Tucked away in the Disney archives is 1991’s The Rocketeer, which rests comfortably in cult classic territory. Although the film didn’t bring in enough money to warrant The Rocketeer 2, recently there have been quite a few attempts to revive the franchise.
Now, Disney is taking the reins and making The Rocketeer 2 a reality, with a new Disney+ movie called The Return of the Rocketeer. According to Deadline, David and Jessica Oyelowo are producing under their Yoruba Saxon banner. The script will be written by Ed Ricourt (of Now You See Me fame) and will focus on a retired Tuskegee airman who takes up the mantle of the Rocketeer. David Oyelowo has been tapped to star in the film.
Based on the graphic novel series of the same name by Dave Stevens, Disney released The Rocketeer in June 1991. The movie was a modest hit at the box office but didn’t live up to the studio’s expectations, earning a modest to $47 million at the domestic box office. There is the hope that The Rocketeer 2 outperforms the original.
Set in 1938 Los Angeles, The Rocketeer followed the adventures of stunt pilot Cliff Secord who stumbles upon a hidden rocket-powered jet pack that he eventually uses it become a high-flying masked hero. But his heroic deeds attract the attention of Howard Hughes and the FBI, who are hunting for the missing jet pack, as well as the Nazi operatives that stole it from Hughes. It is unclear if The Rocketeer 2 follows the same beats.
Although the film underperformed in theaters, The Rocketeer was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation and a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film but lost both to Terminator 2: Judgment Day. In this way, there is plenty to build off of for The Rocketeer 2.
Produced by Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, and Lloyd Levin, The Rocketeer starred Bill Campbell in the lead role, alongside Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino, and Tiny Ron Taylor. The project was directed by Joe Johnston, who would get to create another superhero period film with Captain America: The First Avenger twenty years after the release of The Rocketeer.
Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Disney has considered creating a Rocketeer 2 movie. In 2016, the studio was developing The Rocketeers which was supposed to focus on a young African-American female pilot who finds the original Rocketeer’s gear. The script was written by Matt Spicer and Max Winkler (Flower and Magic Camp) but the project never went further than the announcement.
The Return of the Rocketeer will probably serve as a revival movie, rather than a direct sequel. This would make the story easier to follow for people who are unfamiliar with the antics of Billy Campbell’s Cliff Secord – the first person to hold the Rocketeer title. The film has been a much-loved childhood classic for many people, and the idea of a sequel after all this time seemed impossible. Fortunately, Disney+ and its creative teams are finally giving the idea a chance.
If you’re a fan of Disney properties from the ’80s and ’90s, the streaming service also features a reboot of Turner and Hooch, as well as a continuing series of the hit franchise The Mighty Ducks.