Disney is Reloading The Rocketeer

Billy Connelly in The Rocketeer (1991) Movie Image

Here’s the thing: as much as I like Joe Johnston’s 1991 movie “The Rocketeer” (and man, I really, really like it), the fact that it was made in 1991 with now-questionable special effect is, honestly, one of its charms. Nowadays, making a man fly is easy as pie. Any kid with a computer in his mom’s basement and lots and lots of time can pull it off. Could Cliff Secord, daredevil bi-plane stunt pilot, survive in this brave new world?

Well, Disney is going to give it the ol college try. Or at least, that’s the report going around the Interwebs today courtesy of Vulture, who quotes unnamed “spies” that Disney is looking at plans to reboot the 1991 movie “The Rocketeer” for modern audiences. We’re told the studio is now meeting with writers to get, we assume, a fresh take on the property.

The Rocketeer (1991) Movie PosterOriginally published as a comic book in the early ’80s by Dave Stevens, the character made the leap to the big screen in 1991 courtesy of Disney and director Joe Johnston (who would go on to direct “Captain America: The First Avenger”, also for Disney/Marvel). It starred Billy Campbell as Cliff Secord, a dashing pilot in ’30s Los Angeles, who, after stumbling across an experimental jet pack stashed in his plane, finds himself running afoul of gangsters and a secret Nazi played by James Bond himself Timothy Dalton, whose character was masquerading as a movie star. The film also co-starred a gorgeous Jennifer Connelly in one of her earliest roles.

Here’s the thing: I’m sure “The Rocketeer” would benefit greatly from today’s CG technology. A man with a jet pack strapped to his back will look seamless in theaters if Disney actually goes through with this. But will it have the same kind of freewheeling sense of fun and adventure and nostalgia as the original? The original was something of a flop back in 1991, but has since become a cult hit.

Still, I’m not sure what kind of “take” you’d need to put on the story in order to convince a moviegoing public weaned on Christopher Nolan’s dark Batman and Joss Whedon’s epic alien-invasion battlin’ Avengers to go see a movie about a guy in 1930s Los Angeles goofing around with a jet pack, a movie star girlfriend, and fighting, well, Nazis.

Here’s a trailer for the original for those who have never seen it: