Rocketeer, The (20th Anniversary Edition) (1991) 
Blu-ray Action-Adventure
Written by Noah Fleming   
Tuesday, 13 December 2011

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It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years already since the release of the “The Rocketeer.”  This film was the action-hero blockbuster to beat before the days of CGI-oriented robots and super-powered figures hit the screen summer after summer.

The film isn’t the best in terms of pacing, but it has a neat story that uniquely fictionalizes the history of Howard Hughes and Nazism while at the same time bringing to light some of the actual events of the era.

Bill Campbell stars as Cliff, a test/show pilot who comes across a new rocket device that can propel him into the air without the need for wings or strings.  The lovely Jennifer Connelly is the leading lady, gracing the screen with her beauty.

Unfortunately for Cliff, the rocket is a desired item by Nazi stooges, Howard Hughes and the FBI.  The scope of the rocket’s importance unfolds nicely, but there is a fair amount of drag between stimulating sequences.

Nevertheless, “The Rocketeer” gracefully presents itself to audiences with an interest in its premise.

“The Rocketeer” receives a new digital restoration, one not taken from the DVD master.  So, that is certainly great news.  The downside is that the new transfer has not been given the love it needs to be a truly great video transfer to the Blu-ray format.  Black levels are not the best.  Shadow delineation lacks definition while the black levels remain more in the gray area than true black.  The colors are tailored toward the yellow/orange hues of the time period.  So while the colors are glazed they are rich and creamy.  Details and textures are a bit buried.  Again, more attention in the restoration could have brought the details and textures further to the forefront.  The film grain is a filmmaker’s choice.  It is fairly heavy, in part on purpose and in part due to the film stock used.  While the film grain is mostly consistent there are a few sequences that become overwhelmed by the grain.  Significant artifacting is absent.  Overall, this transfer will please fans, but it isn’t going to make the top-anything list in terms of video quality.

The audio is presented in the typical DTS-HD MA 5.1 fashion.  The audio quality is more typical of the mid-late 80s than the early-mid 90s.  The frequency range of the dialogue is a bit thin and brittle.  The sound effects are accurate to the source but the original mix has flaws that are made to standout by the lossless track.  Surround envelopment is spotty, but short of a remix the surround channels are not going to be any more full.  Ambience is lacking providing a front-oriented mix.  The overall sound will leave you without a lasting impression.

There are zero special features on this release short of a trailer.  Disappointing.

“The Rocketeer” is probably not going to garner any new fans with this release.  However, for those that have this film in their DVD collection will want to upgrade to this Blu-ray release.
Studio Walt Disney Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG
Starring Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino, Alan Arkin
Director Joe Johnston
Film Release Year 1991
Release Year 2011
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Running Time 1 hr. 49 mins.
Sound Formats English DTS-HD Master 5.1
Subtitles English SDH • French
Special Features Theatrical Trailer
Forum Link
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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