Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay on the strange cinematic life of the 1991 Disney movie The Rocketeer.
Wait a minute, the Rocke-who?
If you’re a millennial of a certain age, you probably owe Joe Johnston a big ole thank you for defining your childhood. He’s the efficient, unpretentious journeyman director of The Pagemaster, Jumanji, and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Before that, he got his start in Hollywood as a concept designer on the original Star Wars trilogy.
So maybe it’s no surprise that the guy behind Boba Fett went on to make a whole movie about a jet pack-sporting superhero. And maybe it’s also no surprise that the guy who worked on projects like The Iron Giant and Captain America: The First Avenger made a movie so earnestly enamored by the kind of Americana that he’d make Norman Rockwell proud.
Based on Dave Stevens‘ comic of the same name, The Rocketeer follows a young stunt pilot named Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell), who comes into possession of a rocket pack. He launches himself straight into a life of heroism, determined to save his actress girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly) and thwart the Nazis under the high-flying guise of “The Rocketeer.”
A notorious commercial flop that has since found its defenders, it plays its earnest, gee-wiz, soda shop charm with a completely straight face. Without a cynical bone in its body, maybe The Rocketeer and its hyper-specific historical interests never stood a chance.
And yet, as the video essay below attests, here we are thirty years later, still talking about it. So, for a brief history of the movie’s critical and creative life, as well as its enduring, contagious power as a vessel of warmth and wonder, here’s a look back on The Rocketeer:
Watch “The Odd and Curious Life of The Rocketeer”:
Who made this?
This video on the bizarre (and bizarrely wonderful) The Rocketeer is by Andrew Saladino, who runs the Texas-based Royal Ocean Film Society. You can browse their back catalog of videos on their Vimeo account here. If Vimeo isn’t your speed, you can give them a follow on YouTube here.
More videos like this
- For more of the Royal Ocean Film Society’s work, check out their essay on the cult-like appeal of the Criterion Collection.
- And here they are with a really informative breakdown of how Sam Raimi made his splatter masterpiece (splasterpiece?) The Evil Dead.
- Here’s the Royal Ocean Film Society on the weird and wonderful world of fan edits.
- Further evidence of the Royal Ocean Film Society’s brilliance: why 3D’s failure is a tale as old as cinema itself.
- And finally, here is Movies with Mikey on why The Rocketeer is a movie that you can’t help smiling at: It’s steampunk Boba Fett fighting fascists? How can you not love that?