The Rocketeer (1991)

Jennifer Connelly and Billy Campbell in The Rocketeer (1991)

Cliff Secord and the Rocket Pack

I've always been surprised that "The Rocketeer" was never made into a series of movies, yes the movie had closure but it had such potential to be made into a series of adventures like the "Indiana Jones" movies. In fact "The Rocketeer" is quite similar to those early "Indiana Jones" movies as it is set in 1938 with bad guys, adventure, a hero and of course a dame with red lips and her curvy figure in a tight white dress. But "The Rocketeer" is also like a super hero movie as whilst are hero doesn't have any special powers he has a rocket pack which he uses to save good guys and defeat bad guys, creating a media frenzy when he first appears. What could be better, Indiana Jones styling mixed with super hero elements with a good cast and some intentional corny humour.

Young pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell - The Circuit) finds himself nearly killed whilst testing a new plane he gets shot at by some mob heavies on the run from the feds, speeding across the airfield. But afterwards Cliff and his engineer Peevy (Alan Arkin - Edward Scissorhands) discover the heavies have hidden something in an old plane, a rocket pack which they try out and improve. But there are people who want that rocket pack including Nazis, Mobsters and the Feds who are working for Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn) who invented the rocket pack. And then there is Hollywood actor and swashbuckler Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton - Licence to Kill) who is at the centre of all this and on discovering that Cliff has the rocket pack targets his girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly).

Paul Sorvino as Eddie Valentine in The Rocketeer (1991)

So as already mentioned "The Rocketeer" is this wonderful mix of super hero movie with Indiana Jones styling and to put it simply it works. From the look with Jennifer Connelly looking voluptuous as Jenny and Timothy Dalton playing Neville as an Errol Flynn style actor it is fun nostalgia. And then you have the visual entertainment of Cliff wearing the rocket pack and becoming a hero, rescuing a friend in the plane and doing battle with a variety of bad guys including Paul Sorvino who plays a wonderful gangster in Eddie Valentine. None of it feels new, as I said it feels like other movies sliced together with an original main character but it works and in a way the familiarity of a hero out smarting the enemy is all the movie needs.

Now of course it is over 20 years since "The Rocketeer" was released and some of it is now dated especially when it comes to the special effects. But even then the action no matter how outrageous is still exciting and amusing especially when Cliff and Peevy test the rocket pack on a statue they stole from outside an airfield. And that is one of the movies plus points, it embraces some corniness be it an unbelievable action on an airship or a truly terrible pun which makes you cringe and smile simultaneously.

So I find myself asking why "The Rocketeer" wasn't more successful and now is bordering on being forgotten. I put it unfortunately down to Billy Campbell who has the youthful heroic look and plays Cliff as a real nice guy but he is too nice, too much of a charisma lacking sap to make him a memorable hero. It is a shame as the rest of the cast are spot on with Timothy Dalton doing a great job of playing Neville Sinclair as a Hollywood swashbuckler whilst Alan Arkin is amusing as engineer Peevy. Plus of course there is Jennifer Connelly as Jenny delivering plenty of 1930s Hollywood glamour.

What this all boils down to is that "The Rocketeer" is a lot of fun and a great cross between "Indiana Jones" and super hero movies.