November 25, 2015

The Rocketeer

I've been listening to a fun new podcast lately. WHAM BAM POW is a loosey goosey conversation about sci-fi and action movies, with a segment at the end dedicated to a discussion of a classic or contemporary sci-fi or action film. Much like the James Bonding podcast refreshed my appreciation for Bond movies, WHAM BAM POW has repeatedly inspired me to rewatch my favorite sci-fi and action movies.
I saw The Rocketeer back in the day - I don't recall if I actually went to the theater in 1991 or what - but I probably haven't seen it all the way through since. The Rocketeer is a very pleasant family action movie. Disney carefully groomed this picture in the hopes of starting a franchise, and as a result, it has a very professional studio sheen. The action is more fun than exciting, the humor is easy, and the peril and sex are gentle.
Billy Campbell is all-American handsome and innately moral to the point of boredom. Jennifer Connelly looks great as an aspiring actress in the 1930s, she underplays her role, exudes intelligence - if anything, she seems too smart to be an actress - and barely plays the victim. I'm pretty sure The Rocketeer is the rare film set in the 1930s that passes the Bechdel Test as Jenny and her girlfriend complain about a rival actress and discuss their aspirations.
Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton do their best to give their roles personality, and Jon Polito and Paul Sorvino are both top notch: the previous year they had appeared in Miller's Crossing and GoodFellas respectively. The rest of the cast is filled with quality character actors: Eddie Jones, William Sanderson, Ed Lauter, and Margo Martindale.
TRIVIA: Strangely, Joe Johnston has directed another comic book movie set during WWII where undercover Nazis are plotting to steal American technology in order to create super-soldiers: Captain America: The First Avenger. Compounding the strangeness, both movies feature wealthy industrial tycoons with a penchant for bold inventions and awesome moustaches: Howard Hughes invented the rocket in The Rocketeer; The real-life Hughes is the inspiration for the Howard Stark character in The First Avenger.