Rocketeer (which feels like it should have a 'The' in front of it) is a cross between The Aviator, Captain America, and a homage to thirties America. It's unsurprising that it should feel like a draft of Captain America, as they share the same director: Joe Johnson.
It's a bit odd as a superhero film; the Rocketeer's trick is to strap a flame-powered backpack onto himself, which is revealed to be a desirable accessory for the Nazis. It is based on a comic book by Dave Stevens rather than a known Marvel or DC hero. Whilst I understand the filmmakers wanting to keep the original costume design, it looked great on paper but in the film, it looks a bit like a flying metallic ant, which provides unintentional humour.
Disney wanted to market their film to kids but the film is not really a kids film. Stunt aviator Cliff Secord (Billy Campbell) nicks a nifty rocket-backpack from Howard Hughes (Terry O'Quinn) and becomes The Rocketeer when he saves a pilot from death. As well as being an aviator enthusiast, Hughes was a Hollywood director; hence the story overlaps with Hollywood. Cliff's sweetheart Jenny Blake (Jennifer Connelly) looks like the girl next door but is also an aspiring starlet stuck in non-speaking extra roles. She is swept away by the dashing charms of leading matinee idol Neville Sinclair (Timothy Dalton) but Sinclair may not be all he seems...
I'm not really sure what merchandise they were hoping to get beyond Cliff Secord/Rocketeer. Voluptuous starlet; crooked FBI guys; secret Nazis? There's nothing that's exactly inappropriate for kids but the historical era is likely to go over their heads as is the plot. The film is most exciting when Dalton is in seduction mode and Connelly is looking stunning in a white evening dress but I'm not sure the kids will appreciate that. There's a wonderful thrill reminiscent of the golden Hollywood era where passion and lust is conveyed with a gaze or a touch.
So, the mix of flying and films is what links it to The Aviator but what links it to Captain America? One glance at the screen and the aesthetic similarities are obvious. Both films look irresistably gorgeous, immediately transporting you to a fantasy version of the thirties. Cliff is a shy humble guy who becomes a hero and gets to battle a Nazi or two. Whilst I think Captain America is a lot slicker and artistically better than Rocketeer, it is very CGI-ish. You'd struggle to find a 'real' thing in there. In contrast Rocketeer feels like a real Hollywood fantasy and has a great adventurous/period score.
If you're looking for a superhero movie, I'd go for Captain America. Chris Evans genuinely looks super and when he's on screen, you can't take your eyes off him because he's clearly 'the best'. Campbell does have the boy next door quality going for him; if Campbell had turned into Evans, that would have been perfect. Unfortunately Campbell doesn't shine as strongly as Connelly, who capitalises nicely on her beauty and convinces both as girl-next-door and aspiring star, and Dalton. Dalton is perfectly cast, looking reminiscent of Errol Flynn and Clark Gable and looking more attractive than both. Even as a villain, Jenny is still drawn to him- until he really is unspeakably villainous. Whilst it makes for a tantalising love triangle, can you really have a villain who you kind of secretly root for in a superhero movie?
Somewhere between Captain America and Rocketeer, there is a perfect movie. Ignore the Disney label; the old-fashioned charms of Rocketeer make it well worth the ride.