The Rocketeer (1991)


Hey there and welcome to the second installment of Something Borrowed, Something Viewed. I figured that the randomly selected movie option, which gave me The Jungle Book last week, worked really well so why not give it a go again? And boy did it randomly deliver! The Rocketeer is one of those movies where every time I watch it I love it more. Which leads me to then question why I haven’t given it more time. Even stranger is that I don’t seem to watch it any more regularly regardless of how much I enjoy it.

Ok before we move on any further, and I’ve got a bit of gushing to do over The Rocketeer, let’s just address something here. The Rocketeer is 26 years old! If you’re like me that blew my mind apart. But what’s even more incredible is how the film holds up. At no time did The Rocketeer feel outdated. From story, to effects, to acting and even the feel of the movie. It just feels like something that could get released today and people would love it. What’s even crazier was that when the film was released in ’91 it was considered a huge flop as it barely made its budget back through the domestic market. Why? In short Disney pushed the movie hard but audiences were left feeling let down as well as they wanted to see lots of jet pack filled action when in reality it’s an adventure movie with Nazi’s as villains and everyone is trying to get their hands on that jet pack. The reality is that this is actually why it works and why as time has gone on it has become loved by people.

One thing you’ll find when I talk about movies is that I’m not really a favourite actor kind of guy. Sure there are a few I love to watch in films but generally it’s because of who they are working with behind the camera. I love films by Brad Pitt because he generally works with the best directors, especially if he teams up with Fincher. I’ll throw my wallet at the movie screen because they can have my money there and then! Perhaps I’ll invest the time and write a list of the directors who I just love watching their work but right now I want to talk about one director in particular. Joe Johnston.

Rocketeer 01

When I think of a Joe Johnston movie I think of an adventure and I know he may not be a household name but when you see what he has worked on you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Johnston started his career working as a concept artist and effects technician on a small film named Star Wars and was involved with all three of the original trilogy as well as winning an academy award for his effects work on Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The first film he directed holds a special place for me when it comes to my love of films purely because it is one of my favourite movie memories. At 7 years old, my family and I all went out to dinner at a restaurant called Sizzler, which back then was a special thing, where it just so happened was also where the West Indies cricket team decided to dine that evening. I got to meet the players and get their autographs and needless to say I was star struck. After that we went next door to the video game arcade and followed it up with Honey, I Shrunk the Kids at the cinemas. It was a big, no pun intended, adventure of a movie and really set the tone for what Johnston would go onto to do so well in his other films like The Rocketeer, Jumanji, Jurassic Park III and Captain America: The First Avenger. Even his other films like October Sky and The Wolfman still have a sense of wonder to them, and if I’m being honest after watching The Rocketeer all I want to do is go back and revisit The Wolfman.

But knowing his cinematic upbringing took place amongst the George Lucas and Steven Spielberg creative teams it’s no wonder that that sense of adventure and childlike wonder is so prevalent within his films. It’s something I just love and something that really could have been lost in The Rocketeer. Without it the film could have been a motorised version of Superman but instead you end up with a hybrid of Indiana Jones and Batman and that’s why so many people love it. It’s familiar and yet it’s fresh. It’s comic book-esque without ever becoming too cartoony. It really does have such a great balance and it’s something I whole heartedly attribute to Johnston.


Something that really jumped out at me while watching The Rocketeer was how much of a connection it shared with Iron Man. The moments in The Rocketeer with Howard Hughes, played by the awesome Terry O’Quinn, I was struck by how much like a young Howard Stark he was. The more I thought about it the more I couldn’t shake that feeling and after some research it turns out the Tony Stark was based on Howard Hughes and his father even is named after Hughes. It all makes so much sense especially when Johnston would later direct the first Captain America film featuring a young Howard Stark and I have to say Johnston nails the feel in Captain America. It’s like an extension of the same universe in which The Rocketeer lives.

As I mentioned earlier, I could talk all day long about how much I love The Rocketeer but I’m going to show some restraint and rein it in but before I finish up I’ve got to sing the praise of one more part of the film, that is often overlooked in how vital it is, and that it the work of composer James Horner. The entire soundtrack is beautiful but the main theme, which I’ll post below for you to hear, is one that I believe is up there with some of the best. It’s filled with such a sense of wonder that I can’t help but imagine soaring above the clouds.

If you haven’t worked it out I love this movie and I’m so glad it was randomly selected as it did exactly what a movie is supposed to do. It made me smile, it made me remember, it got me nerding out.

Until next time



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