THE ROCKETEER, 1991
Cast: Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino
Straight from the pages of a pulp comic from a past era, the Rocketeer recreates 1930's Hollywood, complete with gangsters, Nazi spies, and the growth of the Age of Aviation. Young pilot Cliff Secord stumbles on a top secret rocket-pack and with the help of his mechanic/mentor, Peevee, he attempts to save his girl and stop the Nazis as The Rocketeer.
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Based on the classic comic book of the same that was popular during the 50ís The Rocketeer was one of the first of comic books adapted to film, and while they may stay true to the story, thereís little here to admire. If anything, the character The Rocketeer is just not that interesting and the film really doesnít present a reason for why the world even needs a hero like him.
Thatís not to say Spiderman is a savior of any kind, but he has a call to action for a specific reason and with the Rocketeer, even after just watching it, Iím not exactly sure what his reason is. His only reason it seems is to save his girlfriend after she gets invovled with a one too many Nazis, and one she just so happens to be dating. As the story goes in 1938 Los Angeles, Cliff Secord (Campbell) a local racing pilot and barnstormer, discovers a mysterious package after police chase down two gangsters who try to hide something in his old plane.
In an interview with Dave Stevens, the creator of the character, he said, ďWe lost some good character stuff in editing for time, but the tone of it is still what I was trying to project in the comic pages.Ē Heís right. The tone of the film works.
Thereís a sweet and warm tone that at times is rare in comic book films that rely more on flashy special effects rather than character development or creating a coherent story. The issue however is not the tone, but there is not much given here in terms of excitement. There are a few entertaining moments but not enough to provide a compelling and great viewing experience.
The casting as well seems a little bland. The lead, Billy Campbell, is not really fun to watch and thereís little chemistry between him and Jennifer Connelly. Alan Arkin also seems out of place here working as a friend and Campbellís personal mechanic, helping him repair his rocket. Paul Sorvino also shows up playing one of his staple mofioso characters that even then was getting old.
The production design however is great. If anything itís the star of the film and really creates a world of its own. The look and feel perfectly captures the 30ís and itís a wonder if the people behind the scenes were more concerned with production design rather than character or story development. The Rocketeer could have been more if more time and effort was given to the characters and story. For people who grew up reading the popular 50ís comics, they may appreciate the film even more, recognizing many references to the comic book. But for the unfamiliar, the appeal of the Rocketeer may be lost on them. Perhaps some of it got lost during the editing like Dave Stevens mentioned. Shame.