Friday, March 28, 2008

Sci-Fi Channel - Impingeing on my Eyeballs again (Part 2).

Well in the last post I talked about Sci-Fi Channel monster movies but somehow left out my conclusion: just like bog-standard old-style monster movies but with the script, camerawork, acting and general intelligence turned up a notch, and the special effects turned up four or five notches. Now though, on the basis of two episodes, I'm going to ask why the new Flash Gordon series[1] fails.

Is it that Flash (1980), previously a pilot in training and quarterback for the New York Jets, is now a local marathon champion who has a workshop at the back of his Mum's house? Probably not. Although this implies that there will be less brawling and flying and more running and fiddling with equipment, that's still a show I can be interested in. Flash has gone from a super-heroic figure to look up to and aspire to and is now an everyman[2] (just like you!) thrust into a crazy world.

Is the change in threat and motivation the problem? Ming isn't trying to destroy the world, he just wants to get his hands on that thing with all knowledge; Flash isn't trying to save the world, he wants to find out what happened to his father. On balance, I don't see a difficulty. The world is still in danger (as Zarkov demonstrates) simply from too much inter-dimensional travel. You can't have Ming trying to destroy the world every week, and every week Flash thwarting him. Or rather you can, but we've seen how successful that is in the 1930s version. Other threats, problems and motivations are needed to make the show last.

So is the problem Ming? Yes, I rather think it is; Ming, and the lack of imagination and craziness that Ming and Mongo should have. Ming as a clean-shaven guy with hair, in a black tunic, having created a hydraulic empire and acting like a smooth corporate fascist; Mongo being mostly oddly lit fields and woods and the city looking... well just not gonzo enough. Yes, that's what's wrong with it. It's not Flash Gordon without Ming the Merciless looking and being exotic and fascinating and just plain bonkers.

[1] Paul notes that it is the only show to ever get no stars from SFX magazine.
[2] Or since he's a twenty-something who lives with his Mum, what Sci-Fi think is their typical viewer.
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