The Rocketeer (1991)

My memory of Disney’s The Rocketeer was that I did not like it much.  I remember renting the VHS of the film when I was younger and not being a huge fan.  After revisiting it today, I found myself in a different mindset.

The Rocketeer was quite a fun ride and my opinion soared to new heights.

Bad puns aside, I found much more enjoyment today than I did when it first came out.  While not perfect, The Rocketeer brought that feeling of the old pulpy serials of the 1930s combined with the adventuresome qualities of an Indiana Jones.

Billy Campbell was solid as Cliff Secord, the down-on-his-luck pilot who finds the top secret rocket pack after an accident on his airstrip involving the mob and the FBI.  Hoping to use the rocket pack to make some money and get back on his feet, Cliff winds up in the middle of a Nazi plot to use the technology to take over the world.  Campbell felt authentic in the role, bringing a quality of heroism and bravery to Cliff.  He did that without sacrificing the ability to show that he was still in over his head.

Timothy Dalton was great as Neville Sinclair, the Hollywood movie icon who had a dark secret he was keeping.  Alan Arkin played Peevy, Cliff’s close friend and genius mechanic.  LOST’s own John Locke himself, Terry O’Quinn played Howard Hughes, the famous philanthropist who designed the rocket pack.  Paul Sorvino played Eddie Valentine, local mob boss who is working with Sinclair to find the rocket.

Much of the special effects do not hold up to today’s standards, but I am sure they looked fine for the time.  I loved the ending of the film how everything came back around from earlier in the movie and paid off (especially the chewing gum).  My favorite moment was when the FBI and the mob teamed up and were shooting at the Nazis.  It was an ironic moment and a ton of fun.

Tiny Ron played a fascinating character named Lother, the giant henchman with the rubbery face.  I found him intriguing to watch and somewhat frightening as well, but when he was running, there was a comedic aspect to it.  He made me think of Frankenstein’s Monster and I did not want him to be shown quite so awkwardly as he was.  It is believed that this character was based after a man named Rondo Hatton, the “ugliest man in Hollywood” who appeared in several films in the 40s as henchmen roles and some horror movies.

The movie was based on a comic book by Dan Stevens from the early 1980s.

The Rocketeer was more fun than I remembered and I am glad I watched this one again.  There are flaws here and there, but it was a worthwhile watch.


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