Reboot All The Early Superhero Flops Like 'The Rocketeer'
Good news for fans of jet-packs and Nazi-punching: the Rocketeer is coming back! The 1991 Disney movie The Rocketeer is being rebooted/sequelized by, among others, producer David Oyelowo who may also star in the project. While we don’t know much yet, The Return Of The Rocketeer is being described as the story of “a retired Tuskegee airman who takes up the Rocketeer mantle.”
Which makes sense; while it bombed at the box office back in ‘91, the amiable optimism and retro-futurist vibe of The Rocketeer falls perfectly in line with the kind of superhero fare Marvel Studios has made billions with -- they even hired director Joe Johnston to helm Captain America: The First Avenger. And while The Rocketeer had its fair share of dark moments (the plot is basically just “Hey, we’re pretty sure Errol Flynn was a Nazi”), its throwback dogoodery wasn’t necessarily what people wanted that summer. Disney was hoping for a brooding goth-fest to milk the popularity of Batman, and audiences were keener to spend their money on more “adult” adventure stories like Terminator 2 and Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves, an allegedly more realistic take on the story, which was hard for anyone to buy once Kevin Costner opened his mouth.
So it makes sense that Disney would want to bring back The Rocketeer now, though technically they already have; there’s an animated children’s show following the adventures of the original Rocketeer Cliff Secord’s great-granddaughter. It’s fun for kids but horrifying for any parent who would agree that a seven-year-old owning a fully functional jet-pack is a total nightmare scenario.
But it wasn’t just The Rocketeer that attempted to mine ‘40s pulp nostalgia in the ‘90s and bombed. In ‘94, we got The Shadow, which obviously tried to capitalize on the success of the Caped Crusader’s films by adapting the radio show that inspired his creation. It mostly suffered because of its attempts to visualize the Shadow's powers of disguise, which amounted to giving Alec Baldwin a big goofy rubber nose seemingly plucked from the aisles of a Spirit Halloween.
Then there was The Phantom in 1996, based on the classic comic strip, another title that Batman creator Bob Kane shamelessly cribbed from. It, too, failed to attract audiences ...
But maybe the time is right to, like with the Rocketeer, bring some of these characters back. And there are plenty of other unsung ‘90s superhero movies that would have thrived in today’s entertainment landscape, like Mystery Men and Meteor Man. Now, these stories, which themselves borne out of a nostalgia for past entertainment, have become fondly remembered as tokens of the ‘90s. So as long as we’re recycling every pop-culture property until we’re all stuck in a nostalgia feedback loop in which time itself has no boundaries or meaning, maybe give some of these stories another chance.
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Top Image: Disney