No sooner are they in space than they are being dragged down to planet Mongo and brought before Ming. Flash, Dale, and Zarkov find themselves in a fight for, not only Earth, but their lives. What follows is a series of double-crosses and team-ups that will ultimately lead to Flash becoming the "Savior of the Universe."
There is a distinctly and purposefully cheesy look to the movie. It is big, colorful, dumb, and the models look like models. It is not a movie that is looking to advance the state of science fiction, or offer up any deep philosophical understanding. Flash Gordon is all flash (sic) and no substance. It is a world of impossibly ornate costumes, characters of little substance, and some of the worst dialogue you're likely to hear. It is also a world where the hero engages in a football game with Ming's soldiers, and battles a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton with a whip!
For all of the problems it has (the dialogue, the acting, the lack of plot), there is still a lot of charm. A lot of the goodwill stems from that wild and crazy them song by Queen, as well as the rest of their contributed music. There is something about that song that gets the geek in me a little giddy. On top of that, the performances may be bad, but are still rather fun. Max von Sydow brings a regal air to the evil Ming, while his right hand man, Klytus (Peter Wyngarde), is downright mean. While the colors offer lots of pretty things to look at, we should not forget Dale's Melody Anderson and Princess Aura's Ornella Muti, a pair of lovely ladies who will give you even more to look at. That brings us to Sam J. Jones, whose Flash is rather wooden and charmless. He definitely looks the part, but doesn't quite have the presence to be completely successful. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened had Kurt Russell gotten the role (he had auditioned for it).
Directorial duties fell to Mike Hodges, whose previous outings included Get Carter and Damien: Omen II. He does a fine job of giving the movie an old school sheen. He definitely embraced the low tech aesthetics. Hodges did well, but he was not the first choice for the chair. George Lucas had pursued the rights for years. When he found them unavailable, he turned his attentions towards his old school serial-inspired original creation, Star Wars (thank you, Dino Di Laurentis). Other names that were approached include Federico Fellini (Amarcord, 8 1/2) and Nicolas Roeg (The Man Who Fell to Earth).