About a week ago, news hit the web that camp classic Flash Gordon – the subject of Mark Wahlberg’s and Seth MacFarlane’s fawning adoration in 2012’s Ted – might be getting the remake treatment, with emphasis on the word “might”. The announcement sounded somewhat fishy on paper, pegging Star Trek 3 writing duo J.D. Payne and Patrick McKay as the screenplay’s architects while offering no mentions of a producing studio and no official source to back it up; all of these details add up to a hot rumor but not necessarily anything authoritative.
But it turns out that all those rumblings about Flash Gordon‘s modern-day rebirth were accurate, if somewhat obscured, and that the new movie will in fact be going forward after all. 20th Century Fox is the company backing the project, with producer John Davis captaining the ship, wrangling not only the likes of Payne and McKay, but also George Nolfi, who wrote The Bourne Ultimatum and directed 2011’s The Adjustment Bureau; the former two will be basing their own work on a script blueprint Nolfi penned himself.
Word on this turn of events comes straight out of THR; apparently, Fox has been trying to get Flash Gordon off the ground for quite some time, not just for its own sake but for franchising purposes, to boot. “Why”, of course, remains something of a mystery – Mike Hodges’ 1980 masterpiece of B-cinema does not, at first blush, resemble the kind of property any major studio would be anxious to revitalize for a contemporary audience – but be that as it may, it looks like Flash Gordon 3.0 is happening for real.
Whether that’s a positive or a negative for fans of Hodges’ so-bad-it’s-amazing film is another question entirely. For the uninitiated, Flash Gordon follows the exploits of its titular character as he attempts to thwart the evil intergalactic tyrant Ming the Merciless’ plans to destroy Earth using natural disasters as his weapon; it’s every bit as hokey as it sounds, more so given that Flash is a superstar football player. Hodges’ movie finds its basis in Alex Raymond’s 1930 comic strip of the same name, which eventually became a series of movie serials, each told in up to fifteen installments apiece spanning from the mid-to-late-1930s to 1940.
So what, exactly, Fox sees in redeveloping Flash Gordon in today’s blockbuster climate is unknown, to say nothing of what direction the film will ultimately take. Will Flash and his adventures across the planet Mongo adopt the same cheesy, cartoony tone as the 1980 movie? Will the story and its characters be updated to suit current expectations of studio entertainment? Or will the film fall somewhere in between these two approaches, combining unabashed ridiculousness with large-scale blockbusting?
Given that Flash Gordon has barely begun to germinate at the pre-production level, it’s going to be quite some time before we have even a hint of what the film will look like, but it’s tempting to interpret the presence of Payne and McKay as a tell on Fox’s behalf. While Star Trek 3 isn’t the pair’s first venture together – that would be Boilerplate, J.J. Abrams’ upcoming (and presently stalled) comic book adaptation – it could be that previous involvement on another big-screen space opera (one that’s yet to even hit theaters) gave them all the street cred necessary to convince Fox to hire them.
That’s nothing but speculation, mind, so don’t presume it’s a guarantee of Flash Gordon‘s tone; we’ll get a better perspective on that once Fox starts making cast and crew picks. In the meantime, though, the message is clear: Gordon’s alive!
Flash Gordon is in development.