Flash Gordon (1980)

Genres - Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Sci-Fi Action, Space Adventure, Superhero Film  |   Run Time - 110 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Perry Seibert

A director treads a precarious artistic line when setting out to consciously make a campy film. How exactly does one take seriously a film that asks not to be taken seriously? Mike Hodges answers that question in Flash Gordon. Near the end of this film, Dale Arden announces to Flash, while he's in the middle of a possibly fatal fistfight, "Flash, I love you but we only have 14 hours to save the Earth!" That line does a good job of encapsulating the movie's goofy charm. Full of bright primary colors and sets that manage to look simultaneously ostentatious and cheap, Flash Gordon looks like a comic strip. Skyscapes look like matte paintings (because they are) and the costumes, while seemingly outrageous, fit right into this world. With this much eye candy, the story itself hardly matters. Luckily, the filmmakers take their narrative cue from the serials of the '30s and present a breathless, cliffhanger-filled tale of last-second escapes, thrilling fights, and heroic adventures, all delivered with tongue firmly planted in cheek. All this and Queen, too. What's not to love? Just when you think they can't possibly squeeze in another great visual joke, the Hawkmen, with whom Flash has defeated Ming the Merciless, show their gratitude to our hero by flying in a formation that reads "thanks." They then disband and reform in a pattern that reads "Flash." Such sublime silliness is what brings the film's cult audience back time after time.