The first movie we saw as a family after moving back to the United States in 1991 was The Rocketeer, a fantastic art-deco/science-fiction fusion based on the eighties comics of the same name. The title character is Cliff Secord, a race driver who happens upon a stolen jetpack, juggles his career against that of aspiring actress girlfriend (OMG JENNIFER CONNOLLY OMG), gets a cool helmet designed by his mechanic friend Peevey, and, well, adventures ensue! The Rocketeer never escaped cult status, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t 100% cool as hell.
Under new management, Disney wants to reboot the title for a whole new audience, something about its similarities to Iron Man, which makes sense, but I’m not sure if audiences will quite fall for the subject matter, similar to Scott Pilgrim’s disappointing jaunt a few years back. The Rocketeer was a fun film that climaxed in a Nazi blimp hovering over Los Angeles. Yeah. The film bandied together all of the coolest tropes to emerge from the era: Howard Hughes as visionary inventory, Germany’s devious plan to conquer America with armies of jetpacked soldiers presented as an animated film, and all the cool period cars and stunt planes you could wish for.
Many franchises get underserved, denied of their potential, but few are as striking as The Rocketeer was. From the iconic helmet to the sheer thrill of saving the world in a jetpack, the film also seemed to bleed (although through no official connection) into the Batman animated series a few years later, which became one of the best cartoons of my youth.
Bring it on, Disney.