20th Century Fox has tapped Australian writer/director Julius Avery to construct a feature film update of ‘Flash Gordon’. At one point, Matthew Vaughn (the ‘Kingsman’ franchise) was lined up to direct but he is still attached as a producer, along with John Davis and Hearst.
Avery only has two films to his credit. His gritty 2014 crime drama, ‘Son of a Gun’, starring Ewan McGregor, Brenton Thwaites, and Alicia Vikander, was nominated for Best Film at the London Film Festival and gained enough notice to land him the job of directing his second film, ‘Overlord’, based on an idea from J.J. Abrams and screenwriter Billy Ray. This horror war film, about American soldiers stuck behind enemy lines on D-Day who find themselves attacked by gruesome monsters, was at one time expected to be part of the ‘Cloverfield’ franchise. ‘Overlord’ has an 89% ranking on Rotten Tomatoes.
‘Flash Gordon’ dates back to the Alex Raymond comic strip which began in 1934. In the story, half-mad scientist Dr. Hanz Zarkov discovers that the planet Mongo is on a collision course with Earth. Zarkov, polo player and Yale graduate Flash Gordon and female companion Dale Arden use his experimental rocket ship to journey to Mongo where they come into conflict with evil ruler Ming the Merciless. They also spend long stretches of time exploring the exotic lands of the planet, including the lush forest kingdom Arboria, ruled by Prince Barin, and the flying city of the Hawkmen, ruled by Prince Vultan.
In 1936, Larry “Buster” Crabbe starred in the first adaptation, a ‘Flash Gordon’ film serial, which he followed with two others. The concept has been adapted numerous other times for television, including in animation, but of course, the most famous take was the 1980 film, directed by Mike Hodges and produced by Dino De Laurentiis. The film itself is an over-the-top camp-fest, but thanks in part to the soundtrack by Queen, it has remained a beloved cult classic over the years. Then, in 2012, the Seth MacFarlane comedy ‘Ted’ included the 1980 ‘Flash Gordon’ as a major plot point, and even featured a cameo by that film’s star Sam J. Jones, reprising his famous role. That brought the film to an even wider– and younger– audience.
Last fall, when Vaughn was still attached to direct, he admitted that his idea for the movie wound up being too close to what James Gunn crafted when he directed ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ for Marvel Studios. As he said at the time:
“Yeah, we’ve been working on it. For me, the only problem with Flash Gordon is Guardians [of the Galaxy] kind of stole what I would have liked to have done with it. You’ve got Star Wars, you’ve got Guardians, so you’ve got to have your own space opera, but you have to find something that can survive among these two very, very great franchises.”
Since this will be Avery’s first big-budget sci-fi film, it’s hard to say whether he has what it takes to overcome the shadow of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’. But it is known that he pitched an idea to Fox and they liked it.
For a sampling of his work, here is the trailer for ‘Overlord’, which opens in theaters on November 9, 2018: