There was a time when a sequel set in space represented the creative nadir of any film franchise. Movies like Ice Age: Collision Course, Airplane II: The Sequel, and the James Bond outing Moonraker proved one small step for man was also one giant leap for far too many fans. But then in 2021, something happened. Fast & Furious boldly went where no Corona-drinking, backyard barbecue-loving, street racer had gone before.
After years of jokes, F9 saw director Justin Lin do the unthinkable and send Dom Toretto’s “family” into space. This time, however, there was no significant blowback on the seemingly critic-proof action franchise, with F9 going on to make over $700 million dollars while earning plaudits for its continuing ability to defy the laws of physics at the box office.
Now, with audiences increasingly happy to disregard logic for entertainment’s sake, and studios forever thirsting for an opportunity to resurrect popular film properties, everything is on the table, including, as it just so happens, the works of Nicolas Cage. Twenty-five years on from delivering the “holy trinity” of Con Air, The Rock, and Face/Off, Cage is back in demand, buoyed by the critical success of films like Pig and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, which have helped spark a “Cagenaissance.” Face/Off 2 is already in the works with writer Adam Wingard describing it as an “absolute sequel” that will see Cage return. Michael Bay, meanwhile, already has an idea in mind for The Rock 2. All of which begs the question: is it finally time for Con Air 2: In Space?
Define irony. A bunch of convicts intent on securing their freedom hijack a shuttle flying through uninhabitable space. In any other sequel that might have seemed strange, yet back in 2014, Simon West, the director of the original film, pitched that very idea for a potential Con Air 2 during an interview with Screendaily.
“I would do it if it was completely turned on its head,” West said then. “Con Air in space for example, a studio version where they’re all robots or the convicts are reanimated as super-convicts, or where the good guys are bad guys and the bad guys are good guys. Something shocking. If it was clever writing it could work.”
West also previously made no secret of his desire to reunite the cast, telling Mandatory in 2011: “It’d be great. It’s a matter of getting everybody together.” And as it turns out, West is more game for taking Con Air into space now than he was when he first made those tongue-in-cheek remarks.
Simon West Sees Satirical Appeal in Going to Space
In a recent chat with Den of Geek, the director said he originally pitched the idea as “a joke” and never intended to revisit the story of Cage’s Cameron Poe. But things change.
“After I said it, I was probably sent 10 scripts all set either on a plane or with a gang of criminals,” West says now. “The last thing I wanted to do at that time was revisit it.” However, over the years, his view on making a sequel has shifted, with West now envisioning the potential for a plot based around commercial space travel.
“What’s really interesting that has happened since I made that remark, is the emergence of this whole private space travel industry,” says West. “We’ve got people like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson setting up these companies to privatize space. That makes it [the idea of a sequel] more intriguing because it wouldn’t just be your standard space movie. It could be all to do with very up to the minute politics, and how big business is taking over from what governments used to do.”
To his way of thinking, Con Air 2 could work as a high concept take on the familiar plane hostage movie, with a band of criminals taking control of a commercial space flight. Spinning out from West’s outline, the idea of big business replacing what governments do could easily feed into a plotline that sees convicts enlisted by private enterprises to work onboard the flight, with catastrophic results. In any case, he sees the exciting potential.
“So I’d actually be much more interested in doing space now because it would explore the politics of that,” West says. “Of these billionaires who are just able to set up a company and run kind of slightly ridiculous ideas of space tourism when before you’d go into space for altruistic reasons for science. Now it’s about making profit and pandering to really rich people.”
West thinks fans would love to see characters like Cyrus The Virus and Ving Rhames’ “Diamond Dog” going up against “ultra rich billionaires” in this kind of setting too.
“I think they would love to see that kind of person taken down a peg or two. It’s a ripe area for mayhem and the audience would enjoy seeing people like that in jeopardy,” West says. “Obviously, you would deliver the roller coaster ride of the action, but I think we’d have a really cool political underbelly to it, which I think would add this extra dimension to it and make it worth making. It would also be a comment like: ‘How did we end up like this?’”
Bring Everyone Back
Other cast members from the 1997 action classic have not been coy over the years about discussing their desire to return. John Cusack for one, admitted to BBC News that it “would be fun” to make a sequel And Cage told another interviewer the prospect was “interesting.” Even John Malkovich expressed an interest in returning during an interview with Forbes last year where he was pitched the idea of playing Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom’s twin brother. He said, “I had a great time doing Con Air with all those guys.”
West now tells Den of Geek that he also doesn’t see any issue with certain characters having met their demise in the first film, saying it wouldn’t take much to reunite the original’s stellar cast, even if some have expressed reservations in the past.
“You can solve any problem in Hollywood, whether it’s through large amounts of money or CGI, there’s always a way,” says the filmmaker. “Over the years, some of the people involved in the original have probably said ‘I don’t want to do that again.’ But time goes on, and they get nostalgic for it and maybe say ‘Why not? It’d be fun.’” West adds, “Hollywood will find a way to put anybody they want back in the film, whether alive or dead. They can usually solve those problems one way or the other.”
The involvement of Cage and his hummin’bird accent would be crucial to any project moving forward though.
“I’ve spoken to Nic Cage a lot since and worked with him since,” West says. “He loves the film and has a lot of nostalgia and affection for it. But he’d be critical to it. It wouldn’t be Con Air without Nic Cage.”
Cage has already confirmed his interest in returning for Face/Off 2 during an interview with GQ, so a Con Air sequel doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility. However, West would also be eager to ensure Steve Buscemi returns as serial killer Garland Greene, who was last seen shooting dice in Vegas, having evaded capture. This is not because West wants to see him brought to justice though.
“Garland would be running for president if not already been elected because he has at all the hallmarks of bouncing back and surviving,” the director muses. “If history has told us anything in the last 25 years, it’s anything can happen in that political life.”
Honor the Original
Ultimately though, West suggests a good follow-up would need a great script that take things to another level while being reverential to the original.”
“Top Gun: Maverick is a good example,” West says. “They waited 36 years, but it’s very carefully crafted to pay homage to the original while also taking it up a notch and delivering what the old one did, but on a bigger scale. It would just have to be worked out very carefully so you don’t ruin the memory of the original.”
Looking back, West is proud of what he achieved with Con Air.
“It was my first film. When you make your first film you go, ‘Okay, okay, now, what am I going to do next?’ You sort of brush it aside because you want to keep moving,” West says. “I do have a lot more nostalgia and affection for it now than I did back then because people love it, it’s nice. I get lines quoted at me everywhere I go; when I’ve bought a mobile phone or had people in to help me move [from my] house.”
He adds, “It was shown at a rooftop bar in London the other week, and my daughter went to watch it. She wasn’t even born when I made it and hadn’t seen it and said the whole audience was repeating lines back at the screen. It’s a nice feeling to think of something I sweated over all those years ago and is still appreciated.”
Con Air might be 25 years old after this month, but it sounds like we won’t be saying “Cy…onara” to talk of a sequel just yet.