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Category:    Home > Reviews > Action > Adventure > Spy > Mystery > Crime > Nazis > Serial Style > The Rocketeer – 20th Anniversary Edition (1991/Disney Blu-ray)

The Rocketeer – 20th Anniversary Edition (1991/Disney Blu-ray)


Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: C-     Film: A-



I will start this review by saying I HATED this film when I was a kid.  I clearly remember this coming on The Disney Channel and various other movie stations and I couldn’t turn it off quick enough.  I found it too serious, dramatic, and whole heartedly drab.  I now know, however, that I just didn’t get it.  My mind and cinematic experiences hadn’t been enough to direct me past cartoons, big explosions, and shiny objects.  Now I realize The Rocketeer is a brilliantly constructed film with a solid storyline, amazing atmosphere, and great acting.


For no other way to say it The Rocketeer was a box office failure; and the 6 year old me would say that is no surprise.  The 1991 film just nearly made back its HUGE budget and failed to become the action packed franchise Disney had hoped for.  To the studio, writers, and producers the film was a for sure success.  It had mysterious inventions, a flying guy (ala Superman), old Hollywood, gangsters, and Nazi Zeppelins WHAT IS THERE NOT TO LOVE?!!?  Young men and audiences, however, did not see the film as so great though and in the end finished a cinematic failure.  It wasn’t until home video and television releases of the film did popularity/love for the film pick up; winning the heart and minds of audiences.  Too bad the humongous marketing efforts (fast food tie-ins, action figures, etc.) did not aid the film earlier.


The film is a beautifully constructed throwback to the 1920 serials that listeners would here on the radio or read about in the nickel comic books.  It is something that Lucas and Spielberg had done earlier with the likes of Indiana Jones with GREAT success; something with The Rocketeer just did not click with audiences.


Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) is a down on his luck/action pilot who stumbles across a stolen Howard Hughes’ jetpack.  With the help of his mechanic, played by Alan Arkin, Cliff suits up as the Rocketeer and wows the public.  What Cliff doesn’t realize is that a Hollywood star (who is actually a dastardly spy), played by Timothy Dalton, is after the jetpack and will stop at nothing to get it.  Cliff’s actress girlfriend, played by Jennifer Connelly, gets caught up in the middle of the action and it is up to her and Cliff (as the Rocketeer) to save the day.


The film is B-Movie through and through; and once the audience can accept this it becomes overwhelming fun and well constructed.   The Rocketeer is very self-aware with plenty of ‘gollies’ and ‘G-whizzes’ to go around.  The film had a specific path and though campy at times it is well done and stands the test of time.


Disney does it again as this is a beautifully rendered Blu-ray.  The picture is a 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encoded, High Definition 2.35 X 1 Widescreen that boasts splendidly vibrant colors, deep textures, and solid detail throughout.  I felt as if I was in the film at times as the image jolted off the screen as The Rocketeer took off into flight.  My only complain is that the bright colors may be too warm at times and distracting, but as I recall this is how the film has always been; so perhaps an intended look by the director Joe Johnston.  Disney is a master of digital restoration, maybe because they take care of their footage or maybe they are just that good.  The audio is equally impressive in its English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track.  The directionality is there, panning effects are solid, not too heavy from the front, and all around evenly balanced.  The musical score (by James Horner) truly brings the film to life and whereas I don’t see The Rocketeer competing with modern day blockbusters, this is a solid track that Disney did justice.


The extras (perhaps as no surprise) are lacking.  The film was a bomb for Disney in 1991 and in turn I don’t see them pouring tons of cash into deleted/extended scenes, commentary tracks, making of, or other featurettes.  What is available here is the original film trailer.


A great film that is worth another look all these years later….trust me.



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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