Flash Gordon (1980)

A football player and his friends travel to the planet Mongo and find themselves fighting the tyranny of Ming the Merciless to save Earth (from IMDb). 


From the tagline alone, you can guess this movie is ridiculous, and I loved it. As I've stated before, I honestly enjoy watching terrible films. Why? Well, it makes me appreciate the good ones so much more. Plus, there is something amazing about watching a film so awful you wonder how it was ever made or who thought it was a good idea to do things that particular way.

Anyway, back to Flash Gordon. The premise of a man getting transported to a new planet and having to save the universe from the evil tyrant could be a successful world (it worked for Avatar). However, this film doesn't do the idea justice. While the sets are elaborate and alive with colour, and the variety of characters interest (albeit racist, especially in the case of Ming the Merciless), the poor acting from Flash and Dale do bring down the movie as they feature so prominently within the film.

Flash and Dale's 'relationship', which consists of them meeting on a plane and apparently falling in love straight away, is flawed and lacks substance. There's no chemistry, no history, absolutely nothing to get the audience to believe they are actually in love. Dale is actually very annoying, through the entire film. Whiny and useless, her only purpose is to get captured so Ming has someone to force to marry him at the end of the film, to cause some tension and angst. Dale could easily be replaced with a sexy lamp (ergo the Sexy Lamp Test) and it wouldn't hinder the plot, not really. 

There are a lot of ups and downs in the movie, and a lot of unnecessary plot to pad it out, but there was potential there. The writers just didn't know how to write an action movie, I think. That much is obvious as Ming's defeat was so anticlimactic; he was impaled on the front of the ship by Flash who crashes into the grand hall. Again, in theory the death could have been rather awesome, but it's really not. The film then lacks a final battle, but that's because Flash is an idiot and would never have overpowered Ming. Also, Earth was going to be destroyed in 3 minutes for a lot longer than 3 minutes. More like 14.

My favourite character in the film was Princess Aura, Ming's daughter. Presented as a femme fatale, Aura has a lot of men at court wrapped around her little finger, including her lover Prince Barin of Arboria. Together they make a wonderfully charming, if slightly dysfunctional, couple and I enjoyed watching either or both on screen. 

When Aura saves Flash and brings him to Arboria to hide him from his father, Barin is so overjoyed to see her he runs to hold her in his arms. Then he remembers he's meant to be suave about it, and reigns himself in. He also gets very pissy and jealous of Flash, and actually tries to kill him. He fails, obviously. Barin challenges Flash to a supposed-deadly ritual all Treeman who come of age must face where they put their arm into a tree stump through one of the exits and see if they get bitten by some kind of scorpion thing that lives under some leaves. Yeah, they don't really explain that. But anyway, after Barin and Flash don't get bitten the first two times they do it, Barin announces they're changing the rules so Flash has to go first now. The entire scene make me laugh, as he just doesn't give a shit about fighting fair and is just being very pissy now. It's great.

However, the writers had reduced Aura to nothing more than a pretty girl with daddy issues by the end of the movie. Which was both a shame and a waste. Barin's still awesome though, as pissy and dramatic as ever. So it's not all bad. Barin and Aura do end up together, which is nice. 

So, if you want a terrible film that will make you laugh and wonder what Lorenzo Semple Jr (the screenplay writer) was thinking, I honestly recommend watching this. Just remember, this film was so terrible a parody was made, and the parody got a sequel but this didn't.
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