Review: ‘The Rocketeer’

Based on a comic ['graphic novel' by Dave Stevens] unveiled in 1981, 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. [Screen story by Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo and William Dear]

Based on a comic [‘graphic novel’ by Dave Stevens] unveiled in 1981, 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. [Screen story by Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo and William Dear]

Elaborate opening sequence has an ace pilot (Bill Campbell) testing a new racing plane over LA skies in 1938 while, on the ground below, hoods and Feds in speeding cars shoot it out after robbery of a mysterious device.

Developed by none other than Howard Hughes, the invention makes its way into the pilot’s hands, but it’s coveted by a dashing star of swashbuckling films who also happens to be a dedicated Nazi (Timothy Dalton). Although he has hired thugs led by Paul Sorvino to recover the priceless device, Dalton has his own ideas about getting at Campbell through his gorgeous g.f. (Jennifer Connelly).

The object of intense interest is a portable rocket pack which, if strapped to one’s back, can send its wearer zipping around almost as fast, if not as quietly, as Superman.

Newcomer Campbell exhibits the requisite grit and all-American know-how, but the lead role is written with virtually no humor or subtext. Those around him come off to better advantage, notably Dalton as the deliciously smooth, insidious Sinclair; Sorvino and Alan Arkin, with the latter as the Rocketeer’s mentor; Terry O’Quinn as Hughes; and the lovely, voluptuous Connelly.

The Rocketeer

Production

Walt Disney/Gordon. Director Joe Johnston; Producer Lawrence Gordon, Charles Gordon, Lloyd Levin; Screenplay Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo; Camera Hiro Narita; Editor Arthur Schmidt; Music James Horner; Art Director Jim Bissell

Crew

(Color) Widescreen. Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1991. Running time: 108 MIN.

With

Bill Campbell Jennifer Connelly Alan Arkin Timothy Dalton Paul Sorvino Ed Lauter

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