Revisiting ‘The Rocketeer’ as Film Celebrates 30th Anniversary
1991 was an incredibly interesting and dynamic year for film, and it was also the year Disney took their first attempt at a comic book adaption; today, we’re revisiting The Rocketeer as the film celebrates its 30 year anniversary!
A film that feels largely overlooked in the greater pantheon of Walt Disney Pictures, The Rocketeer is a unique superhero film that pushed boundaries during its production and was immensely ahead of its time.
The film starred Billy Campbell as Cliff, a young Los Angeles-based pilot, who gets his hands on a government-developed jet pack; the find gives Campbell the power of flight, and the means to become the hero known as The Rocketeer.
Co-starring some widely known actors such as Jennifer Connely- who grew to be the budding movie star of the late 90’s- Alan Arkin, and Timothy Dalton.
A year that saw Walt Disney Pictures release the esteemed and revered classic animated film, Beauty and the Beast, One Hundred and One Dalmations, and the ambitious and interesting live-action film, What About Bob? the studio saw these three films all land in the top 25 box office performers of the year.
The Rocketeer, perhaps, wasn’t appreciated as much as it should have been. In hindsight, the film seems to predate the live-action superhero genre boom that existed throughout much of the 2000s.
Films like the beloved X-Men hadn’t debut until 2000; while Sam Raimi’s adored Spider-man premiered two years later; both prompting movie studios to clamor for adaptable comic book properties to capitalize on the changing trend in how these kinds of films were perceived.
The Rocketeer, in retrospect, seems to have operated with a similar aesthetic and feel to Captain America The First Avenger.
A film that capitalizes on this aesthetic, and does wonderfully to immerses the viewer into the same era and world that the Rocketeer comic book so personified.
This aesthetic seems to be a staple of the work of director Joe Johnston.
Johnston is known for producing family-friendly and widely adored films such as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji, and Jurassic Park II; as well as developing this signature style in his further works on October Sky, before ultimately being called on to direct Captain America’s debut MCU outing.
The Rocketeer remains one of film history’s forgotten gems and was Disney’s precedent to their monstrously successful venture with Marvel Studios in the form of the MCU.