Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Rocketeer (expanded) (James Horner – 1990, 2016)

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“The Rocketeer” is a 1991 American period superhero film from Walt Disney Pictures, produced by Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, and Lloyd Levin, directed by Joe Johnston, and starring Billy Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino and Tiny Ron Taylor. The film is based upon the character of the same name created by comic book artist and writer Dave Stevens.Set in 1938 Los Angeles, California, The Rocketeer tells the story of stunt pilot Cliff Secord who discovers a rocket powered jet pack that enables him to fly without an aircraft. His heroic deeds soon attract the attention of Howard Hughes and the FBI, who are hunting for the missing jet pack, as well as sadistic Nazi operatives. The score was written by James Horner and benefits from a long awaited extended release in 2016 by Intrada.
James Horner loved to fly. It was his other great passion except film music and it was the passion that ultimately killed him. I imagine writing the score for this movie was very personal to him as he envisioned himself as The Rocketeer. People have been raving about this score for 25 year praising it as one of his best. I am trying not to spend the entire review explaining what James Horner’s music means to me and how his music affects me. I will only say that for me there is no other composer in the world (there WAS no other…) who can tug at my emotional resorts the way Horner can. He was the master of emotional music and he was also a composer who liked to reuse themes, motifs from his own compositions and this gave me the certitude that there was no way I wouldn’t adore this score.
James Horner is the composer who wrote best about love in all its forms, weather it was all consuming like in “Braveheart”, frantic like in “A beautiful mind”, innocent like in “Bicentennial man” or quiet and sweet like the melodic parts in “The rocketeer”. This score isn’t as epic or ravishing like “Braveheart” or “Legends of the fall”; the story is different, the mood is different. It’s a superhero story with amusing moments as well as triumphant ones. It’s not an emotional score to move me like my favorite Horner pieces; it had comedic cues, exploratory cues and action moments. I recognize James Horner in this score without a doubt; I hear his gentle and sweeping touch in moments like “Main title”, I hear his explosive passion in a cue like “The laughing bandit” and I laugh at “Testing the rocket”. This score takes me through a wider set of emotions than the usual James Horner composition; I hear sprouts of what will become “A beautiful mind”.
“The rocketeer” is a beautiful and warm action score. It has that unmistakable round and melodic sound of a Horner album and I’m happy that I got a chance to discover it. I am sure that I would have enjoyed it even more if I had any emotional attachment to the movie or the original album. The way things are now I’m just happy to hear a spectacular film music album from the composer I miss the most. If you long for good old classic Horner music, this one is for you.

Cue rating: 93 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 55 / 74
Album excellence: 77%
Highlights:
Main Title
The Gizmo
Neville And Eddie
Lothar Gets Wilmer
The Helmet
The Laughing Bandit
Neville Eavesdrops
The Flying Circus
Jenny’s Rescue
Love Theme (not featured in film)
Cliff Caught
Rendezvous At Observatory
The Zeppelin
End Title / End Credits

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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