The Rocketeer: 29-Years Later – Cult Classic or Flop?
Do you love The Rocketeer? Me too.
This article bummed me out. I love The Rocketeer.
And I have trouble thinking of Cliff, Peevy, and the gang as anything besides ironclad nostalgia.
But, alas, it did flop at the box office.
— Scott Mendelson (@ScottMendelson) June 22, 2020
It was supposed to be a franchise-starter. But, back in 1991, and in the shadow of Batman (1989) and even Dick Tracy (1990) it just didn’t happen.
The Rocketeer: The Best Disney Flop?
Forbes’ Scott Mendelson — in a piece he penned in 2016 — lays down the facts about a film that is a cult classic at best.
And, no matter how much you love “Peevy’s Polar Pipeline” and the weathered Rocketeer gear in the back of that soda fountain (over on the left), behind the coolers), Cliff and Co. disappointed at the box office.
- The Rocketeer stands out as a somewhat pioneering box office flop. It was a film that was bred to be a popcorn winner without anyone stopping to ask if audiences would want to see it. This is not about whether or not The Rocketeer was a good movie. I like Joe Johnston’s nostalgic throwback period piece without necessarily loving it.
- It boasts high production values, insanely attractive actors going all glamourous (Jennifer Connelly or Timothy Dalton, pick your poison), and a few solid action scenes (even if the movie had less money than it needed to be the film it wanted to be). Moreover, its gee-wiz heroic charm that has aged quite well in this “Why did you say that name?!” era…
- Billy Campbell was not a star while Jennifer Connelly and Timothy Dalton were at-best names without really being openers. The source material was something that 0.001% of the American populace had ever heard of… [and] as a big-scale summer action movie in an era when not every movie was a big-scale action movie, the would-be success of The Rocketeer was rooted in implied interest.
A Valuable Learning Experience
But here’s the thing, I’ll go out on a wing to say that Director Johnston learned a whole lot while filming The Rocketeer; that Captain America: The First Avenger was better because of Johnston’s first notalgic superhero flick. And that many, many up-and-coming filmmakers (Dave Filoni, Jon Favreau, Deborah Chow?) love the film.
After all, Slashfilm’s Bryan Young saw The Rocketeer homage in The Mandalorian first season episode entitled “The Sin”:
The shots of the Mandalorians arriving are evocative of the animated shows—Clone Wars and Rebels—and feel like they were ripped right of the animation and writ in live action. One shot at the end of the episode, with one of the Mandalos flying beside the Razor Crest with his jetpack and turns to salute our main character evokes The Rocketeer (1991).
Presumably an homage to Joe Johnston who made the original Boba Fett design.
The Rocketeer (1991) dir. Joe Johnston
The Mandalorian(2019) pic.twitter.com/QyZRyQyUAJ
— Martin Kessler (@MovieKessler) November 22, 2019
Anyway, for those of you who haven’t sat down to watch The Rocketeer, do it. Soon.
Beyond the satisfying good guys punching Nazis thing (of course, a la Indiana Jones), the soundtrack is outstanding, and the leads seem to be having fun.
And, next time you’re in Disney Springs, you might just find some more Easter Eggs in Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar.
Yes, Jock knew Indy. But he also — obviously — knew Cliffy, too.