Walt Disney Pictures
Here’s the thing that blew my mind about The Rocketeer: about two-thirds of the way into this movie, I couldn’t stop wondering how this movie wasn’t more of a respected classic instead of a “Hey, remember The Rocketeer?” kind of film. It had good characters, a cool story, it nailed the feel of 1940s serials. Man!
And then I watched the last third. But we’ll get to that. For now, let’s talk about what the movie did right, like the cast. Let me begin by going on record as saying that I love Alan Arkin in basically everything he does. There’s just something about his performances that makes him feel like an old relative. Maybe it’s because, growing up, my parents loved The In-Laws, which was one of the few movies we actually owned, and they watched it pretty frequently.
1980s and 90s Jennifer Connelly was also excellent in just about anything she did, Paul Sorvino is a great mobster, Terry O’Quinn (John Locke from Lost) hams it up as Howard Hughes, and lead Billy Campbell, who oddly didn’t do very much after this film, had some Harrison Ford-esque charm and swagger about him. Then there’s Timothy Dalton, who is a surprisingly great villain.
The film’s look and story are pitch perfect 1940s. It’s like a slightly more futuristic Indiana Jones with lots of Americana and old Hollywood mixed in. So what could possibly go wrong?
The last thirty minutes or so of the movie, unfortunately.
Terrible plotlines and bad pacing derail the whole thing. For example, Nazis aren’t even mentioned in the film until about twenty minutes from the end. Until that point, the biggest concerns are mobsters, Timothy Dalton and the feds. Adding a fourth antagonist (and a major one at that) so late in the game is just asking for plot problems. Fortunately, director Joe Johnston learned his lesson and mentioned Nazis right up front in Captain America.
And speaking of plot issues, let’s talk about the film’s climax. Our hero confronts Timothy Dalton and his mobster buddies, then convinces the mob to turn on him by letting them know that he’s a Nazi spy. Apparently, the mob is fine with murder and thievery, but they draw the line when it comes to helping Nazis.
Now, here’s where shit gets ridiculous. Out of nowhere, hundreds of Nazis run out of the bushes on Timothy Dalton’s property. Where the hell did all those Nazis come from?
I seriously cannot exaggerate the number of Nazis that pop out of literally nowhere and surround everyone. And if that weren’t insane enough, a Nazi zeppelin flies overhead. In the middle of Los Angeles. Seriously. How does a Nazi zeppelin get into LA’s airspace without anyone noticing? How does a Nazi zeppelin even get to the west coast in the first place?
More ridiculous things happen from there, but it’s kind of like watching someone drop a beautiful marble statue down a hill. After the first hit you’ve already seen enough to know what things are going to look like by the end. Timothy Dalton can’t seem to decide on his British accent or a shitty German one. The zeppelin has a crew of about twelve (so, again, where did all the Nazis in the bushes come from?) and is also highly explosive.
Apparently they forgot about the Hindenburg. Or they just didn’t care because they wanted this movie to be over as much as I did.