The Rocketeer - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Rocketeer Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ May 3, 2015
Being released in 1991, there was not much competition for super-heroic-esque films, and for that, I must say that "The Rocketeer" does what it sets out to do, beautifully. Fun, witty, dramatic, and awesome all at the same time, this picture balances insanely well what most films in this genre usually fail to accomplish. Billy Campbell is great in the leading role, as a pilot finds a jetpack that has been created by the opposing side of the war, he decides to use it for good, before realizing the opposing side are now hunting it down. With a few twists as to why they desperately need it back, this film keeps you on the edge of your seat, but not in an overly serious way. The chemistry between Campbell and Connelly was a joy to watch and like every film like this, the climax was one big giant spectacle, but it is one of the few to take it's time to give it meaning. Overall, I loved every second of this film, even though a few things were convenient to move the plot along. For what it is, "The Rocketeer" is a near perfect film for it's genre. Excellent!
Super Reviewer
½ August 17, 2011
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' 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 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.
Super Reviewer
January 13, 2014
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.
Super Reviewer
August 29, 2013
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.
Super Reviewer
½ January 3, 2010
"It wasn't lies, Jenny. It was acting."

The Rocketeer, seen in 2012, is understandably a little cheesy and a little old-fashioned. But, in a good way. In 1991, something as simple as a small-town guy with a jet-pack still sounded like an idea exciting enough to make a movie about, and a pretty enjoyable one, at that.

Billy Campbell (Cliff) is likable as a young pilot, desperate to make his mark on the world and show his girl (Jennifer Connelly, at the height of her amazing beauty), that he's a man who's going places. He stumbles onto a rocket-pack that's being pursued by all sorts unsavory characters, and the entire town and his girlfriend end up getting caught between the FBI, gangsters, shady actors, and even more unsavory characters as Cliff tries to save the day and get his girl back.

The Rocketeer is basically a moderately fun action-adventure family movie that won't blow any minds or drop any jaws these days, but it's definitely good for a viewing. Especially for Jennifer Connelly fans, because wow, she's impossibly lovely in this one.

It's nice to be reminded that once, all you needed to be a hero was a jet-pack, a solid right punch, a girl you loved, and a desire to do the right thing.
Super Reviewer
½ December 23, 2011
Our story takes place in Hollywood in 1938 and concerns a test pilot named Cliff who stumbles upon a rocket powered jetpack designed by Howard Hughes that is desperately wanted by the Nazis. Along the way, there's plenty of intrigue with G Men, gangsters, and a rather shady Hollywood film icon.

This movie has classic old Hollywood nostalgia and fantasy all over it. As a kid I watched this film many times and dug it wuite a lot. Over time I slowly forgot about it, but then I happened to see that it was on tv this morning, so I gave it a watch for old time's sake.

I'm happy to say that it's still a good movie. It hasn't aged great, and my nostalgia has a fair bearing on it, but the movie is just supposed to be good old fashioned fun that taps into youthful fantasy and adventure. It's very much in love with the past, and the tone has a "golly gee" and "shucks" type of innocence that you just don't really get too often anymore.

Joe Johnston did a decent job here as director, the score by James Horner is very fitting, and the performances, though nothing excellent are a lot of fun. Something I was able to appreciate now that I didn't before were the art direction and set design. The art deco inspiration for the helmet is just cool. I've seen other films do a better job of bringing the late 30s to life, but they do okay here.

All in all, this isn't something to be taken too seriously, but it's a harmless piece of well meaning fun, so go on and give it a chance.
Super Reviewer
½ May 6, 2007
High-flying fun! I knew nothing of this film prior to seeing it, so I had no idea what to expect. Not many minutes went by though, before I got completely immersed into its wonderful story. As one of the first pioneers within the comic book genre, this film blazed a great trail for future franchises. The special effects are far from breath-taking, but for a pre-CGI production, they're pretty good considering. Quite the qualitative cast as well, which among many include a career-best Timothy Dalton, a stunning Jennifer Connelly and a brilliant Terry O'Quinn as the famous aviator Howard Hughes. All topped off by a magnificent soundtrack, composed by musical genius James Horner. A truly underrated adventure, with the same old-fashioned matinee feel of the classic Indiana Jones films. So for those wondering how Joe Johnston - the man behind such blandness as Hidalgo and The Wolfman - were given the honor to make the new Captain America, watch this and you'll wonder no more. Two thumbs up from Siskel and Ebert, and that's exactly what it gets from me now as well.
Marc L.
Super Reviewer
½ July 26, 2011
You know, for all it's down right cheesiness, I actually really liked "The Rocketeer". Sure, Timothy Dalton was horrifically overacting as the villain, and it can get boring at times, but I really liked it and found it a great way to kick of Joe Johnston's career.

There were two things I really didn't like about the movie. First of all, I thought that Timothy Dalton did a bad job as the villain. Also, I wish the movie could be more dark. Pretty much every good superhero movie I've seen has a bit of darkness, but this one not so much.

