The Rocketeer (1991)
An Ordinary Man Forced to Become An Extraordinary Hero.
There are plenty of superheros out there these days. Heck, they are all over the place, and super popular with the mainstream audiences if box office draws are anything to say about it. It's almost safe to wager that about half or more are probably even spat out by the Marvel set, which ironically is owned by Disney (as far as film studios go). Some would even say that this is when "comic movies finally started to get good," but some might forget that Disney's done superheros before. On today's sprawl, we check out one such of those movies - try not to get Elton John stuck in your head.
Our hero for the story is a pilot. After months of prep and hard work, he and his crew have finally gotten their racing plane ready for an upcoming race, and he launches into the sky prop-forward with nothing but good intents and excitement. On the roads below his first flight however, Feds and the local cops are chasing some crooks who seem to have stolen something. Seeing a plane overhead, the crook shooting at the police decides to shoot at it, causing sputtering engine and the expulsion of fluids into the windscreen after some of the bullets land. The pilot knocks out the window so he can see, and brings the smoking craft in for a landing. Having stashed what they stole in one of the hangers, the surviving crook makes a break for it, directly into the landing plane. Down a tire, the plane crashes and the hero is lucky to get out of it alive.
Without a plane, and without reimbursement from the government for the damages they've done, it would appear the gang is in trouble of being taken to court for not being able to pay for everything, only after making a deal to perform a clown act in an older plane they have - it's not the best deal, but it's better than nothing. When the hero goes to take his seat in the plane, he's surprised to find something underneath the seat - a rocket pack! After being unable to resist the urge of pushing a button, the hero ignites the pack and we are treated to a display of mild destruction as the pack rockets around the hanger smashing through things and walls. Amazed by this, the hero and his buddy decide to do some experimenting with a local statue to see just what it's capable off. The buddy decides they should give it back to the feds, but the hero convinces him that they should use it to make back the money then need, and return it afterwards.
The hero's girlfriend is introduced, and we find that she's an actor (or at least has aspirations of becoming an actor). Granted, at dinner things go slightly wrong after she finds out second-hand about his wreck earlier and the hero shows us that he doesn't always have a way with words. The buddy fashions a helmet and does some tweaking around with the jetpack overnight, and in the morning the hero goes to apologize to his girlfriend and tell her about the rocket - accidentally causing damages to the set and indirectly causing another actor to get injured, which prompts the firing of his girlfriend. Overhearing the rocket conversation, the head actor (whose been shown to have ties with the crooks stealing the rocket) decides that it might be practical to keep this woman close. At the flight show later, our hero ends up needing to don the rocket and helmet to save one of the other pilots after he tries to cover for the hero when he doesn't show up on time. With all the pieces being put together, will the crooks get to our hero before the Feds? What nefarious plans await the girlfriend? Will the hero and girlfriend make up after their fight?
The acting here is pretty good - maybe not to the extent you'd expect to see any awards being passed out, but nobody feels like they are phoning it in on most of their scenes. Our villain comes off as a bit stereotypical, but the actors performance is such fun to watch it sort of becomes more interesting than the character itself is. The girlfriend looks as though she belongs on the sliver screen as well, what with being played by the ever-lovely Jennifer Connelly, and although she does end up needing rescuing a decent amount in the later half of the movie, she isn't nearly as completely inept as she could have been.
The plot flows fine, with quite a few action scenes being spread about it so you don't get bored too long as the non-action things happen. It does suffer a bit from "inept sub-organization" syndrome, wherein both the Feds and Crooks seem to be insufferably bad at their jobs because they aren't the main players in the movie. Still, even if not entirely believable the story gives you the basics of the old every-man hero story. The acting certainly helps to make up for some of the slower parts involved as well.
Costumes are rather generic on most the characters for the most part, as far as a period piece might be. The main line-up has their distinguishing looks still - the buddy with his glasses, the hero with his sweet leather coat, the brutish baddie with his imposing stature and strange face - and there is a scene during the movie shoot where we get to see all sorts of fancy robin hood style costumes which adds a little extra variety to things. Probably the strangest choice in these was the brutish figures face, and principally because the mouth doesn't seem to move right when he talks. Effects work is also a bit of a mixed bag - a lot of it looks quite well, holding up fine. A lot of the composition shots show some of their age however, with a noticeable quality difference between the two things being composed.
I enjoy this movie, even though I know some people don't. It's not the best movie out there, but it's a fun little adventurous romp with an every day guy who just so happens to find a rocket he can strap to his back. There are a few instances of people being folded in half, but it's generally all off screen and the entire movie fits into its PG rating rather well - as usual, I'd always say it's up to an individual parent to watch a movie and decide if it's right for their kids. If nothing else, it gives you a little bit of a yearning for that old school feeling to go with your entertainment.