A new Buck Rogers movie is in the works at Legendary Pictures. In the 20th Century, Buck Rogers was a sci-fi pop culture phenomenon, telling tales of a hero transported forward in time to the 25th Century. Making his debut in 1928, Buck Rogers took off a year later with a comic strip in news papers. The popularity of the comic spawned a slew of toys, books, radio plays, and a series of movie serials starring Buster Crabbe. In 1979, looking to appeal to Star Wars fans, NBC launched a TV show that ran for two seasons, with Gil Gerard portraying Buck Rogers.
But since then, the franchise has mostly laid dormant – though not for lack of trying. In 2008, comics creator-turned filmmaker Frank Miller (Sin City) was set to adapt Buck Rogers, but the project never ended up happening. Then, in 2010, Paul W.S. Anderson (Alien vs. Predator, the Resident Evil movies) was brought aboard to direct a 3D Buck Rogers movie from a script by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man, the upcoming Uncharted). That attempt fizzled out too. Meanwhile, Legendary Entertainment came along, finding huge success with blockbuster franchises like Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy, the Jurassic World films, and the recent Godzilla and Kong movies, to name just a few.
Now, Legendary has stepped up to revive Buck Rodgers for a new generation. THR reports that Legendary has put the finishing touches on a long-in-the-works deal that calls for rebooting Buck Rogers as a big-budget, big screen adventure, with an eye toward spinning off into an anime series and “a prestige television series.” Don Murphy (Real Steel, the Transformers franchise) will produce with his wife and Angry Films partner Susan Montford.
So far, no writer or director has been attached to the new Buck Rogers. Just getting the deal done was apparently a huge achievement, as the rights had been tied up in legal battles for years, with producer Murphy claiming the title had entered the public domain, which was disputed by heirs to the publisher who put the first Rogers stories in his magazine. But now that the parties have reached a legal settlement, it’s full steam ahead into the 21st Century for the faded American icon.
It’s an interesting development, because Buck Rogers was among the last major titles from American pop culture of the 20th Century to not get folded into Disney, Warner Bros., or any other corporate entity, making it ripe to fulfill its full franchise potential. But at this point, with the futuristic property largely a thing of the past and unknown by fans too young to remember the cheesy but beloved 1979-81 NBC series, it’s fair to wonder if Buck Rogers was worth all that legal effort. If the aim is to produce a movie where the hero wakes up in the distant future, it might have made more sense to make a new story. It’ll be interesting to see if moviegoers will take that trip into the future with Buck Rogers – or not.