After the relative fizzer of Dick Tracy in the summer of 1990, Disney hoped they've have more luck with another title whose similarities were evident. 1930's setting? Check. Based on a 1930's serial? Check. Unfortunately, despite it's big budget backing The Rocketeer failed to set cinemas alight, and for many the film remains a 1990's curio that most have forgotten, but for a select few the film holds strong nostalgic qualities.
One person who evidently hadn't forgotten Joe Johnston's take on The Rocketeer was Marvel Studio head Kevin Feige, who reached out to the former ILM model maker to direct Captain America: The First Avenger with style and competence.
When a personal rocket pack developed by Howard Hughes is removed in a raid by mobsters on a U.S. airfield, local pilot Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) retrieves it and intrigued by the possibilities, starts to experiment with it. When Secord uses the pack to rescue a man in a highly publicized event, he becomes a target for the same mobsters to return and finish the job. When Secord's girlfriend Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connolly) is kidnapped, a hero will need to stand to save the day.
In many ways, The Rocketeer is a film of its time, a more whimsical comic adaptation than audiences are now used to - a more innocent film for a more innocent time. But in others, it was clearly ahead of its time. To bring the Dick Tracy comparison full circle, I think modern audiences will be just that bit more receptive to the film, and since Disney have gone ahead and given the film a reasonable spit and polish, it could finally be time for the film to shine.
The Rocketeer is presented in the film's original aspect ratio of 2.35:1, encoded with AVC MPEG-4 compression.
Disney has obviously given the film a new transfer, which comes from particularly clean elements. Suffice to say, it leaves the previous DVD transfer for dead. The image is stable and well defined, with a good level of sharpness which reveals all manner of fine textures. Some shots appear a bit softer than others, but this is to be expected from a film that is so reliant on optical effects.
Time may have been unkind to some of The Rocketeers visuals, proof that no matter how good industry leaders like ILM may be, even the best effects work will always age. The increased resolution is particularly hard on some of the more obvious blue screen work, opticals and ancient rotoscoping.
Overall, not Disney's best effort - but to be fair, not their worst either.
The Rocketeer is presented in DTS HD MA 5.1 at 24 bits.
I don't think anyone will be using this disc to show off to their friends, but the disc is perfectly capable and about in line with my expectations.
I didn't notice any audio sync issues, although instances of ADR'd dialogue was somewhat obvious. Surround activity is lacking, with the ambience that most modern soundtracks carry somewhat missing. LFE activity is restrained; I was expecting a lot more here. Still, there is a reasonable amount that is routed to the sub.
The score by James Horner is fittingly heroic and inoffensive. Unfortunately, as with most Horner's scores, if you've heard one, you've heard them all.
Billed as a "20th Anniversary" edition, you'd think that Disney would have gone all out here, with audio commentaries, retrospective documentaries, featurettes and deleted scenes... right? Wrong. In quite possibly the poorest "Anniversary Edition" Blu-ray ever assembled, we have just one extra feature - the original Theatrical Trailer in standard definition, 4x3 video.
Not only is this disappointing, it's grossly misleading. Bad Disney, bad!