, but then you count in the Nazis and the occasional swearing and I don’t know what to make of it. I’ll just say this about the whole world-domination plot: did the Nazis not think of just how long it would take to cross the Atlantic using jetpacks? The things would have to be massive just to carry enough fuel for the trip, and by that point they would be so big that they likely wouldn’t be able to remain airborne with any semblance of stability. … And there ends Toria’s short physics lesson.

That jacket is pretty much the coolest thing ever.

The only other thing I’ve knowingly seen Billy Campbell in was a film called Enough, also starring Jennifer Lopez and Noah Wyle of ER fame. In that movie, Billy’s character Mitch is on all counts a ruthless wife-beating bastard who is all but impossible to sympathize with. I was quite surprised to see how little he’s apparently aged since filming the Rocketeer — he even has the same hairstyle in Enough — and I think that because he still looks so much the same, I kept expecting his character to show that abusive streak that I know him for. It isn’t fair and it isn’t overly logical, but I never claim that my brain’s workings make a lick of sense, so there you go. To give him credit, his Rocketeer character Cliff was really quite delightful to watch. He’s not the brightest bulb in the box by any stretch of the imagination, but there was something about the way he zoomed around with that silly jetpack that brought a smile to my face.

"Really, Neville? You think a pearl necklace would go with this?"

Jennifer Connelly’s character Jenny was, at least to me, the best part of the movie. She’s a very clever, beautiful young woman with one nearly-fatal flaw: she’s gullible. Now, I’m sure stronger and smarter women would have fallen into the same trap if a movie star whom they idolized suddenly took an interest in them, but I’m also sure that lesser women wouldn’t have found a way to try and fight back and beat them at their own game. On an unrelated note, I love watching Jennifer Connelly in period pieces. She has a classic sort of beauty that is enhanced in all the right ways by dated fashions and hairstyles.

Having said that, I was really quite disappointed with part of the lounge scene with Jenny and Neville.  Director Joe Johnston included a close-up of her cleavage just to make it painfully obvious what a lecherous character was looking at while he was talking. Come on, Joe. As if we have absolutely no idea what he could possibly be looking at if his eyes aren’t looking in the direction of her face. I found that shot rather tasteless, especially for a movie that I’m guessing was more or less made for a younger audience. There are probably many people who really couldn’t care less about it, but it left a bad taste in my mouth for a while. Not a fan.

And Neville — ooh, there’s a scuzzy villain if ever there was one. My lip actually curled, as it’s apt to do when I’m disgusted, when he was hitting on Jenny after having drugged her and bringing her to his home. I cared less about his being a Nazi than I did about his being a total sleaze. How shameless and desperate — in any manner — do you have to be to kidnap and attempt to seduce a girl half your age in order to get something accomplished? Bah. I did like one of his lines, though: “It wasn’t lies, Jenny — it was acting.”

Remember, if you shoot it, then neither of you can use it!

I won’t pick on the special effects too much, because this was in the early nineties; I would hardly have expected them to be stellar by today’s standards. I was actually really impressed by the explosion of the blimp. It can be difficult to get a realistic (or even a decent halfway-realistic) explosion to work in a movie, seeing as fire can have a mind of its own, but what ended up being a crazy airborne hydrogen bomb worked really well. Two thumbs up on that from a firefighter’s daughter! I also enjoyed watching the jetpack ricochet off of every possible surface of the hangar.

There is one thing I feel obligated to point out, merely because it’s something that bothers me about every single movie or show that involves jetpacks. Has no one figured out that jetpacks which give off flames would essentially turn their wearers into the Human Torch, only minus the nifty superpowers?  There were several shots in which Cliff’s legs were actually surrounded by the flames from the jetpack, and yet when he landed, his clothes weren’t so much as singed or smoky. Explain that, Disney magic!

It's a bird, it's a — wait. Dang it.

… Okay, there were two things I felt obligated to point out. I discovered that this movie was based on a comic from the ‘30s or ‘40s or somewhere in there, and from what I can tell, the filmmakers stuck pretty close to the Rocketeer’s costume from the graphic novel. I’m all for loyalty to the inspiring material, but … could they not have found a way to make the helmet look a little less … alien / amphibian? The rudder makes sense, though the odd curve of it near the face doesn’t; in fact, to me the rest of the design is laughable. I could also go on about the aesthetics of the jetpack, but oh well. I probably wouldn’t have come up with much better, so I suppose I shouldn’t throw stones.

The Verdict

I’m not sure why, but somehow this movie didn’t really grab me as other live-action Disney movies have. It would be ridiculous to pin it all on an unrealistic plot, because a lot of my movies have story-lines that are pretty much impossible, but I can’t think of what else it would be about this film that would put me off.  That said, it’s a decent movie, and I can see why a lot of people love it, if not for the nostalgia factor.

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
iTunes – Unavailable
IMDB – 6.2 / 10
Toria – 3.5 / 5

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