Friday, August 10, 2007

New "Flash Gordon" Fizzles

When I first heard the announcement that they were going to do a "Flash Gordon" series I was excited. One of the books I read over and over when I was growing up was one my Dad had owned as a kid - "Flash Gordon On the Planet Mongo" published in 1934. On New Years Eve one of the local TV stations would run a marathon of Flash Gordon serials through the night and I'd stay up with my Dad and watch them. When the 1980's movie with the Queen soundtrack came out of course I had to see it. Yes it was campy, but also didn't stray too far from the source material. It's too bad Sci-Fi Channel decided to "re-imagine" this classic, because when they did they got it all wrong in every possible way.

Flash is a team player, whether it's on the Polo Grounds or Football field. His name might evoke notions of a marathon runner, but it's wrong for his idiom. Yes, Flash is supposed to be the All-American Boy who is good to his mother, but he shouldn't still be LIVING with her.

If they hadn't made a point of TELLING us Dale Arden and Flash had been a couple you'd have thought they were estranged siblings.

Dammit, I like my Ming's Merciless. Oh, and add Megalomaniacal too. Less like Donald Trump and more like Adolph Hitler. Hmm, my theory is that maybe "Ming the Merciless" was this Ming's granddad, but he's building a kinder, gentler Mongo with at least some mercy. Emperor Ming is supposed to be badass, he's the original "Grim Shady" Palpatine tried to emulate! Chaotica in the "Captain Proton" episodes of Voyager was able to get the character right in style if not in name. Why was this beyond the grasp of Sci-Fi's writers?

Dr. Zarkov is supposed to be a brilliant, if misunderstood, scientific genius. NOT the neurotic lab assistant of Flash's missing Dad (and don't even get me started on the tired old "Find His Father" plot device).

No Zeppelinesque rocket ships? Jeez, dangle them on obvious strings we can see in the shot, stick sparklers in their tailpipe - it's Flash F---ing Gordon, we'd be okay with it! Nope, they decide to go with dimensional gateways, but don't even make them look as nice as the one's from "Sliders," and Quinn Mallory made his with a remote control he modded in his basement! Just how low budget was this stinker, anyway?

And, oh yes, let's shoot yet another sci-fi show in the forests of Canada, pretend it's the United States, and then use bad special effects to connect it to a strange alien world or dimension. Don't you think "Stargate SG-1" beat that dead horse enough in 10 years on the air? I actually miss the days when sci-fi shows did all their location shoots in front of that same angled rock in the California desert. And, you know, if you HAVE to shoot in Canada, the X-Files did the New Mexico scenes of the "Anasazi" episodes in a quarry up there - couldn't THAT desolate backdrop be Mongo? Please?

Let's see, what else? Pacing of the story: slow to stalled. Writing: formulaic and generally terrible. Acting: wooden, with no two actors ever demonstrating on-screen chemistry. Oh, and lastly if Sci-Fi is going to insist on using the Queen theme song in all the ads, the least they could do is actually use it in the show, though Freddie Mercury would probably roll over in his grave and then rise seeking vengeance and succulent brains if they did. But who doesn't want a Zombie Mercury belting out an undead rendition of "Princes of the Universe?" It would certainly be light years more entertaining than this dreck.

Well, if I'm looking for a silver lining, I guess my Friday nights are still free, since there's clearly nothing to rush home and watch.