Making the Grades
Who hasn’t dreamed of soaring through the air like Superman? My husband certainly has. He’s one of those people who revel in the thought of unassisted flight. Coming across a jetpack would be a dream come true for him, just as it is for Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) in the pulp comic movie Rocketeer.
Made in 1991, but set in the 1930s, the movie depicts a young stunt pilot who already understands the freedom that comes from soaring through air. But after Cliff and his mechanic Peevy (Alan Arkin) have their Gee Bee racer destroyed by mobsters on the run from the FBI, the pair fear they will never get a chance to set a world racing record at an upcoming national competition.
Disappointed, they haul out one of their older planes to repair. There the duo discovers a prototype jetpack hidden in the cockpit. They know they should return it, yet Cliff and Peevy can’t resist the opportunity to take the pack out to a secluded location and run a few tests of their own. The experimentation comes in handy the next day when a pilot (Eddie Jones) goes into distress during an air show and Cliff flies to his rescue.
Although he saves the crowd of onlookers from certain death, Cliff’s public appearance puts both him and Peevy on the radar of FBI agents who are looking for the jetpack, Howard Hughes (Terry O’Quinn) who developed it, the mobsters who lost it and the Nazi operatives who want it.
Full of comic book violence, this film depicts some bloody mobster killings, kidnappings, police chases, explosions and plenty of exaggerated fisticuffs. Not content to play a maiden in distress, Cliff’s girlfriend Jenny (Jennifer Connelly) resorts to using household objects to knock out her attackers as well. While the violence is excessive in places, it plays out for the most part with a kind of tongue-in-cheek attitude that makes the brief, more gruesome moments seem stark in comparison.
Like Captain America, Batman, Iron Man and other bigger-than-life characters who come to life on the big screen, Cliff eagerly engages in the battle against evil—even when he discovers the magnitude of the problem before him. And despite his bumbling missteps, he takes on the Nazis and mobsters as he tries to preserve the lives of the local citizens.
Even though the film attempts to keep a light feel to the adventure, the action may be too intense for younger viewers. Yet for older kids, The Rocketeer offers a hefty helping of action for those who can’t get enough of the comic genre.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Rocketeer.
What are the characteristics of comic book heroes? What motivates Cliff to act as a superhero? Who are the"bad guys” in this story? Who are the “bad guys” in movies now?
What real life characters are portrayed in this movie?