Robert Zemeckis’ last two films – A Christmas Carol and Beowulf – weren’t exactly runaway box office or critical successes, and his last live-action feature-film – Cast Away – came out some twelve years ago.

Fortunately for fans of his older work, Zemeckis is making a return to live-action this fall with Flight, about an airline pilot (Denzel Washington) who narrowly saves a jet and its passengers from total destruction – and then faces national scrutiny when it turns out he’d been drinking the night before.

Based solely on the trailer, the film looks like it could be a real return to form for the director of the Back to the Future films, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Romancing the Stone, and Forrest Gump (amongst other things).  Despite saving the lives of many passengers by avoiding a full-on crash – a feat few pilots the world over would be capable of – Whip (played by Denzel) could go to prison for imbibing prior to taking flight.

With an excellent cast that includes Denzel at the top of his game, John Goodman, Don Cheadle, and James Badge Dale – a villain in Shane Black’s upcoming Iron Man 3 – the footage is equal parts funny, dramatic, and interesting, with a healthy mix of “trial genre” thrown in for good measure.

Since Cast Away, Zemeckis has seemingly devoted his career to making motion-capture films – all of which have been heavily criticized for the zombie-like appearance of their characters (an effect commonly known as “the uncanny valley”). While I personally thought Polar Express was harmless and Beowulf had its moments, I didn’t even notice that his iteration of A Christmas Carol had come and gone in 2009.

Regardless, the critical consensus seems to be that Zemeckis’ motion-capture experiment has been much less interesting than his use of real live human beings and regular old cameras, so it’s good to see him back at work with both.

Apparently, Disney agrees with that sentiment, as they canceled his motion-capture remake of Yellow Submarine after Mars Needs Moms – which Zemeckis produced – made barely over 21 million dollars domestically on a budget more than six times that figure. It’s probably for the best that Yellow Submarine stalled, as zombie-esque Beatles might seem a little insensitive.

Flight hits theaters November 2nd, 2012.

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