Title: The Rocketeer
Format: 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray
Directed by: Joe Johnston
Written by: Danny Bilson, Paul Dimeo, William Dear
Starring: Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton, Alan Arkin, Paul Sorvino
Produced by: Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, Lloyd Levin
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV
Review by: Matt Peters
Ace pilot Cliff Secord stumbles into a pre-World War II Nazi plot to steal a rocket pack created by Howard Hughes. Their purpose is nefarious of course, as they intend to make multiple versions of the rocket pack to create an army of airborne Nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, Cliff and his mechanic pal Peevy find a way to turn Cliff into The Rocketeer, a crime-fighting hero that tangles with the Nazis, the mob, and even a Hollywood leading man. Billy Campbell stars in this whimsical, action packed tale that should be in any Disney fan’s collection.
Director Joe Johnston did such a wonderful job recreating 1938 Hollywood, it’s no stretch of the imagination why he was the perfect director for Marvel’s Captain America. Not only does the movie capture the look of that era, but also the heart. Jamming all of Dave Stevens’ amazing ideas into one movie is daunting task, and it does crack at the seams at times, but it’s an excusable crime. The Rocketeer’s story is reminiscent of Indiana Jones by being earnest and straightforward without coming off as too slapstick or cheesy.
Unfortunately, Disney missed the boat big time. Either through oversight, or just lack of interest, the House of Mouse didn’t think to interview creator Dave Stevens before he passed away in 2008. Outside of the film itself, many creators and fans still hold the character in high regard, and it would have been interesting to see a mini-documentary on that subject. Being touted as the 20th Anniversary Edition, it feels like it falls short of that title. Hopefully, this is a shortcoming that will be rectified in a future release.
The saving grace is the transfer of the film itself. Having seen it on DVD recently, I can say that the difference is quite dramatic. The colors pop the way you expect them to, and it even looks like the team managed to clean up some of the special effects to make them hold up on today’s HD sets. The sound quality is good, but not outstanding. James Horner’s soundtrack still finds a way to shine through.
For more info, disneydvd.disney.go.com/the-rocketeer.html
Pads & Panels received a copy of the Blu-Ray from the studio for review purposes.