Flash Gordon Review

Finding yourself forced at gunpoint into a rocket destined for mysterious red clouds is a rather upsetting predicament. If emotion were a possibility for Sam Jones, leading man and alleged saviour of the universe, then a look of shock would be stapled to his chiselled face. Inevitably, that is not the case, and as we fire ourselves into the sky with all the grace and decorum of the rocket from A Grand Day Out, Queen rupturing the eardrums in the background, we get a sense that nothing is going to go quite right. Sure, there are markers and red flags all along the way, but why pay attention to those when Max von Sydow is strutting around as a wannabe ruler of the galaxy? 

There are many reasons, in fact, to avoid Flash Gordon. Not just due to his lacking social skills or stark fascination with rugby tackling any danger in sight, but because of how dreary it all is. Jones doesn’t exude much confidence. He feels rather out of place, especially once the story begins to slip away to a generic message on defiant human spirits in the face of adversity and danger. The usual drivel of feel-good 80s typecasting makes the rounds as forgetfully as it can, its cast suffering and fumbling to keep up with a film that is unusually void of heart and soul. When you’re able to draw bigshots such as Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton and Brian Blessed, it is an act of defiance or criminal vagrancy to underutilise them.  

Surprisingly then, even for these narrative discrepancies and poorly-utilised performances, the world-building and costume design helmed by director Mike Hodges is spectacular. A vivid world of weird, rule-breaking anomalies and bold colours is crafted. It’s a shame it’s wasted on such a poor story. Still, there are those of us out there who will appreciate the smaller touches Hodges and his crew bring Flash Gordon, of which there are a surprising number. Nicely detailed flourishes to costumes, creativity is found on the screen, but not underneath it in the script or performances. It makes for a poor clash of inconsistencies, nowhere close to likeable either, and that may be due to the underwhelming quality surrounding it all. Odd tones are found throughout, never sure on whether Flash Gordon wishes to be a comedy, an action, an adventure, a romance or even a strange bit of fantasy.  

He may be the saviour of the universe, but it doesn’t make him any less boring. Flash Gordon is full of tropes and cliché, something a very specific demographic will love and cling to as if it were the very source of their life and essence. Rightly so, to be fair, there is some appeal to be found in Dalton rampaging around declaring he is the rightful heir to some throne in space. A key issue with Flash Gordon though is how unstructured it is. Wildly leaping from one segment to another, it takes the traditional vanquishing of evil and turns it into a confusing, conflicting and corny bit of action, with little room for quality.  

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