The Rocketeer has been an underappreciated classic of super hero storytelling for twenty years, and to celebrate its anniversary Disney has released the film, remastered on Blu-ray as The Rocketeer 20th Anniversary Edition.
Whenever I put in a film that I’ve loved, yet haven’t seen in 20 years, I’m always afraid that it hasn’t aged well, or that my tastes have changed.
Pacing and flavor for films changes over time, and some films age better than others. The Rocketeer is one that hasn’t lost its magic. Watching it now is just as exciting and fun as when I saw it in the theaters for the first time so many years ago.
Only the special effects are a bit dated, and that’s made up for mostly in the upgraded quality brought by digitally remastering the film.
It’s native 1080p, and looks great on my big-screen television, unlike a few other films from the same era that I’ve seen put out recently, which don’t look much better that their old VHS releases.
The film is full of not-quite-yet stars who give great performances, including Jennifer Connelly. Though she wasn’t unknown at the time, Connelly was still a fresh face on the scene, only a few years after her leading role in Labyrinth with David Bowie. She sparkles in the romantic lead here, and gives us some cheer worthy moments, especially after the film’s mid-point.
We also find here one of the earlier works of famed director Joe Johnston, who most recently gave us the phenomenal Captain America: The First Avenger. It’s easy to see here the roots of his developing skill at creating action sequences which are clear and fun without putting too much off onto the audience.
Then there are the political themes of the film, which were, purposefully, dated and a bit ridiculous already 20 years ago, though I didn’t understand them at all at the time. This actually helps the film feel less dated itself, since it’s doing a bit of tongue-in-cheek commentary on the attitude against Nazi Germany during World War II, which hasn’t changed with time. If anything, it's more acceptable to make light of it today than it was then.
There is a bit of corniness, left over from the films of the late 80’s mixed in here, but it only manifests iteself in the romantic relationship of the film, and, if anything, makes the movie that much more charming, as we allow ourselves to roll our eyes at the cheese we thought was clever so long ago.
It’s not all about nostalgia, however. Whether or not you saw - or remember - The Rocketeer from its original run, it’s still a great film by today’s standards, and feels just as fresh as many of the super hero films which are being made today.
The Rocketeer 20th Anniversary Edition is now available on Blu-ray, wherever you get your Blu-rays, including Amazon.