Flash Gordon (1980)
Get ready to kick some Flash.
I'm sure most peoples introduction to Flash Gordon was it getting mentioned in Ted - unless maybe your a member of the older audience (not like I know the ages of anyone reading this). I mean, just looking at that cover and knowing it's from the 80's (the "remastered edition" for my viewing) tells me everything I need to want to watch it. Why it's taken me so long is anyones guess, but can it live up to my expectations? Well, it's got a title theme done by the one and only Queen, so it's already starting off on a good foot. Can Gordon save us all, or will this movie be but a flash in our memory?
Some alien presence has decided to amuse himself by causing all sorts of chaos on Earth. Flash Gordon (star football player) is on his way back from a vacation when he starts flirting with his lovely plane-ride company. As they are flying, sudden 'hot hail' causes the pilots to disappear, and it's up to Flash to land the plane (thanks to his limited flight training) which places him and his lady friend Dale right in the laboratory of one 'crazy' ex-nasa scientist Doctor Hans. Hans is quite happy about this, as it opportunely gives him companions for his space journey since his assistant bailed on him under premise of "your crazy!" to save the world from the alien menace he knows is out there.
After arriving on the strange new world, the Earth gang gets rounded up by a bunch of guards to go meet one Emperor Ming - who turns out to be quite the evil guy. Unfortunate for them, Ming takes a shining to Dale - and Flash doesn't like this. It leads to a rather humorous scuffle between Flash and the guards. As funny and successful as it was, it ends rather abruptly leaving Flash sentenced to death, Dale to be turned into a concubine, and Hans to be memory-wiped and turned into a slave. Ming's daughter takes a liking to Flash though, and concocts her own little scheme.
Now revived from the dead, Flash must find a way to rescue his friends. This isn't going to be easy though. I mean, how can one man save his friends from an all-powerful emperor of the universe? Friendship is the only way, but can he unite the different warring factions of this realm in order to save his friends and planet? It's going to be a hard road, as his current company now wants him dead, and the other allies would in turn want that company and him dead, and so on and so forth. Time is ticking down miracle man, it's time to save us all!
Key item to impress me in this movie: the costumes. Oh man, the costumes! In the intro to Ming scene alone, there is a multitude of costumes - golden skeletor samurai outfits, fancy blue princess bikinis, hawkmen, all kinds of things! I would highly say that this is one of the strongest parts of the movie - it makes it colorful, it makes it interesting, and it makes it (more than anything else) a real adventure into this fictional place - even if a lot of these so-called aliens are pretty much just costumed humans. Flash and Hans find the least dynamics in costume changes, but in a way it makes Flash stand out a bit more in terms of anchor-points.
Effects work isn't too bad here either, although it's certainly noticeable to the folks who've seen movies from multiple years. I mean, yeah, by today's standards it isn't going to necessarily impress anyone, but it has that old movie charm to it that B-movie lovers hearts warm over for - little models ships and green screens included. As for the soundtrack, well, you can't go wrong with that Queen-made title song. Other moments also crop up (particularly the synth ones) in the soundtrack that helps get the blood pumping. It's good stuff, and yet it also manages to not completely steal the show.
Actors do a pretty alright job here. Dialogue feels at home, even when it's cornier than a Kelloggs cereal. For that matter, a lot of this movie should be taken light-heartedly. Yeah, there's talk of concubines and murders and destroying Earth and all that - but it never really feels super serious and forcing you to think about it. Sure, you could think about those things, but the fantastic nature of the environments and costumes help remind you that "hey, don't take this too seriously, you should be having a good time." If a person is supposed to be a bad guy, then you know simply by looking at them, down to Ming's super-evil eyebrows.
Is it worth watching? Heck yeah it's worth watching! Costumes alone make me want to watch this one again, and if I ever have the spare money again I may even go out and buy it. Why? Because more than anything else, I just had fun watching it. It's not dark and gloomy, it's not flat out comedy, but it's that fine balance that gives you an enjoyable experience while still bring out that inner kid's joy of a new place. Even if plot elements contained within would normally feel thin in another movie (such as the romance between Dale and Flash), it feels as though it's fine the way it is because it never felt as though it detracted from the experience. Damsel in distress is just as often prone to turning into a heroine as she is being helpless, and it has that perfect amount of cheese to make it an enjoyable rewatch in my books.