Re: The Rocketeer
I remember hearing about the movie when it came out, but didn't actually see it until two years later on TV. At the time, watching the movie in a 4:3 pan and scan format didn't take anything away from the enjoyment, for me. Even knowing almost nothing about the behind-the-scenes world of 1930s Hollywood and Americana didn't matter, I was captivated.
Now, the opening visual gag with the hangar doors does work better for me in the 2.35:1 format. Also, I found the sense of movement better in the widescreen format. In 4:3 pan and scan I found it harder to see where the Rocketeer was in relation to other objects in his environment.
Even though it has the air of a superhero/costumed hero movie, The Rocketeer is more an adventure film. At no point in the movie does Cliff Secord actively contemplate fighting crime and becoming a hero. The few people he does directly save as the Rocketeer, are people with whom he already had a personal relationship. His "costume" is his normal outfit with a jetpack on his back and a helmet. He doesn't need the helmet to hide his identity but instead uses it mostly to steer mid-flight.
The Rocketeer does structurally have more in common with the Indiana Jones series than with movies like Batman or The Shadow. It's more centred on the chase of a "magical" object than the presence of a costumed hero fighting crime.
On a side note, there were no new Howard Hughes movies out between 1932 and 1943. But his connection to the movie industry isn’t completely forgotten in The Rocketeer. Hughes is the one to mention, that Nazis could have placed an agent in the upper stratum of Hollywood society.