Wednesday, July 4, 2012

MR The Rocketeer

And after the comic book, the movie!

In development simultaneously alongside the production of the 2nd Rocketeer comic book ("Cliff's New York Adventure"), it was mostly supervised under the eye of its creator Dave Stevens who wrote the basis for the adaptation, with a director - Joe Johnston - who wanted to make a great faithful adaption this character deserved.

Don't miss out my previous Rocketeer-related reviews!

Movie: The Rocketeer 
Directed by Joe Johnston
Release date 1991
Genre Superhero/adventure film
Country USA

The Rocketeer had been in development hell for as long as 1983.
Dave Stevens, his creator, always saw the potential his character had for a live adaptation.

The movie took quite some time to start production properly. There was some problems between the creatives and the producers - as you can imagine with these types of films.
Dave worked closely with a trio of writers to come up with a Rocketeer full feature.
It was imperative that the movie should keep the feel from the comic. It had to stay a loving tribute to the 1930s serials, with the right dialogue and atmosphere.
The trio of writers Dave Stevens brought in were Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo & William Dear.
At first the idea was to make a simple black & white movie, financed independently, as an homage to the Commando Cody serial films.
But once Disney got interested in the project the budget got bigger and the project was back on track.

Oh, boy....

The plot is much like its comic book counterpart.

Set in 1938 Los Angeles, California, the story follows stunt pilot Cliff Secord (fantastically played a Bill Campbell  that seems to come straight from the pages themselves).
A mysterious stolen rocket pack ends in Cliff's plane one day.
With the help of his longtime friend and mentor Peevy Peabody (Alan Arkin), they invent "The Rocketeer". A persona that will Cliff make some money on the races.

They find out the rocketpack was actually stolen from real life figure and lifelong aircraft enthusiast/pilot Howard Hughes (played here by Terry O'Quinn from Lost!).
Meanwhile, Cliff is losing sight of his own girlfriend Jenny Blake (the always-gorgeous Jennifer Connelly) who is starting to get awfully close to movie star Neville Sincler (ex-James Bond Timothy Dalton)... who turns out to be a Nazi agent actually!

Quickly, he ends up being chased after by the FBI, the mob and Nazis!


The movie is actually sort of an adaptation of The Rocketeer's book one, with some original elements and details pulled from book two as well.
It actually follows pretty closely the overall structure of the original on-going series, but with the proportions and appropriate changes to make a full feature epic out of it.

Stevens knew his character had it in him to support a whole movie.
It was the perfect recipe for a superhero movie simply. A hero, villains, a girl, rockets, Nazis and more shenanigans!

Some obvious changes were made.
To avoid any potential issues Betty - Cliff's girlfriend - was turned into Jenny to limit the comparisons with Bettie Page. The young starlet was also made more of an actress than a model. She was quite well captured on screen by the lovely and talented Jennifer Connelly who brings in the same "vintage" and classic figure of a Bettie Page honestly. (they couldn't have casted her better if you ask me!)

Disney actually wanted to change a lot more of the movie initially.
Disney President Michael Eisner wanted a completely different look for the titular character, more of a NASA-type helmet, but thankfully Johnston & the crew were able to convince the studio otherwise.
At one point actually, Disney wanted to have the movie take place in contemporary times instead of a period piece... which would have been awful if you ask me. (or more generic anyhow)
They also wanted a big A-name actor for the main role, such as Bill Paxton, Kevin Costner or Johnny Depp (who was Disney’s favorite choice for the role actually).


As soon as Joe Johnston got the part to direct, he was able to keep the movie focused and much closer to its original source material.
(whom most of you might know from such classics as Jumanji, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jurassic Park III and more recently - and chosen to direct for this very same reviewed movie here - Captain America: The First Avenger)

Joe Johnston was a big fan of the comic book, so he was able to keep most of the feeling of the book intact in this big screen version.

I specially love the little allusions to the "golden era of Hollywood" and pulp figure like the comic has so many.
The famous "HollywoodLand" scene is priceless!
The character of Neville Sinclair was mostly based and inspired by movie star Errol Flynn. (or at least, his "Hollywood figure")
And who can forget the great unstoppable killing machine played by (an unrecognizable) Tiny Ron aka "Lothar". An homage to classic actor Rondo Hatton.

The special FX are clever, well done. They don't overwhelm the movie like so many current CGi effects nowadays. They make the flight of the Rocketeer simple, but believable. They were done by ILM.

And the music, oh, the music!
Memorable! Orchestral! Magic!
The score was composed by James Horner and still is to this day one of the most memorable ensembles and suites Hollywood as ever produced. I'd say, it even challenges John Williams' Superman.

Overall, it is an absolutely amazing and entertaining movie.

Simply outstanding.
Fun, always interesting. A very classic and simple yet perfect plot for the genre. Easily rewatchable.

It is the perfect homage to the adventure serial genre.

The Art Deco-inspired design really makes the movie stand out, a decade or two later. And the period (the 1940s) keep it from really aging much.

Plans for a Rocketeer sequel were made and abandoned several times since then. In a way, I'm okay with it. The original is still so perfect. And I'd fear a sequel wouldn't recapture the same tone anyway...
Though a continuation (with perhaps long-time fan Tom Jane in the leading role...mmmh...)

I give it:
  3 / 3 Films!

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