The Rocketeer (1991)

Comments Off on The Rocketeer (1991) 15 December 2011

Studio: Disney

Theatrical Release: June 21, 1991

Blu Ray Release: December 13, 2011


Review by James Klein

The summer of 1991 is a bit of a blur to me. I was 15 years old so I was at that stage where girls were the most important thing in life. I cared more about going out to Perkins or Applebees than I did to the movies. The age of 15 is a weird time for a teenage boy. He’s half man/half child in a way. As I listed to Metallica’s Black Album and wore a jean jacket, I still collected comic books and horror movies. And that summer my inner-child couldn’t wait to see The Rocketeer. The posters looked amazing and it seemed like it was going to be similar to Batman in terms of style and scope. I still remember my father buying an advanced teaser poster at a comic book shop. While The Rocketeer wasn’t the big movie I expected or had hoped for, I wasn’t disappointed and enjoyed it for what it was at the time. Seeing the new blu ray by Disney, my inner-child returned and the wonder and excitement that I had hoped for in 1991 came to me in 2011 instead. Yeah, I really enjoy The Rocketeer despite its flaws.


Set in the 1930’s, this pulp comic book comes to life by introducing Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) , a young pilot who is testing out his new plane with his engineer Peevy (Alan Arkin). When Cliff is struck down in his plane by a stray bullet from a police chase, he must crash land and thus destroying his plane. While this happens, one of the gangsters that the Feds are chasing after hides this jet pack and its blue prints in Cliff and Peevy’s barn. Apparently the Feds, the mob and aClarkGable-ish actor who is really a Nazi spy (Timothy Dalton) are all after the jet pack. Cliff however makes use of the jetpack by donning a helmet and using it to fly around air shows to make a little money. When his girl (Jennifer Connelly) is kidnapped, Cliff takes it upon himself to save her with the help of this jet pack.

I remember what I didn’t like as a kid: The Rocketeer promoted itself as a superhero film when it really isn’t. Cliff never hides his identity, doesn’t have a weapon, doesn’t make a suit aside from the helmet which Peevy actually creates. He just uses the jet pack to get his girl back . He even curses the day he found the jet pack. There really isn’t a back story regarding Cliff. All we know is he’s liked around town and is a good pilot. This is not a superhero film and as a 15 year old, I was let down. However, being an adult now, I kind of like that. I enjoy how the film is different from other action/adventure films and that Cliff isn’t really a super hero (he’s kind of a dork in a way). I also liked the back story of the evil actor Neville Sinclair, and how he hired the mob to go after this jet pack. I even enjoyed the fictionalized idea that Howard Hughes was the one who designed this jet pack himself.

Now while the film does have plenty of action, gun fights and adventure, the film isn’t flawless. One of the reasons The Rocketeer doesn’t always work is because of the main actor himself playing Cliff. Billy Campbell just isn’t interesting. He’s too good hearted, too goofy. Everything about him screams “good guy” and so I just didn’t care much for him as I didn’t buy his character. The film also seems to drag when Sinclair is trying to seduce Jennifer Connelly to get the jet pack from Cliff while on a movie set or out to dinner. The film is generally fast paced but these scenes, while interesting and well acted, they just seem to bring the movie to a slow stop.

While The Rocketeer was promoted as the big summer film, the movie wasn’t a hit and just did so so business. So when I saw that Disney was going to release a 20th Anniversary Edition, I was thrilled to maybe hear about this fun action film from an audio commentary or see some of the special effects being performed on set in a documentary. Unfortunately, there is only the trailer, not even in HD. Disney is usually great with special features but it seems as if no one has any love for The Rocketeer. No matter, the movie looks and sounds incredible and I have no complaints regarding this high-def version.

Watching the blu ray of The Rocketeer, it brought back alot of good memories. I also enjoyed the movie more as an adult and found it to be a fun adventure that can be enjoyed by young and old. The transfer looks great so fans should be happy to know it is well worth a look.

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