Disney Sci-Fi Classic Flight Of The Navigator Is Getting A Female Reboot

By Dylan Balde | 2 hours ago

flight of the navigator

A genderswapped David Freeman is returning to Phaelon in the not-so-distant future, Deadline reports. Bryce Dallas Howard is directing and producing a big-screen reboot of Flight of the Navigator, a fun, transcendent alien abduction tale starring Joey Cramer as 12-year-old Freeman. Released and set in 1986, it revolves around a young boy from 1978 inadvertently becoming the Navigator of an extraterrestrial vessel in his quest to return to his own time. Howard’s vision of a modernized Flight of the Navigator involves a female protagonist. The movie was pre-approved by Disney and will come out on the streamer.

While the original feature flourished without a hitch, successive attempts at a reboot suffered their own version of a time loop: development hell dated as early as 2009. The project had endured three writers, two directors, and three producers with little luck, or hope for progress. The first version of the remake pitched to Disney is a by-the-numbers retelling of the original Flight of the Navigator, led by writer Brad Copeland (Arrested Development) and Mandeville reps David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. Pre-production lapsed shortly after.

Three years rolled by and the reboot acquired its first director: Colin Trevorrow of Jurassic World fame. A funny coincidence, considering Bryce Dallas Howard, who starred in Jurassic World as operations manager Claire Dearing, would serve as his replacement a little over one director later. Regardless, Trevorrow was eager to take over and hired producer Derek Connolly, another Jurassic World alum, to pen the script with him. Flight of the Navigator was Trevorrow’s childhood favorite and he wouldn’t miss developing it for the world. Unfortunately for the 12-year-old in Colin Trevorrow, nothing surfaced after years of leg work and both men moved on.

Fast forward to the era of widespread streaming: writer Joe Henderson had attracted universal praise over his TV work, specifically hit urban fantasy special Lucifer, the first season of which premiered only a year prior. It’s 2017 and Henderson agreed to spearhead a top-down reboot of Flight of the Navigator for Lionsgate and The Henson Company. Two months later in November, award-winning “new director to watch” Neill Blomkamp (District 9, Elysium) teased working on the film twice, but it was never clear if he had come on board as writer or director of Flight of the Navigator, or whether Henderson was still involved. Like most repeat projects, hype for the movie eventually waned and Henderson and Blomkamp stepped back along with it.

This brings us to Bryce Dallas Howard, the first industry exec since 2017 to commandeer Flight of the Navigator for a new generation of science fiction stalwarts. Despite making her mark on Hollywood as an actress, Howard has been dabbling in directing and producing in recent memory with great success, her most memorable credits being two lauded episodes of The Mandalorian — Chapter 4: “The Sanctuary” and Chapter 11: “The Heiress” — and an upcoming sequence from The Book of Boba Fett. And if she can direct a Star Wars special to fan acclaim, she’s more than capable of appropriating Max straight from David Freeman’s hands. Science fiction would be lucky to have her. Howard was last seen in Rocketman as Elton John’s overbearing mother Sheila a year after starring in a sequel to Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, entitled Fallen Kingdom.

Flight of the Navigator tells the story of David Freeman, a preteen from 1978 Fort Lauderdale, Florida as he is unwittingly transported to 1986 after being abducted by an alien spaceship and taken to planet Phaelon. The trip forced Freeman to skip eight years of his life due to the effects of time dilation in pre-warp space travel, leaving him stuck in a version of Fort Lauderdale where he was apparently a missing child. His family had aged since his disappearance and he is now, portentously, the appointed Navigator of the same ship that kidnapped him. The pilot is a sentient robot named Trimaxion Drone Ship (Max for short) and he has enlisted Freeman to explore the vast cosmos with him, searching for relevant biological samples to temporarily bring back to Phaelon for research and experimentation.

Max has loaded the remaining 90% of David Freeman’s brain with star charts and advanced interstellar technical manuals to help with their mission, but the original copy is invariably corrupted during a crash, leaving Phaelon’s scientists little choice but to download the data from Freeman’s brain. Predictably, the plan dips when present-day NASA gets involved and Freeman himself insists on returning to his time period. Flight of the Navigator was directed by Randal Kleiser (Grease) from a screenplay by Mark H. Baker, Michael Burton, and Matt MacManus. It employed extensive CGI and morphing for its time and was the first movie to use image-based lighting. The soundtrack by Alan Silvestri was composed using a digital, purely electronic Synclavier — another foundational first in Western cinema.