When Joe Johnston was first announced as the director for “Captain America: The First Avenger,” folks were worried. He was coming off the disastrous “The Wolfman,” and hadn’t really had a hit since 2001’s “Jurassic Park III” (which wasn’t much to shout about). But the geek crowd — and Kevin Feige himself — pointed to “The Rocketeer” as evidence that he was the right man for the job. And indeed he was. The 1991 film shares a lot of the homespun humor, patriotic pride and yes, WWII setting found in ‘Captain America,’ and of course, it featured the requisite thrills as well. It’s a favorite among the geek set, a film beloved by many and now it seems it’s getting a remake.
Vulture reports that Disney will be meeting with writers to hear ideas on how to reboot “The Rocketeer.” And while yes, Johnston’s film is pretty much great as it is, it’s easy to see why. “The Rocketeer” was not a hit when it was first released (and critics were even less enthused), lasting a mere five weeks in theaters where it earned $46 million, before fading away. TV replays and a home video release found a new audience for the movie, and a Blu-ray bow last year also boosted its subsequent audience, but in studio terms, the money train has long left the station. In essence, they still have the rights to the comic property (created by Dave Stevens for Pacific Comics in 1982), so why not rejigger it for a whole new generation of kids? That’s business we suppose.
But Johnston’s original film is that rare blend of unlikely elements that led to something special, and the tentpole driven, test-marketed, four-quadrant-approved world of today might be hard pressed to duplicate it. Made for a mere $35 million at the time, “The Rocketeer” was led by the then (and kind of still now) unknown Billy Campbell, with an oddball assortment of supporting players including Timothy Dalton (as the villain), Jennifer Connelly (as the girl, serving as the first crush for many young nerds), Paul Sorvino, Alan Arkin, Jon Polito and more. It’s a charmingly B-movie affair that wears its earnestness on its sleeve — in short, what makes it work is a tone we don’t get often on the big screen these days. And with Disney likely hoping to spin new merchandising and sequels and toys and tie-ins off any reboot, well, it won’t be “The Rocketeer” many grew up with.
Now before panic sets in, it should be noted that this could go nowhere. Right now it’s at the meeting/let’s-whiteboard-some-ideas phase, so who knows how it will play out. But if this does move forward, who do you think can write it and recreate some of that same magic? Who should direct?