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. 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, her character seems too smart to aspire to be an actress - and she 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.