{2jtab: Movie Review}

The Rocketeer - Blu-ray Review


<div style="float:left">
<script type="text/javascript"><!--
google_ad_client = "pub-9764823118029583";
/* 125x125, created 12/10/07 */
google_ad_slot = "8167036710";
google_ad_width = 125;
google_ad_height = 125;
<script type="text/javascript"

4 stars

Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Joe Johnston’s The Rocketeer, Disney – at long last – allows the film to breathe a bit in spectacular High Definition.  Let the fist pumping and high-fives begin!  Created by writer/illustrator Dave Stevens, the character of The Rocketeer first began in 1982 as a homage to the Saturday matinee heroes of the 1930s and 1940s and Disney, lured in by the charm of Stevens’ art, quickly snagged up its movie rights.  Johnston, already a fan of the comic, was quick to also sign on.  He had no idea that he was about to embark on an eight-year struggle with The Mouse.

Disney wanted changes in the flight suit; in the helmet; in the cast; in Johnston’s vision; they fought over the screenwriters - Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo and William Dear – and their shared vision of Dave Stevens’s world.  Johnston fought for everything – including the casting of Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord/The Rocketeer – and, eventually, wore them down due to his success with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

Upon its release, The Rocketeer received favorable reviews from critics but, ultimately, failed to perform the numbers Disney demanded at the box office.  It quickly disappeared from the public’s eye (although it did have its fans) and all hopes for the two rumored sequels were put to rest.  Now, alongside Johnston’s success with Captain America, it has a chance at new life on blu-ray for a whole new generation of loyal devotees.

The Rocketeer focuses its story around the discovery of a mysterious jetpack by aerial gearheads Cliff Secord (Campbell) and A. "Peevy" Peabody (Alan Arkin).  It seems that everyone – including Hollywood actor Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton), J. Edgar Hoover, Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn), mobster Eddie Valentine (Paul Sorvino), and a whole army of Nazis - wants to get their mitts on that jetpack and the technology it holds.

In a helmet that looks much like an oldsmobile’s hood ornament and armed with a healthy amount of 1930’s “can do” attitude, Secord discovers that being The Rocketeer is as addicting and heroic as it looks, defying the laws of gravity and rescuing girlfriend Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly before she lost her Scarlett Johansson-like curves) from Nazi spies, the FBI, and W.C. Fields alike.

With James Horner’s anthem and era-based score guiding its nostalgia, The Rocketeer is an innocent delight.  The glam and the glitz of the golden age of Hollywood is all in place and so is the high-flying action.  With early green-screen effects (improved by the HD transfer) and a great use of animation, The Rocketeer achieves the effect of a man flying without showing too much of its magician’s hand in the process.

Arkin and Campbell’s performances play against each other and propel the film with a fiery gusto that only best of dynamic duos can claim.  Dalton as the soft-spoken and sneering villain is enticing and hints at the characters he would portray after his turn at James Bond.  Still, it is the era and Johnston’s commitment to it that sells the picture and gives it the wings it needs to clear the strip safely.  It’s really hard to imagine that Disney had a problem with that part of the narrative and fired then hired back the writers a total of three times over the course of five years while The Rocketeer was being developed.

Disney has never been enthusiastic about The Rocketeer and it is a shame that The Mouse holds the rights to the picture.  It took three committed people – Director Joe Johnston, production manager Ian Bryce, and creator Dave Stevens – to annoy Disney on a daily basis in order to keep Michael Eisner and co. from mucking it up.  It is easy then to see that, with only a mere $20,000 profit over actual production costs, the real reason Disney pulled the plug on The Rocketeer and its sequels had everything to do with The Mouse’s inflated ego and nothing to do with quality.

While it isn’t perfect and gets a tad too mechanical toward the end of the film, The Rocketeer is a sweet and iconic film and loyal to its comic book origins in tone and spirit.  It isn’t an annoying grasp at heroics for thrills alone.  Guided by Saturday morning serials and sure-footed 1930s innocence, The Rocketeer is a dynamic gee-whiz adventure tale for all ages.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The Rocketeer - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: PG for Sequences of Action Violence, Sensuality, and some Language.
: Joe Johnston
Writer: Danny Bilson  & Paul De Meo
Cast: Billy Campbell; Jennifer Connelly; Alan Arkin; Timothy Dalton; Paul Sorvino
Genre: Action | Adventure | Family | Sci-Fi
Tagline: Three years before the United States declares war, Cliff Secord leads America's first battle against the Nazis.
Memorable Movie Quote: "It matters to me. I may not make an honest buck, but I'm 100% American. I don't work for no two-bit Nazi. Let the girl go!"
Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date:
June 21, 1991
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
December 13, 2011

Synopsis: A young pilot stumbles onto a prototype jetpack that allows him to become a high flying masked hero.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

The Rocketeer - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades

Blu-ray Disc
4 stars

2 stars

Blu-ray Experience
3 stars


Blu-ray Details:

Available on Blu-ray - December 13, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.35:1
: English SDH, French
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; French: Dolby Digital 2.0
50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region-free

With a tremendous 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer, The Rocketeer blasts its way into the HD market.  Because of the era-inspired theatrics, Hiro Narita's original photography is a bit softer than what we are used to.  This explains the abysmal DVD release but all those memories are erased by this sharp-looking transfer.  The pallet is warm and the shadows play strong throughout.  Colors are bold and exciting and the comic book blacks are solid.  Nothing bleeds and all effects are improved with the contrast update and HD rendering.  The transfer is nothing short of amazing.  The sound – presented here in an updated DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track – plays well for a twenty-year old film but might leave some action fans a bit cold.  Parts of the effects are thin, yet Horner’s score is consistently loud throughout.  Maybe a bit more balancing is in order.  That being said, it is certainly much better than what went before.



  • None

Special Features:

You call this an anniversary release, Disney?  Really?  Further proof that your company has all but dumped The Rocketeer from your catalog, there is only the original theatrical trailer as its lone supplemental.

Wow.  What a party.

{2jtab: Trailer}