The year was 1934 and the “Buck Rogers” adventure strip was a huge success.
Hoping to break into the lucrative goldmine that were science-fiction comics, Alex Raymond conceived of a new futuristic superhero who could protect the Earth and liberate alien worlds from merciless villains. And so “Flash Gordon” was born.
Following the outer space adventures of Flash and his companions Dale Arden and Dr. Hans Zarkov, the strip became immensely popular and proceeded to run as a daily comic strip for more than 60 years. During that time, “Flash Gordon” was transformed into three serial films and eventually received the big-screen treatment in 1980.
Camp, corny and cheesier than nacho dip, Mike Hodges’ flick suffered from an unending string or production problems and the director even considered it to be “the only improvised $27 million movie ever made.” But it was a success.
Now, fresh off of “The Crazies,” director Breck Eisner is prepping to revive “Flash Gordon” for a new generation. With the goal of making it intelligent, edgy and immensely loyal to the original canon, Eisner has no intention of retreading the same ground as those before him. Instead, he will bring the comics to life with the latest technology at his disposal.
The comic from 1930s was made into serials in the ’50s and ’70s, then the directors version in the ’80s,” Eisner told Airlock Alpha. “It was campy and the effects were not so good – this version is in no way a remake. Our version goes back to strips from ’30s and we will update those and shoot the movie as if the strips were drawn today. It will be an action and adventure sci-fi.
In fact, there is nothing in the ’80s version that can be used in this new project if it’s not in the comics, Eisener said.
“We haven’t that option. Anything that was unique in the movie, we have to stay away from. Flash, the characters, races … that’s all from the comics so we can use all of that.”
Does that mean the classic Queen theme is out of the airlock? Apparently so … unless it can be covered for use in the new movie, or any of its sequels.
The 1980s adaptation may have been a standalone movie, but Eisner is aiming to turn “Flash Gordon” into a new venerable franchise and the 2012 film will serve as the origins for a new film series.
Itll be a franchise for sure, he said. It will be a standalone story, it definitely won’t left open for more, but the ultimate goal is to turn it into a franchise. It will be an origins story for Flash. Hes going to Mongo, hes gonna save the planet and it will have a superhero buy in and will be unique. It is very much a superhero origins story.
So how will the overall tone of “Flash Gordon” change when compared to the previous incarnations of the strip? Well, Eisner believes it will have a harsher edge akin to Syfy’s “Battlestar Galactica,” but hopes it will be considered more along the lines of the recent box office superpower, “Avatar.”
I was originally involved with Battlestar Galacticaand broke the initial script with Ron Moore,” he said. “He done a great job executing and bringing it up for modern era. He made it edgy and it goes to show that if you have the right DNA in a project, then you can do something amazing. Technology does now what comic books used to do. What was done with pen and ink is now done with actors and we turn comic book adventures into a real experience. Avatarproved that.
Is Eisner eyeing Flash Gordon as the next big movie on an Avatar scale? In his wildest dreams, yes. Realistically though, Eisner believes that Avatar was an astounding technical feat for the film industry and is something that he can only dream about matching. His Flash Gordon will take the developments of Avatar and apply them to a new canvas.
Oh my God, if I could only be so lucky, he said. [James] Cameron broke new ground and Im just following in his footsteps. He developed the technology, he perfected the technology and I dont think I could improve on it. Avatarwas like bringing sound to movie and that was the greatest success.
One thing Eisner is incredibly keen to do, though, is distance the movie from the recent Syfy flop which starred former Smallville actor Eric Johnson. The series premiered in 2007 as a modernized and down-to-Earth tale of Flash and his exploits, but instantly came under fire from critics and fans alike. The series was later cancelled after only a single season.
It was crap, total crap,” Eisner said of the Syfy series. “I watched one episode. I dont want to look at something like that – it was a real disservice to Flash and nobody watched it. What it did was pollute the Flash Gordonname. The series was only interested in doing it on the cheap and Flash Gordonis not a cheap shadowy show in small, dark ships. Its about Flash saving the whole planet.
Eisner’s “The Crazies” is released on Blu-ray and DVD on July 19 from Momentum Pictures. Visit our sister site Rabid Doll to read Eisner’s thoughts on the George A. Romero re-make.