Is the 21st Century ready for Buck Rogers?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Legendary Entertainment has acquired the film and television rights to the pulp novel hero. Created by Philip Francis Nowlan, the character began appearing in the pages of Amazing Stories with the August 1928 issue. It told the tale of a gas company researcher who Rip-Van-Winkles his way 500 years to the future. There, he becomes a fighter in a war between various ex-American factions.
Rogers soon became a comic strip hero and would inspire characters like Flash Gordon, Adam Strange, and, of course, Duck Dodgers. Curiously, though, his film fortunes have been limited to the 12-part serial starring Buster Crabbe in 1939 and a re-edited version of the 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV pilot. At one point, Frank Miller intended to make a Buck Rogers film as his follow-up to The Spirit, but the ruinous financial and creative response to that film ended any hopes of Miller continuing a film career.
Don Murphy and Susan Montford will reportedly produce the eventual picture with a plan in place to spin off both an anime series and a “prestige” television show.
Considering the character’s limited appeal — he’s best remembered at this point via the inadvertently campy late ’70s TV series — this seems like a helluva dice throw. That said, the basic premise of Buck Rogers is evergreen and allows for fairly easy modernization of both the character and the future he inhabits. It’s a flexibility which will aid the creative participants adapting the material, but also suggests the brand is not necessarily strong enough to launch a media empire.
But we always want to see genre projects like this succeed, so we wish the best of luck to Legendary in this endeavor.