Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Rocketeer (1991)





















Its a real shame this film bombed so much at the box office, I really can't understand why it did so badly as its one of the best comicbook adaptations around. It captures the all American spirit of the time and harnesses that glorious 30's feel with every frame. Johnston really did superbly well with this film and capturing the very essence of that classic early comicbook/serial type hero and integrating it with that all American WWII wartime effort vibe.

Just seeing the old movie poster shows you how much care and attention to detail went into this film. The poster has a fantastic art deco design (from the era) of our heroic lead character, its simple and minimal but does the job a thousand times over, I love it, one of the best posters created. Even the font for the text is absolutely perfect looking.

Although the character was created in 82 its an obvious homage to pulp comicbooks and matinee/serial hero characters of the 30's/40's, the idea is simple but it works so so well. The whole film has that Indy feel to it and completes a trilogy of classic pulp comicbook superheroes alongside 'The Shadow' and 'The Phantom'...in my opinion. All characters of the era and all similar in design, typical manly and dashing in smart outfits, saving poor damsels in distress for breakfast.

The film is nothing but fun and doesn't pretend to be serious or shy away from the ham n cheese. Dalton is the dastardly caddish villain who is clearly suppose to be Errol Flynn, Connelly is the soppy damsel in distress, Sorvino is the classic American gangster in a tubby Al Capone style (Eddie Valentine? perfect American mobster name methinks), O'Quinn plays Howard Hughes amazingly well and Tiny Ron is a character straight out of Dick Tracy. New boy Campbell also does really well as the lead character giving the role a fresh feel and no ego problems which tend to come with big names.

The film looks great and has some terrific design work, the rocket pack looks cool and practical with more nice art deco touches...as does the helmet with its rudder fin on the top. Effects were considered very good at the time with lots of high flying thrills and aerial stunts, bluescreen heavily used of course. Nowadays the effects do look rather iffy and obvious but that tends to add to the charm really, it doesn't detract from the excitement in any way. The plot is straight forward but it does get a bit beyond itself towards the finale, like how on earth does a huge Nazi Zeppelin fly into the US undetected? I guess its suppose to be the 30's so who knows, radar not at its best back then huh (well it was in its early days I believe). I must also mention the brilliant animated black n white short in the middle of the flick which shows the Nazi's intentions with the rocket pack. Truly awesome animation that is sharp as a knife to this day, it could easily have been a separate film (or series) in itself.

I really can't fault this film in any way, sure its silly but its well worked escapism and an affectionate tribute to the era, anyone of any age would have fun watching this. Without taking anything away from the creators you could almost say its like an adventure from a young Indiana Jones, an early tale from his younger years, a prequel even. I love how they didn't shy away from using the Nazi's as the bad guys despite it being a family film, an important requirement. The Indiana Jones of the skies, fighting the dastardly Nazi's and their incredible machines of war, hell this is really what 'Captain America' should have been like.

9/10