The Rocketeer

the rocketeer

The Rocketeer is an old fashioned story about a square jawed hero who has to use a stolen jetpack to fight Nazis and the mob. It's the kind of movie where the all American boy has to get into a fistfight with a Frankenstein sized monster on the roof of a zeppelin before he can save the girl. It's the kind of movie where the intrepid hero is forced to use his jetpack in a fancy nightclub and he accidentally ends up riding a swan shaped ice sculpture into the lobby.  It's the kind of movie that was designed to make ten year old boys happy and when I saw it as a ten year old boy I loved it.

Of course, the risk with revisiting something that you loved as a child is that it might seem too childish to your adult eyes. The Rocketeer in particular runs the risk of aging badly, because It's an intentional throwback to the old timey serials and comic books of the 40s and 50s, back when kids programming was unapologetically cheesy. That style of movie making was out of date when the Rocketeer was made in 1991, so now it's a double-throwback.

Fortunately, the Rocketeer's retro look actually helps it to feel timeless. Fighting Nazis will probably never go out of style, Jennifer Connelly's old Hollywood glamor girl looks will always be fetching, and it's style of art deco futurism is always going to be eye catching. It's mixture of adventure set pieces, pulp sci-fi ideas and broad comedy might not be cool, but they're still entertaining.

In fact, the Rocketeer is still a lot more enjoyable than a lot of its more modern comic book inspired counterparts. Your mileage may vary on Man of Steel, but I found it's non-stop grimness to be insufferable; I would much rather watch the Rocketeer, with it's bright color palette and goofy sight gags any day of the week. I also think that it's light years ahead of a lot of the Marvel movies, too, since they are over-reliant on nonsense orbs to motivate their plots. It's always clear in the Rocketeer what people are fighting over and why they are fighting over it: everyone wants that jetpack so they can fly. Jetpacks are kind of a silly idea, but I would always rather have one them than a meaningless glowing cube.

The Rocketeer might not be for everyone - like a lot of the movies that were inspired by old serials, it has a pretty simplistic story, and it has a certain gee-whiz! tone that might seem a bit dopey to people that have the same affinity for superhero stories that I do. But if you're the sort of person who can't appreciate the sort of silly adventure stories that I loved when I was ten years old, never fear - I still have a recommendation for you. It's Army of Darkness, and like the Rocketeer, it's pulpy, violent and funny - but its also sarcastic. It's what I loved when I was thirteen, and if that doesn't work for you... well, then I guess I got nothin'.

Winner: Me

The Rocketeer on IMDB