The characters are the highlight. It has the perfect protaginist underdog, a struggling pilot who comes across a jet pack meant to be given to an evil Nazi actor. I also liked Alan Irkin's role as his sidekick.

The special affects were pretty good too. This was a time when "Howard the Duck" could have been seen as a special affects extravaganza/

As far as the plot goes, it's above average for 1990's superhero films. I won't give it away. Joe Johnston did a fantastic job directing this movie, clearly practice for his 2010 masterpiece "The Wolfman".

Over all, I really liked this movie. I really, REALLY liked it.
Super Reviewer
July 10, 2011
Joe Jonhston's The Rocketeer is a thrilling period piece full of action and a good cast. However, I felt that there was something missing in this film to truly make it exciting. The film was exciting, but there was always a feeling that the hero was never in real danger. Maybe it's because that this was a Disney film and no one is supposed to get truly hurt in it's action sequences that I felt that. Johnston second directorial effort is an improvement over his first feature: Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. I thought that this film was better made, plotted and more fun. There are a few things that could have been changed. For what it is, The Rocketeer is action packed film that is a lot of fun, but like I said because of the fact that this film was produced by Disney, there's not a lot of violent content, and you'd expect a superhero to be life threatened on a few occasions, right? Not really the case in this film. The cast that Johnston has assembled here are a great bunch of varied talent. But for me the best on screen is Jennifer Connelly. I thought she was great in her part. For what it is, The Rocketeer is definitely an entertaining film to watch. The film is a lot of fun, with great acting. But it's clear that there are things that could have been done netter. A good film from Joe Johnston, but not his best.
Super Reviewer
June 4, 2011
An average adventure film featuring ridiculous dialogue but a likable lead character and a fun little story. Timothy Dalton as the villain here is also a stroke of genius, since he's pretty much a blast in any role. A perfect little PG adventure for kids that adults can like as well.
Super Reviewer
½ December 1, 2009
"Three years before the United States declares war, Cliff Secord leads America's first battle against the Nazis."

A young pilot stumbles onto a prototype jetpack that allows him to become a high flying masked hero.

A delightful throwback to the cliffhanger serials of yesteryear, 'The Rocketeer' is an underrated adaptation of Dave Stevens's wonderful comic. Spirited and perfectly cast, it spins its tale of Nazis, damsels in distress, hulking thugs, Hollywood glamour, brave pilots and derring-do with a beguiling innocence. Joe Johnston directs with a wonderfully light touch, the production design and photography evoke the era like a nostalgic dream, and James Horner's rousing music is utterly magical, one of the best scores to come out of the '90s. The flying sequences are where the movie steps up a gear, sending the perfectly recreated Rocketeer into the wide open skies with a feeling of freedom and a strangely emotional tone; the air show rescue is a particularly fine set piece.
Super Reviewer
August 5, 2007
A classic Disney live action adventure.
Super Reviewer
November 16, 2009
Good childhood movie with excellent set costumes with vintage looks. Some flaws here and there but exciting.
Super Reviewer
½ May 31, 2006
Cliff Secord: [donning the Rocketeer helmet] How do I look?
Peevy: Like a hood ornament.

A fun Disney superhero B-movie about a stunt pilot with a jetpack. No need to be taken seriously, just to have fun with. Lots of cool retro style from the late 30s in LA, complete with cool costumes and and old fashion score by James Horner.

Bill Campbell stars as Cliff, a stunt pilot who accidentally stumbles upon a secret rocket that is hot in demand by many other parties as well. Along with his old buddy, played by Alan Arkin, the two fix it up a bit and Cliff soon learns how to fly with it.

Meanwhile, a gang of Nazi spies led by Timothy Dalton, a gang boss played by Paul Sorvino, and the rockets original designer Howard Hughes played by Terry "John Locke" O'Quinn, all want to get it back.

Cliff soon becomes a local hero of sorts, and the movie essentially follows the hero origin tale. Jennifer Connelly also stars as the very hot girlfriend.

Its simple, fast, and fun.

Cliff Secord: Jenny, prepare yourself for a shock: I'm the Rocketeer.
Jenny: The Rocke-who?
Cliff Secord: [frustrated] Oh for crying out loud, haven't you read the papers?
Jenny: [beat] No, I've been working all day.
Super Reviewer
½ May 5, 2007
A classic film from my youth with a classic Tache'd Dalton performance
Super Reviewer
½ November 6, 2007
Rocket man story. Good family entertainment.
Super Reviewer
December 2, 2006
Rip-roaring old school comic strip fun featuring the ever likeable Alan Arkin, the lovely Jennifer Connelly and the dashingly villainous Timothy Dalton. Great aerial sequences, funny touches and a spectacular climax involving mobsters shooting it out with Nazi commandos and an exploding zeppelin.
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2007
Fun fammy flick with alan arkin and nazis. How can you go wrong?
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2007
One of the best adventure movies made.
Super Reviewer
½ November 22, 2006
The flying sequences are incredibly jerky and unbelievable, as is the airship.
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