We’re living in what could be considered the Golden Age of comic book movies. Or, depending on your point of view, an Ultron-esque never-ending onslaught of the things. My Pick for this week is another comic book-based film, but we’re going back to a time when they were more of a rarity.
In 1991, Walt Disney Pictures released The Rocketeer, an adventure film based on the comics by Dave Stevens. It is the story of Cliff Secord, a pilot in the late 1930s, who accidentally gets his hands on a jetpack. He soon learns that there are other interested parties and ends up on the run from the FBI, the mob, and, just to make things more interesting, Nazis.
The film is tremendously fun and family-friendly. We don’t get many PG-rated live action adventure film anymore, and this one, while it does have its share of peril, should be fine for most kids 6 and up. The production design is also fantastic creating an idealized late-30s Los Angeles. The cast is also good. Billy Campbell is solid as the lead, Cliff Secord (And Star Trek: The Next Generation fans will recognize him as Okona from the Second Season episode, The Outrageous Okona.), and while Jennifer Connolly doesn’t have a whole lot to do in the film, I remember being completely taken with her when I saw The Rocketeer in theaters. The supporting roles are filled with great actors from Alan Arkin to Paul Sorvino to Terry O’Quinn, and Timothy Dalton is fantastic as Neville Sinclair, an Errol Flynn-like actor.
Unfortunately, The Rocketeer did not due exceptionally well when it was first released, barely making back its budget. I’ve always felt that was a shame, since it is such an enjoyable movie.
As an aside, the film’s writers, Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo, also created the 1990 television series of DC comics superhero The Flash, and director Joe Johnston returned to the 1930s-40 setting for another superhero film, 2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger.
- Alan Decker
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