THE ROCKETEER Blu-Ray Review - A Must-Watch For Comic Book Lovers

Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer is one of the best comic book movies of the ‘90’s and a must-watch for any comic book lover. Disney recently released a beautifully crisp 20th Anniversary Edition of the film that is based on writer/illustrator Dave Stevens’ comic series. I loved The Rocketeer when it was first released in 1991 and remember seeing it in theaters multiple times. What I loved as a teen, I now love even more as an adult. When I first wathed it, I was mainly interested in the high-flying action sequences and larger-than-life villains. On this recent viewing, I came to realize how awesome the cast and dialogue are. The film stars Billy Campbell, Jennnifer Connnelly, Alan Arkin, Terry O’Quinn, Timothy Dalton, and Paul Sorvino.

The film follows a down-and-out stunt pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell), his mechanic/friend Peevy Peabody (Alan Arkin) and his girlfriend Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly). The trio stumble across a rocket pack prototype that was stolen from Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn) by a group of mobsters. In an attempt to turn around his flying career, Secord transforms himself into the Rocketeer.  He becomes a public hero but ends up being sought by the FBI, gangster Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino), and movie star Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton). The chase is on in this high-flying story that involves gun-toting thugs, Hollywood playboys, and even Nazis.  

The Rocketeer looks superb on Blu-ray because of a sweet 1080p video transfer. It looked even better on my home theater than I remember it looking on the big screen, granted movie theaters have had major upgrades in tech since then. The film has a number of goofs but no more than a film released this year. The visual effects were done by ILM, and they have definitely not stood up over the years. I still think that the film looks damn good for this transfer.

The pace and intensity of The Rocketeer is on par with some of my favorite films, and match up to Joe Johnston’s work on Raiders of the Lost Ark. The flying sequences are my favorite, but there are also some cool scenes when Cliff’s feet are on the ground. I especially love the sequence when Jenny and Neville are on a date. The villlains are great in that scene and throughout the film. The mobsters are typical pulpy villains, but then they are topped by Nazis. Just like Indiana Jones, I hate Nazis, but the Rocketeer is not phased one bit and steps up to the task of saving the day.

As I said earlier, the cast is great. As a fan of Lost I was reminded that O’Quinn was in the film as Howard Hughes. Billy Campbell is perfect as the hero, and it is a shame that he was not in too many movies between then and now. Luckily, he is great in AMC’s The Killing. Alan Arkin has such perfect line delivery, and is a fabulous character actor. I like Arkin in just about every role he takes on. Jennifer Connnelly is definitely nice eye candy for this movie, but it is not one of her best roles.

Special Features:

Movies are now made with the idea of a definite Blu-ray release in the near future. That means that the cast and top line crew will be involved in behind-the-scenese videos and interviews during filming that will be incldued in the special features. The Rocketeer is an example of a film that was left behind by Disney. The 1999 DVD release was craptastic. While the Blu-ray look stunning, the special features are literally non-existent. This is the exact opposite of a Criterion Collection release.

In Conclusion:

Joe Johnston did a wonderful job directing this film. I can see why Marvel chose him to direct Captain America: The First Avenger (which I loved). The Rocketeer is a fun action movie for the whole family, and a must-watch for any comic book lover. The Rocketeer is currently available on Blu-Ray and DVD.
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