Marvel Studios’ 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger was, in fact, the second movie throwback to WWII-era serial adventures directed by Joe Johnston. The filmmaker had already delivered a similarly retro action/adventure film in the form of The Rocketeer, the Disney-released 1991 film that did modest business at the box office ($46 million theatrical gross in the U.S.), but went on to become a cult favorite over the decades that followed. For related reasons, rumors of a Rocketeer reboot being in the works at Disney have been circulating since at least 2012.
The Rocketeer stars Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord, a pilot in the late 1930s who stumbles upon a rocket pack that he uses to fashion himself a “superhero” identity as The Rocketeer (complete with a special protective helmet), putting himself in the cross-hairs of mobsters and Nazi agents who are after the rocket pack for their own nefarious purposes. It’s now being reported that Disney is developing a partial continuation (read: sequel/reboot or “requel”) of the original Rocketeer movie, titled simply The Rocketeers.
THR reports that The Rocketeers is being written by Matt Spicer and Max Winkler (who also co-wrote the upcoming Flower) and produced by Brigham Taylor (The Jungle Book), the L.A. Clippers’ Blake Griffin and the Carolina Panthers’ Ryan Kalil. The story is set six years after the original Rocketeer and revolves around a young African-American female pilot, who finds the original Rocketeer’s gear and uses it to battle a corrupt rocket scientist seeking to steal the rocket pack technology, just as the Cold War begins in full.
News of The Rocketeers arrives not too long after the announcement that another famous flying superhero suit, that of Iron Man, is also going to be worn soon by a young black woman: Riri Williams, from the upcoming Invincible Iron Man comic book run. THR reports that part of the reason Disney hasn’t already moved forward with a new installment in the Rocketeer franchise (itself based on the 1980s comic book series by Dave Stevens) was because the studio wanted to make sure the project would be sufficiently different from the Iron Man series; in particular, for moviegoers who didn’t grow up watching Johnston’s 1991 Rocketeer film.
The talented cast of The Rocketeer (which included Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton and Jennifer Connelly) combined with the earnest throwback tone set by Johnston as director, is (arguably) most responsible for the endearing appeal of the film over these past 25 years, despite its initial lukewarm reception. That is to say, this sequel/reboot could either fly higher or crash land, depending on who is recruited to call the shots on The Rocketeers and how their approach stacks up against Johnston’s storytelling approach. The original Rocketeer didn’t exactly boost Campbell’s status as an actor, so hopefully Rocketeers won’t follow suit in that respect and instead serve as a breakout vehicle for its own young star.
Working in The Rocketeers‘ favor is Disney’s recent track record of success with re-imaginings, reboots and/or revivals of the studios’ older brands (including Cinderella and this year’s The Jungle Book). If all goes according to plan, this new Rocketeer adventure will find its audience from the get-go in theaters, rather than years later on the home viewing circuit like its predecessor did.
We’ll bring you more information on The Rocketeers as it becomes available.