Based on the comic of the same name by Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer was a nostalgic film that looked back, with a nudge and a wink at the thrilling heroics of yesteryear. The film was a loving tribute to the action serials of a much earlier time while it also wasn’t afraid to look at the seamier side of Hollywood.
Set in 1938, Cliff Secord (Bill Campbell) is a stunt pilot who only cares about flying a beaten up Seabee to qualify for the national air races and spending what little time and money wasn’t invested in flying on his girl, Jenny (Jennifer Connelly). Working to help Cliff achieve his goal was Peevy (Alan Arkin), a washed up mechanic who had an intrinsic understanding of anything mechanical.
After Cliff’s plane is destroyed upon landing, he and Peevy happen to find an experimental rocket pack that was hidden on the airfield by gangsters trying to get away from the FBI. While Peevy is the voice of reason, suggesting they turn the rocket pack over to the authorities, Cliff begs him for the opportunity to try it out, the ultimate flying experience.
Once he flies, Cliff is completely hooked, finding solid reasons to keep the jetpack, like rescuing a pilot who passed out while flying, but when the gangsters figure out that the guy with the jetpack is somehow connected to Jenny, he needs to use the pack to rescue her.