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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Rocketeer - 20th Anniversary Edition [Blu-ray]


(Joe Johnston, 1991)



Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Walt Disney Pictures

Video: Disney



Region: 'A' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 1:48:31.504

Disc Size: 24,466,513,962 bytes

Feature Size: 23,911,845,888 bytes

Video Bitrate: 23.12 Mbps

Chapters: 15

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: December 13th, 2011



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio English 4311 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 4311 kbps / 24-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 24-bit)
Dolby Digital Audio French 320 kbps 2.0 / 48 kHz / 320 kbps / Dolby Surround



English (SDH), French, none



Original Theatrical trailer (2:19)





Description: Based on a retro-styled comic book hit of the 80s, this Disney film was meant to launch a whole line of Rocketeer films--but the series began and ended with this one. That's too bad because this underrated Joe Johnston film has a certain loopy charm. The story centres on a pre-World War II stunt pilot (Bill Campbell) who accidentally comes into possession of a rocket-propelled backpack much coveted by the Nazis. With the aid of his mechanic pal (Alan Arkin), he gets it up and running, then uses it to foil a plot by a gang of vicious Nazi spies (is there any other kind?) led by Timothy Dalton. Jennifer Connelly is on hand as the love interest but the real fun here is when the Rocketeer takes off. There's also a nifty battle atop an airborne blimp.

Excerpt from Marshall Fine at Amazon.UK located HERE 


The Film:

The Rocketeer is a superhero movie, but it's a superhero movie of a different flavor. This isn't a Batman or a Superman clone. It isn't about a vigilante out to stomp out crime or a visitor from another world using his powers to advance truth, justice, and the American way. Instead, it's about an ordinary man who is briefly given the opportunity to do extraordinary things. Anyone who watched the early '80s TV series The Greatest American Hero will understand the basic philosophy underlying The Rocketeer. (The graphic novel upon which the movie is based hit comic book stores around the same time that The Greatest American Hero made his first TV appearance.) Superpowers may be granted, but true heroism comes from the heart.

Excerpt from James Berardinelli at ReelViews located HERE

The Saturday afternoon serials that spoke to the adventure-loving children in all of us are by now several generations away. Having inspired future film makers with their miraculous derring-do, these innocent tales of heroism have since been reconstituted as bigger, more stupendous efforts than anything their originators ever imagined. It is now possible to film a gee-whiz story with the kind of advanced technical ingenuity that would have wowed Tom Swift, but in achieving this kind of sophistication something has been lost. The heroes of tomorrow will not take their inspiration from the movie heroics of today.

Excerpt from Janet Maslin at the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

The Rocketeer is not totally pristine on Blu-ray from Disney.  The transfer is single-layered with a modest bitrate. I like the textures but the grain occasionally morphs into noise. There is some depth and detail is strong but it can look thin and a more robust rendering may have benefited the eventual image presentation. Much of the first 1/4 of the film is shot outdoors and these scenes looks quite good. Effects are a little lean nearing the finale. This is certainly well beyond the last DVD (that I think may have also been single-layered). This Blu-ray looks decent in-motion and I didn't have any demonstrative complaints from my viewing but analyzing under the microscope of the screen captures - the image shows some minor weakness. I had higher expectations.  The film is 20-years old and the art-direction and production are top-shelf. This Blu-ray probably looks like the film The Rocketeer in terms of color and detail and when grain is visible it looks impressive. The few blockier sequences really won't hurt most viewings.















Audio :

The DTS-HD Master 5.1 at 4311 kbps track is exceptionally strong. I really like the blending of audio effects in The Rocketeer. The rocket-propelled backpack explodes into the air sending punchy depth crisply to the rear speakers. The Zeppelin explosion sequence is also strong and background exports subtleties that generously establish aura. James Horner provides a wonderful score here - it adds a touch of nostalgia and supports the action - uplifting the tone. There are optional subtitles and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'A'-locked.


Extras :

The supplements only seem to be contain a theatrical trailer. I can't find anything else which seems strange for a 20th Anniversary Edition.



Everytime I watch The Rocketeer I enjoy it but also have a nagging suspicion that it could have embraced the serial-concept more aggressively  - and possibly followed with sequels of its own. The performances really make the film, in my opinion. The fashion and art-direction are another huge part of the film's charm. This seems to be kind of a lost film in the digital realm without much effort put forth for the niche fans. The Blu-ray does an adequate, if not stellar, job - and it easily best the previous SD editions. It's a shame that there aren't more extras but I know this is a film I'll revisit when the mood strikes me. Rocketeer fans may wish to also indulge. 

Gary Tooze

November 30th, 2011



About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 3500 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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60-Inch Class (59.58” Diagonal) 1080p Pioneer KURO Plasma Flat Panel HDTV PDP6020-FD

Oppo Digital BDP-83 Universal Region FREE Blu-ray/SACD Player
Momitsu - BDP-899 Region FREE Blu-ray player
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Gary W. Tooze






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