Transformers producer, Don Murphy, finally secured the rights to Buck Rogers. Now, he’s set to make a feature film based on the iconic character. Intended to be the start of a multi-media franchise, there’s a lot riding on this upcoming picture.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’re really into science fiction. Regardless what kind of sci-fi you love, this is big news! Buck Rogers returning from the 25th century should have you stoked!
I always like going back in time to see how the genre has progressed. Watching episodes of the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series was a trip back from 1979 to 1981. The adventures of Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard), Wilma Deering (Erin Gray), and Twiki (voiced by Looney Tunes legend, Mel Blanc) have a certain cheesy charm to them.
Buck Rogers’ time in media has been solid. Making a radio debut in 1924, the character has appeared in all types of media. Buck Rogers had a radio drama series, film serials, a pilot movie for the TV series, and even video games. It even spawned an equally iconic Looney Tunes parody. And that led to its own Emmy winning spin-off series in the early 2000s.
Alongside Flash Gordon and John Carter, Buck Rogers has influenced many films in the realm of Science Fiction. One of the most important films is a little space movie called Star Wars. Yet unlike John Carter, Buck Rogers hasn’t gotten a full-on, big budget feature film.
Buck Rogers: Back in a Flash
Where films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor:Ragnarok, it’s possible for a Buck Rogers picture to flourish. Specifically, if it embraces the tone and visuals of the original comics (pictured here from Tip-Tip Comics).
Of course, there’s a precedent for a movie of this kind falling.
Despite becoming cult classics later, Mike Hodges’ Flash Gordon and Andrew Stanton’s John Carter were tremendous box office failures. It doesn’t help possible Flash Gordon movies by Julius Avery and Taika Waititi have been cancelled. That, in large part, thanks to The Walt Disney Company’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox.
Murphy’s hope of this movie starting a multimedia franchise seems too ambitious. Namely, since this film doesn’t even have a script yet. Think about other franchises: Ghostbusters, Spider-Man, Transformers, and the Dark Universe. Those all proved putting all your eggs into one basket before there’s even a basket is a recipe for disaster. It’s best to work on this potential franchise one project at a time.
The question on my mind, the studio’s mind, and hopefully your mind is “Who is going to direct this movie?”
While Marvel Studios and Warner Bros. are known for picking directors from Indie films, Buck Rogers should go in a different direction. I’m sure filmmakers from these backgrounds can do a bang-up job. But, I also think it’s good to pick a director who comes from a genre background. It can provide a sense of confidence and prestige to the project.
Hopefully, my five choices for the director of Buck Rogers provide insight into the movie Don Murphy could make. Hopefully, you walk away feeling excited about the film if you aren’t already.
5. The Russo Brothers
By now, everyone knows the names of Joe and Anthony Russo. Coming from humble beginnings, the Russo Brothers became critical darlings. They directed episodes of acclaimed TV shows such as Lucky, Arrested Development, and Community.
In addition to their wonderful TV work, the Russos flipped the blockbuster world on its head with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Captain America: Civil War. After achieving critical and commercial success with those films, they changed the game with Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame.
Very few blockbuster directors make films on the same scale as Endgame. Yet, they still manage to inject their films with a beating heart underneath the surface. Their love of genre blending, risk-taking, and fan service is exactly the kind of energy Buck Rogers needs. They’ve also garnered a reputation for being extremely reliable. Being the second highest-grossing filmmakers of all-time doesn’t hurt either.
The Russo Brothers currently have 3 movies in the pipeline; Cherry, The Gray Man, and an adaptation of Battle of the Planets. While it seems they’re busy for the foreseeable future, Buck Rogers can use a pair of ambitious storytellers to bring him to life. That’s if they don’t get sucked into a galaxy far far away first.
4. Michelle MacLaren
While you may not automatically know her name, you definitely know what Michelle MacLaren has developed.
Beginning her directorial work in 2002, MacLaren has worked on some of the most iconic and beloved shows in television history. Have you seen The X-Files, Modern Family, and Better Call Saul? That’s her work.
Perhaps her biggest accomplishments are directing episodes of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones. Those are shows that could rival any feature film in terms of scale and excitement. This is why MacLaren is long overdue for a big budget feature, like Buck Rogers.
