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5 Rules for the New FLASH GORDON Movie
Making the Pefect Flash Gordon Movie
By Jarrett Kruse
November 17, 2009
“FLASH! AHHHH—He’ll save every one of us!” So sang Freddie Mercury in the kitschy classic 1980 Flash Gordon film with the ultimate Queen soundtrack far overdue for a reboot after almost 30 years. The ’80s version is one of those “so bad it’s good” films that tops many fanboy’s lists of their favorite comic book-sci-fi flicks. Even comic book mega-artist Alex Ross has proclaimed the film as being his all-time favorite movie and even did an overhaul of the DVD cover art a few years back. In retrospect, the movie does have it all—a perfect cast, killer camp special effects, a rocket cycle, hot chicks and Topol. Yes Topol. Older than Batman and just two years younger than Superman, Flash Gordon is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year from when it was originally published as a wildly popular comic strip which spawned into movie serials, TV shows and an animated series. Now as the property has laid dormant for almost 30 years (despite a lousy SyFy channel TV adaptation that lasted one season)—it is time for the ultimate Flash reboot.
5. MAKE FLASH THE ULTIMATE PATRIOT
In this time of massive anti-American sentiment, the country is in need of an interstellar hero on celluloid. Flash Gordon is one of those sweeping characters that spans generations and is still known by not only our parents, but our grandparents as well. Although the 1980 version had Flash as the New York Jets quarterback who falls into the role of space hero, the intention here should be that Flash represents all of America’s ideals and wants to become an ambassador of peace for the universe. Bringing the ideals of America into space and facing adversity from unknown worlds is one way to take the franchise. So keeping the original ideals of the original serials and comic strip intact may be able to give Flash back his level of superhero adventurer rather than dopey football player. However, it may help to keep some of the unplanned, cheesy elements of Sam Jones’ performance as Flash to cater to fans of the original film.
4. FOLLOW 2009’s ‘STAR TREK’ REBOOT TEMPLATE
We loved the new Star Trek. Like, Top 10 of the year loved. J.J. Abrams took everything about Star Trek and threw it out the window and made the best reboot of a popular franchise in years. It was sweeping, fresh, hip and overall one of the best reviewed films of the year. And sequels are already in the works. This was finally a template that worked; a complete overhaul while maintaining the integrity of the franchise and not alienating fans of the original series and its spin-offs.
3. CASTING IS KEY
A year ago if we told you Chris Pine should play Captain Kirk and would then sign on to play Jack Ryan in the Tom Clancy franchise, there would have been a collective “who?” from the entire nation. Now, Chris Pine never has to worry about taking bit parts in clunkers like Smokin’ Aces. Star Trek made him Captain Kirk for a new generation with a cocky grin, attitude, and more of Han Solo’s self-satisfied swagger than William Shatner was ever able to pull off. That being said, the key to a Flash Gordon franchise is casting relative unknowns to save on costs and spend more on story and special effects. Maybe throw in a one big name to play Ming the Merciless—although topping Max Von Sydow’s pitch perfect performance in the 1980 version is a tough act to follow. Also, in retrospect that film also carried some clout with solid acting by future James Bond, Timothy Dalton and famous Brit, Brian Blessed as Prince Vultan, the leader of the Hawkmen. Huge bonus points for finding a hotter chick to play Ming’s daughter Princess Aura (actress Ornella Muti). Finally, these are some seriously iconic characters—Flash Gordon, Dale Arden, Dr. Hans Zarkov, Ming the Merciless--the casting is crucial. Plus, this is the kind of franchise that may not be able to be told in just one movie. Flash Gordon can be epic for a studio that may be willing to commit to a multi-film epic (Think Lord Of The Rings) just like the unique intent of the original series. Maybe even shooting a trilogy back-to-back-to back could minimize costs allowing the movies to be released successively let a fan base build quickly.
2. THE INFLUENCE OF FLASH GORDON AND SPECIAL EFFECTS
Visionary Star Wars creator George Lucas points to the Flash Gordon serials as being a great influence for his own legendary space opus. Flash creator Alex Raymond left behind a great deal of material despite passing away at just 46. The newspaper “funnies,” cartoons and movie serials and the continuation of Raymond’s work left us with an enormous amount of source material. Although it was 1980, Flash Gordon’s special effects were nowhere near as bad as many of the movies of the period. That being said, there are some very cool scenes from the 1980 movie that could look awesome revamped with CGI, green-screen and digital magic. For example, Flash’s fight against Prince Barin on the tilting Hawkmen fighting circle, Flash’s rocket cycle, and the exile to Planet Mongo (complete with tree stump Russian roulette—that scene still freaks us out). ILM or WETA can have a field day with a property like Flash Gordon the same way Star Trek took the classic “beam me up” scenes and made them 21st century friendly. There is just so much there for the picking for a top-notch writer, director, production designer and effects house to play around.
1. DO NOT ALIENATE FANS OF THE 1980 MOVIE!
Despite 1980’s Flash Gordon being a bust; it has one of the biggest cult followings you will find. Message boards are littered with the phrase “guilty pleasure” and the film being a cornerstone of their childhood. Also, we have repeatedly found that the film is as revered now as it was when we were kids. It is almost a time capsule that just does not seem to get old. In fact, the original press of the Flash Gordon DVD was fetching over $60 on eBay before the new “Saviour of the Universe Edition” was released. It is important to follow a few essential rules to do this right. First thing’s first, no one is going to be able to top Queen’s seriously kick-ass soundtrack. Many bands who are fans of Queen and the movie will certainly want their chance to take a crack at a new soundtrack & score. And there are many key elements from the movie that fans will want to see but on a much larger scale. For example, besides Disney’s Condorman (also a must see!), we have been robbed of a “Hawkman” movie so seeing Prince Vultan and his flying fleet of Hawkmen was nothing short of awesome. Nothing like that has really been done since, except Brian Blessed’s cameo as Prince Vultan on Family Guy! That being said, a reconstruction of some key scenes like that one that could not be fully realized 29 years ago with state-of-the-art effects would be a nice homage to the fans. It is important to realize that this “dud” from 1980 has spawned a line of action figures, t-shirts and has been vouched for by many of the comics’ world elite. Respect the original; it is pure, unadulterated fun. A cool hero, hot chicks, spaceships, crazy costumes, the soundtrack of all soundtracks, a rocket cycle and Max Von Sydow perfectly cast in possibly his best role since The Exorcist. It is the definition of a camp classic. All in all, Flash Gordon is really a film that the whole family can enjoy. Mix all of these factors, take those elements that were meant to be serious in 1980 and implement them into the definitive reboot.
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