The Rocketeer: 20th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray]
(Timothy Dalton, Jennifer Connelly, Terry O'Quinn, Bill Campbell, et al / Blu ray / PG / (1991) 2011 / Disney DVD)
Overview: The story centers on a pre-World War II stunt pilot (Bill Campbell) who accidentally comes into possession of a rocket-propelled backpack much coveted by the Nazis. With the aid of his mechanic pal (Alan Arkin), he gets it up and running, then uses it to foil a plot by a gang of vicious Nazi spies!
Blu ray Verdict: I recently rewatched this movie in honor of its 20th anniversary in the summer of 2011. I hadn't seen it since it came out in theaters, when I was quite young. From what I recall, the movie was something of a box-office bomb. While it's certainly not a bad movie and didn't deserve to bomb, I can definitely understand why it never caught on widely.
First, the plot is just thin. The movie is about 140 minutes long, and for an "action/adventure" movie much of that is taken up by dialogue. I don't need a fight scene every second, but the movie should find some way of keeping the tension going. Also, the movie reveals WHO the main villain is right near the beginning of the story, but doesn't reveal WHY he's a villain until near the end. This seems exactly the opposite of how it should have progressed. The movie would have been much more suspenseful if we'd learned of the Nazi threat earlier, but didn't know one of the main characters was a Nazi spy. Instead, the scenes with Jenny and Sinclair (the Nazi spy) dating become too predictable.
A weak plot can be saved by strong characters, but at best the main characters in Rocketeer are milquetoast. The main character, Cliff (Billy Campbell), is a "good boy" in the style of older 1930s movies. He's impossible not to like, but he's also hard to really love. His girlfriend, Jenny, barely has a personality, although I suspect that's partly due to Jennifer Connelly's acting, which I've always found dry. The worst is Timothy Dalton as the main villain just doesn't work for me. He never comes across as threatening. Moreover, a Nazi spy placed within the "highest social circles of Hollywood" sounds more goofy than ominous.
The movie does have its fun parts. The secondary villain, Eddie Valentine, is interesting. The huge "enforcer" works well as a menacing goon. And Rocketeer does overall stick closely to its 1930s roots. But overall this just seems like a movie that could have worked so much better than it currently does. It could have been the second coming of Indiana Jones, but learned little from Spielberg and Lucas about keeping the audience excited. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
20th Anniversary Screening Q&A Session
"The Rocketeer: Excitement in the Air" TV Special
Electronic Press Kit Interviews
"Meet Me Down at the El Capitan"
Photo & Poster Galleries