The Rocketeer (1991) – Joe Johnston

Special effects wizard Joe Johnston’s second directorial effort is probably my favourite, as there is just something about The Rocketeer that I love. The style? Art deco is a fave. The score? James Horner! The cast? Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly (who I have crushed on FOREVER), Timothy Dalton, Alan Arkin, Paul Sorvino. The source material? Dave Stevens’ story is fantastic!

There’s not a thing I don’t love about this film. It has the sweep of an epic, fun adventure, great clothes, adventure, action, romance, spies, and awesome tech.

It’s Los Angeles, 1938, and Cliff Secord (Campbell) is a pilot who comes across the stolen Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn) prototype for a rocket pack that would allow a man to fly. Using it lands him in the midst of a sweeping tale of organized crime, reclusive inventors, spies, flight, and the love of movies.

While he tries to figure out his love life with the beautiful Jenny (Connelly), he finds himself in competition with a scheming movie star, Neville Sinclair (Dalton) who is not all that he seems.

It’s a fast-paced tale that takes the viewer right into the world Stevens created, and Johnston brought to life on screen. It’s fun, has great dialogue, and has some incredible character beats and bits, and every time I hear the opening notes to that stirring score, I get chills.

The look of Secord’s outfit as the Rocketeer is iconic, and honestly, it would be someone I would love to cosplay as. In fact, each character has a distinctive costume style, evoking who they are, but, of course, that is the intention of costume design.

I hate the fact that the film didn’t do as well as it should have upon release, because it is a perfect escape film, and you know the bad guys will get their just desserts before the end of the film, and that the hero is going to be someone we can all aspire to.

Damn, I love this film.

Sure some of the effects are a little dated, but they were done practically, and that makes them all the more enjoyable. In fact, everything has a sense of reality to it that would be lacking with today’s reliance on computer-generated imagery.

That doesn’t mean I would love to revisit the property in a new film, or even a television series, one that could take its time and tell a much longer and more involved story, and perhaps let Campbell and Connelly pop back in some form or another.

But they have to keep that theme music.

Much like the first Superman movie, this one made me want to just push off the ground and fly! It’s a joyous ride and one that I should revisit more often.


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