2016! How did I get here. I can not be approaching the big four...zero so soon. Well time flies when you're having fun and judging by my extensive movie collection I have had a lot of fun watching movies. Now that I have approached the "middle" I suppose I should slow down and take up more time honored hobbies like fishing or poker. Nah, I have a hard time catching anything but a cold and I'm too poor, but not too dumb, to gamble. Besides if I want to experience a tense game of Texas Holdem I'll go watch Casino Roy-ale. So I'll stick with my movies and what better way to kick off this new momentous year but forgoing cable television and Netflix for my Blu-Rays and my DVDs.
Starting off this marathon of motion pictures is the 1991 cult classic The Rocketeer. What a cast this film had! Bill Campbell as the hero. The beautiful Jennifer Connelly as the damsel in distress. Timothy Dalton, fresh off of drinking martinis as James Bond, playing a villainous Hollywood star, who just happens to be a...spy. Along for the ride is a substantial supporting cast led by Alan Arkin, Paul Sorvino and Terry O'Quinn. The film is directed by Joe Johnston who is known for his effects work on the original Star Wars trilogy as well as being the director of Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji and Captain America.
Joe Johnston's work on the Rocketeer earned him the director's chair on the first Captain America film. Watching the Rocketeer its not hard to see why. Johnston perfectly captured the late 1930's on celluloid: from contrasting the glamour of Hollywood with the wholesomeness of rural California living, to exposing the differences in villainy between American mobsters and fascist traders. Much of the imagery and themes found in the Rocketeer can be found in the first Captain American movie. Yet the Rocketeer has a much better story and satisfying conclusion.
The story, in short, is about an amateur pilot who becomes an amateur hero with the discovery of a much coveted jet pack that was developed by the legendary airplane mogul Howard Hughes. No good deeds goes unpunished as our hero gets over his head in trouble and manages to drag his friends and, loved ones into the danger. Throughout, the forces of law and order and organized crime clash as evil fascism hides behind the opulence of Hollywood. Everything crescendos in the end as Nazis invade Los Angeles with a giant zeppelin. Every gun toting American, on scene, fights back the invasion as our hero flies off to save his girlfriend from the evil Hollywood turncoat, attempting to escape in what will become a flaming airship of doom. Some of the flying effects are dated (blue screen, no CGI) but that zeppelin catching on fire still looks awesome after 25 plus years.
The film is based on a graphic novel, I admittedly never felt the need to read, and I find it far more entertaining and original than most of the comic book films in recent memory. I know some people find it a tad corny in parts and I suppose it is but that goes with the territory of recreating the 1930's for a cynical modern age. However, if you can forgive the logic behind the hero not burning his britches every time he turns his jet pack on then you should be able to suspend any personal disdain toward the optimistic spirit of this film. The movie is not trying to be cool but you know what? I think that's what makes the Rocketeer pretty darn cool.