starring Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton
screenplay by Danny Bilson & Paul De Meo, based on the graphic novel by Dave Stevens
directed by Joe Johnston
by Walter Chaw Joe Johnston's rousing Art Deco audition for Captain America, The Rocketeer is, twenty years on, as crisp and clean as laundry-line linen. It has a beautiful hero, his beautiful girl, and Alan Arkin as the crotchety old Q/Whistler/Lucius Fox to guarantee that no matter what our hero does to his gadgets, there'll always be more and better ones to take their place. The villain is modelled on Errol Flynn and works for the Nazis, and you don't have to squint very hard to figure out that a good portion of the picture's stickiness and cult accretion has to do with the idea that its 1938 setting allows for a measure of movie-history geekery. A sequence on a film set as bad guy Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton, chewing scenery like a champ) shoots a period swashbuckler is subversive not only for the way that it reflects the vehicle in which it finds itself, but also for suggesting that the Golden Age of Hollywood was, as we suspected all along, rife with miscreants and foreign agents. It allows for a greater connection to our working-class heroes, as well as the comparison the movie makes now again of The Rocketeer to Chuck Yeager. And at its best, it allows The Rocketeer to feel exactly like the best kind of aw-shucks patriotism: spic-and-span and "you got a stick of Beeman's?" and based on a love of our ideals instead of a hatred of an Other.