the rocketeer sequel

When The Rocketeer was originally released in 1991, it was a box office flop. Now, over twenty years later, it’s clear that it was simply a few decades ahead of its time. Joe Johnston‘s film, an adaptation of Dave Stevens‘ comic book series of the same name, is earnest, adventurous, silly, and impossibly nerdy. It’s a throwback to old school serial adventure movies, but it still feels fresh and modern today. Like Johnston’s later comic book movie, Captain America: The First Avenger, it’s a superhero movie that takes full advantage of its period setting to create a world that is fresh and fun and feels unlike most modern action movies. The Rocketeer has rightfully developed a massive following over the years.

Now, Disney seems to have taken notice of the love swirling around the film and have begun developing a sequel titled The Rocketeers. This is the very definition of cool movie news.

The Hollywood Reporter has the scoop. The Rocketeers will be one of those sequels that also acts as a reboot, offering a clean jumping-on point for people who aren’t familiar with the original movie. The Rocketeer was set in 1938 and followed a talented stunt pilot named Cliff Secord who stumbles across an experimental jetpack (invented by Howard Hughes!). He straps on the the new gadget, makes himself a terrific costume and goes about saving lives and such. And since this is on the eve of World War II, of course it comes down to him battling evil Nazis for control of the device. Billy Campbell made for a fine, square-jawed hero, Timothy Dalton chewed up the scenery as the Nazi villain, and Jennifer Connelly impressed as the plucky love interest.

However, don’t expect to see any of them in the new movie, which follows a brand new lead character: a black female pilot who takes up the Rocketeer mantle six years after the events of the original movie. Here’s how THR describes the plot:

The new take keeps the story in a period setting and offers a fresh view on the characters. Set six years after the original Rocketeer and after Secord has vanished while fighting the Nazis, an unlikely new hero emerges: a young African-American female pilot, who takes up the mantle of Rocketeer in an attempt to stop an ambitious and corrupt rocket scientist from stealing jetpack technology in what could prove to be a turning point in the Cold War.

Shades of the new Iron Man, anyone? In any case, the thought of an African-American woman acting as a superhero during an era where both women and people of color were targets of open discrimination sounds fascinating. Some jerks on the internet will call it pandering. I call it making interesting use of a time and place. The original movie is all about having pride in your nation and what it stands for, so a new lead who may have conflicted thoughts about that could be fascinating.

It’s still early days for The Rocketeers, but Disney has hired Max Winkler and Matt Spicer have been hired to write the screenplay. Brigham Taylor, one of the producers on Disney’s The Jungle Book, is also on board.

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