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The Rocketeer

The Rocketeer (1991)

tomatometer

61

Average Rating: 5.9/10
Reviews Counted: 57
Fresh: 35 | Rotten: 22

An action-packed, if anachronistic, look back at pulp matinee serials, The Rocketeer may ring hollow with viewers expecting more than simple fun and gee-whiz special effects.

50

Average Rating: 5.4/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 5

An action-packed, if anachronistic, look back at pulp matinee serials, The Rocketeer may ring hollow with viewers expecting more than simple fun and gee-whiz special effects.

audience

65

liked it
Average Rating: 3/5
User Ratings: 56,681

My Rating

Movie Info

After getting his start as a visual effects artist on the original Star Wars trilogy, Spielberg protege Joe Johnston found success as a director with his debut film, the blockbuster family adventure Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. For his sophomore outing, Johnston helmed this action-adventurer, set in 1930s Hollywood and in the spirit of old pulp comics and adventure serials, and co-adapted from the David Stevens graphic novel by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo. Bill Campbell stars as Cliff Secord, an

Jul 17, 2001

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Cast

Latest News on The Rocketeer

August 22, 2012:
Disney Reportedly Wants a Rocketeer Remake
Taking another shot at the 1991 cult favorite.
June 29, 2011:
Joe Johnston Would Gladly Do a Rocketeer Sequel
We wonder if Disney feels the same way.

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All Critics (57) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (22) | DVD (24)

A piece of blandly enthusiastic, B-movie pulp.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Entertainment Weekly
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This $40 million adventure fantasy puts a shiny polish on familiar elements: airborne hero, damsel in distress, Nazi villains, 1930s Hollywood glamor, and dazzling special effects.

April 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The whole thing is good-natured enough, but increasingly mechanical.

April 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Neat idea, peachy visuals, but there ain't much else to grip the imagination.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Plenty of energy has gone into making this a bustling, visually clever film with an amusing late-1930's stylishness, but the purpose of such effort is uncertain.

August 30, 2004 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film is awash in all kinds of surprises that are too juicy to reveal.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A charming adventure tale, in the spirit of 1930's serials, The Rocketeer is a fun ride.

January 29, 2012 Full Review Source: IGN DVD
IGN DVD

One of Disney's most underrated films, and I can't for the life of me figure out why, unless it's the absence of a big-name star.

December 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

A charmer in its gee-whiz, irony-light resuscitation of the movie serials of the '30s. [Blu-ray]

December 29, 2011 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

While The Rocketeer never crashes, it's a bumpy ride of cartoonish characters, a flimsy plot and an overall sense of letdown.

December 27, 2011 Full Review Source: Movie Views

It's not as dark or as edgy as Tim Burton's Batman films, but it's still cleaner and more digestible. It's not a deep story, but it's full of fun nostalgia and action.

December 20, 2011 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

A beautifully directed, high-flyin' production, teeming with all sorts of classic Hollywood encounters and bizarre comic book touches...Connelly is mesmerizing -- a stupendous act of casting that elevates the room temperature of the picture.

June 20, 2011 Full Review Source: BrianOrndorf.com
BrianOrndorf.com

Almost never takes thrilling flight.

June 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

More Deco-era style than substance -- but fun.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Energetic, but the script is routine.

July 16, 2010 Full Review Source: Film4
Film4

The result is a movie that looks nice and moves along efficiently, but offers little reason for anyone to watch.

April 18, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Truer to the old school Saturday matinee spirit than any modern film this side of Indiana Jones

September 10, 2005
Zap2it.com

The Rocketeer is a throwback to when movie heroes weren't burdened by irony or existential angst.

August 8, 2005 Full Review Source: Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema
Reel Times: Reflections on Cinema

Headache inducing superhero nonsense.

May 26, 2004
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

An overlooked classic that is alive with the heroics and nostalgia of big-studio era Hollywood.

December 19, 2003
KFOR Channel 4 News

Wonderful comic book movie.

July 6, 2003
Your Movies (cleveland.com)

Audience Reviews for The Rocketeer

Its a real shame this film bombed so much at the box office, I really can't understand why it did so badly as its one of the best comicbook adaptations around. It captures the all American spirit of the time and harnesses that glorious 30's feel with every frame. Johnston really did superbly well with this film and capturing the very essence of that classic early comicbook/serial type hero and integrating it with that all American WWII wartime effort vibe.

Just seeing the old movie poster shows you how much care and attention to detail went into this film. The poster has a fantastic art deco design (from the era) of our heroic lead character, its simple and minimal but does the job a thousand times over, I love it, one of the best posters created. Even the font for the text is absolutely perfect looking.

Although the character was created in 82 its an obvious homage to pulp comicbooks and matinee/serial hero characters of the 30's/40's, the idea is simple but it works so so well. The whole film has that 'Indy' feel to it and completes a trilogy of classic pulp comicbook superheroes alongside 'The Shadow' and 'The Phantom'...in my opinion. All characters of the era and all similar in design, typical manly and dashing in smart outfits, saving poor damsels in distress for breakfast.