Despite departing Wonder Woman over creative differences and the delay of Cowboy Ninja Viking, MacLaren is more than ready for a project like Buck Rogers. She makes sure her characters are at the forefront of the story, but never ignores great visuals and cinematography. When you have 11 great episodes of Breaking Bad under your belt, you know you’re doing something right. She would do right by Buck Rogers too.
3. J.J. Abrams
Forgive me for sounding like a fanboy, but I absolutely love J.J. Abrams. Felicity, Alias, Lost, Fringe — all classic TV series. Whenever this man decides to direct, I’m immediately interested. It’s not just his TV work that’s fantastic, there’s also his movies.
Abrams has become sort of a go-to guy to revive dormant franchises in need of new blood. He hit the ground running with Mission: Impossible III. That helped the franchise continue and led to even better installments from Brad Bird and Christopher McQuarrie.
His 2009 Star Trek reboot became his biggest critical success and helped launch it back into the mainstream. He did it a second time with Star Wars: The Force Awakens with major box office success and critical acclaim.
While Star Trek: Into Darkness and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker received mixed reception, Abrams’ direction was not the problem with either film. And surely they don’t erase the better films in Abrams’ filmography. His affinity for the past and visual storytelling makes him an obvious choice to introduce Buck Rogers to modern audiences.
What may prevent Abrams from taking on Buck Rogers is the aftermath of his groundbreaking partnership between his Bad Robot production company and WarnerMedia. He currently has a full plate, which includes a Justice League Dark TV Series for HBOMax.
While Abrams may be the least likely candidate, it’s nice thinking about him reviving a franchise for a third time.
2. Scott Derrickson
Scott Derrickson has had a very interesting career trajectory.
From a direct-to-video Hellraiser sequel to a remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Scott Derrickson has hit a lot of lucky breaks. Not to mention, his work on modern horror classics such as The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister.
Horror directors and big budget movies often go hand-in-hand. Richard Donner, Sam Raimi, James Gunn: It just seems like a match made in Heaven. These visionary directors aren’t afraid to get weird with the visuals, which is a must for blockbuster filmmaker.
Derrickson proved capable of handling actors, iconic comic properties, and big visual effects with his work on Doctor Strange. His direction and writing abilities shined through and expertly brought one of Marvel’s greatest characters to life.
While Derrickson sadly departed Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, he’s got other projects in the pipeline. Surely, Buck Rogers can benefit from a director who can get weird with visuals and can still take source material seriously.
1. Justin Lin
The second a Buck Rogers movie was in the works, I knew the director I wanted to do it first. Justin Lin, like many other directors on this list, came from humble beginnings. Following his debut feature, Shopping for Fangs, Lin became a critical darling with his 2002 crime-drama, Better Luck Tomorrow.
While Annapolis didn’t set the world on fire, Lin became involved in the franchise that would change his career; The Fast and the Furious. Starting with Tokyo Drift, Lin has directed 4 films in the franchise, with three more installments on the way.
Whether a Fast and Furious movie, an episode of Community, or Star Trek Beyond, Lin always brings a sense of energy and fun when needed. He’s able to lean into the ridiculous without sacrificing the intensity of an action scene. That’s a skill very few blockbuster directors have mastered.
Now what makes Justin Lin my top choice? Easy, because it’s time for him to build a franchise from the ground up. The Fast and the Furious was starting to run out of gas, even with Lin’s first two installments. Luckily, he injected new life into the franchise with Fast Five. It’s not hard to see why Lin was chosen to end the main saga.
Star Trek Beyond is more than enough proof Justin Lin’s direction can bring some out of this world energy. While still staying true to the themes of the franchise, he would certainly bring it. If Buck Rogers survived in the modern comic book movie landscape, Lin is definitely the guy Legendary should call first.
While I’m for Justin Lin doing more Fast movies, I would love to see what he can do when he’s the guy starting a franchise. If he’s ever considered, hopefully he’ll do an amazing job. Doesn’t get any better than the man whose crew of the Enterprise use a Beastie Boys’ song to defeat their enemies. That’s the kind of cinematic greatness only Justin Lin can provide and audiences can always use more of that.