The List

Why would Disney reboot its 1991 flop The Rocketeer?

The fabled studio has hit some speed bumps lately. So how, exactly, would remaking a movie that fizzled at the box office help?

Disney is reportedly looking to remake its 1991 adventure film The Rocketeer, and while the move is not yet confirmed, it's already raising eyebrows among industry insiders. For one thing, The Rocketeer, about a jetpack-wearing crime-fighter in the Nazi era, was something of a disappointment — it cost $35 million to make, lots more to promote, and brought in just $46 million at the U.S. box office. Plus, "its similarity to the current Disney-Marvel cash cow Iron Man is more than a little striking," says Claude Brodesser-Akner at Vulture. Which "begs the question: Why?" Here, four theories:

1. Superhero movies are hot right now
If the rumors are true, says Mack Rawden at Cinema Blend, "I imagine the incredible profits of the Disney-owned Marvel movies influenced their decision" to remake The Rocketeer. There aren't many movies that "can generate as crazy of a return as big budget, summer action films." The first try with The Rocketeer didn't fly, but if Disney comes up with a winning "new angle, they could potentially have something."

2. And its similarity to Iron Man is a good thing
There's no denying the baked-in similarities between The Rocketeer and Marvel's Iron Man, says Jen Yamato at Movie Line. "Both were adapted from comics, [and] both involve a hero in a super-cool metal suit flying into action against baddies." But that's not a problem — it's a proven recipe for success. If anything, Disney might try to make its rebooted Rocketeer "slick and high-tech and even more Iron Man-esque."

3. Moviegoers love to hate Nazis
The hero of The Rocketeer, stunt pilot Cliff Secord, stumbles across his "trusty jetpack" after gangsters steal it from Howard Hughes on behalf of a Nazi secret agent, then stash it in a hangar where Secord works. Such 1930s intrigue is another reason to do the film now, says Meredith Woerner at io9. "The success of Captain America proved that the public can still get into World War II retro action." Coincidentally, the director behind Captain America, Joe Johnston, also made the original Rocketeer.

4. This a chance to build a new franchise
Disney's new studio chief, Alan Horn, just took over in June, says Brodesser-Akner at Vulture. This could be a sign that Horn, a former Warner Bros. boss, isn't going to sit around and hope acquisitions like Marvel and Pixar will "keep churning out" the hits and save the troubled studio, while the Disney brand withers. The original director, Johnston, always dreamed of making a sequel. Rebooting this oldie, says William Bibbiani at Crave Online, is a chance for Disney to create its "own successful superhero franchise" all by itself.

Sources: Cinema Blend, Crave Online, io9, Movie Line, Vulture

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