The film is nothing but fun and doesn't pretend to be serious or shy away from the ham n cheese. Dalton is the dastardly caddish villain who is clearly suppose to be Errol Flynn, Connelly is the soppy damsel in distress, Sorvino is the classic American gangster in a tubby Al Capone style ('Eddie Valentine'? perfect American mobster name methinks), O'Quinn plays Howard Hughes amazingly well and Tiny Ron is a character straight out of 'Dick Tracy'. New boy Campbell also does really well as the lead character giving the role a fresh feel and no ego problems which tend to come with big names.

The film looks great and has some terrific design work, the rocket pack looks cool and practical with more nice art deco touches...as does the helmet with its rudder fin on the top. Effects were considered very good at the time with lots of high flying thrills and aerial stunts, bluescreen heavily used of course. Nowadays the effects do look rather iffy and obvious but that tends to add to the charm really, it doesn't detract from the excitement in any way. The plot is straight forward but it does get a bit beyond itself towards the finale, like how on earth does a huge Nazi Zeppelin fly into the US undetected? I guess its suppose to be the 30's so who knows, radar not at its best back then huh (well it was in its early days I believe). I must also mention the brilliant animated black n white short in the middle of the flick which shows the Nazi's intentions with the rocket pack. Truly awesome animation that is sharp as a knife to this day, it could easily have been a separate film (or series) in itself.

I really can't fault this film in any way, sure its silly but its well worked escapism and an affectionate tribute to the era, anyone of any age would have fun watching this. Without taking anything away from the creators you could almost say its like an adventure from a young Indiana Jones, an early tale from his younger years, a prequel even. I love how they didn't shy away from using the Nazi's as the bad guys despite it being a family film, an important requirement. The Indiana Jones of the skies, fighting the dastardly Nazi's and their incredible machines of war, hell this is really what 'Captain America' should have been like.
May 7, 2014
phubbs1

Super Reviewer

I can't help but love this movie. It's pure fun and a classic action/adventure movie. Anyone who enjoys Indiana Jones will undoubtedly enjoy this as well. Also, this is basically the framework that Joe Johnston used for Captain America. It's just a really creative way to go about making a superhero/pulp movie. The characterization is great. Billy Campbell does a good job and you really care for him and his character. Timothy Dalton does his best evil Erroll Flynn here and it's one of his best performances IMO. The visuals, pacing, story and directing are all appropriately stylized to the 30s atmosphere they were going for. It's endlessly re-watchable and one of my favorite live-action Disney movies.
January 13, 2014
ythelastman89

Super Reviewer

The Rocketeer fits into that early 90's 'They obviously spent a lot of money on it but not quite enough' category. That said, it's got a lot going for it and the parts that have aged haven't aged that badly. There are lots of plot holes, nonsensical happenings and things that just don't add up but nothing that can't be forgiven for being silly fun. The one big thing I would change if I could would be swapping Bill Campbell for Bruce Campbell. That would have been very cool and at least worth another star.
September 20, 2013
SirPant

Super Reviewer

There's definitely something magical about this graphic novel adaptation from Disney. The setting and premise alone can make anyone curious about the adventures of a performer turned superhero, and having it be in the thirties only adds to its nostalgia and intensity. The poster alone put many butts into the seats, as its classic and sleek design made the film look bigger and more akin to steampunk than anything prior. The film itself was not the masterwork that was expected from fans, partly because many aspects of the film were made family friendly, and the lead character is pretty dopey. Besides that the villains are secret Nazis, who are of course trying to take over the world. Having clichéd villains doesn't make the film insufferable exactly, but their maniacal laughter and over-the-top execution made a lot of scenes cornball instead of kickass. The film also toys with history, but doesn't try to be authentic or entertaining with its portrayal of Howard Hughes. It's obvious why fans are calling for a reboot of this box office failure, because there are some interesting aspects to the film, but the original never quite hits the right chord. The main problem is that the hero is always unsure of himself, always getting himself into trouble or running from people, but never taking proper initiative to become a hero. If we're speaking plainly, everyone expected a rough and tumble superhero, because Nazis are the biggest and the baddest villains in history. The story is more about Cliff (Campbell) trying to get his girlfriend back than him saving the world. This is definitely more of a family flick than an adventure movie, and therein lies the simplistic problem. The casting really wasn't horrible either, because Timothy Dalton, Jennifer Connelly, and even Bill Campbell were well picked. It's the essence of the film that is off, and I would be ecstatic if someone gave this another run to make it the more mature picture it deserves to be.
August 29, 2013
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

    1. Howard Hughes: It cost a man's life to get this out of Germany.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Peevy: "Film fans were saddened by the news that actor Neville Sinclair was killed in a tragedy when flaming debris fell on his touring car." That's terrible! That was a nice car.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Jenny Blake: Oh my God. Neville Sinclair's a...
    2. Neville Sinclair: A what? Spy? Saboteur? Fascist? All of the above.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Jenny Blake: I've finally played a scene with Neville Sinclair.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Cliff Secord: How do I look?
    2. Peevy: Like a hood ornament.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
    1. Cliff Secord: What was that line again? Oh my prince...
    2. Jenny Blake: ...would that you drink of my lips...
    3. Cliff Secord: Thanks, I don't mind if I do.
    – Submitted by Adam O (12 months ago)
View all quotes (10)

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