Flash Gordon: Revisiting a Childhood Classic That Surprisingly Holds Up

Every single morning I wake up with pain.  Every morning I look back and remember the time my dad looked at me and said, “I’m sorry I brought you into this.” He, of course, was talking about bringing me into this world as a fan of the New York Jets.  There are countless memories of failure, loss, and disappointment.  We are in late July with no starting quarterback, and I have so much anxiety about how this season will go with all the untapped potential we have at every other position on the football field. Just when I thought there would be no remedy for this constant misery, I discovered something on the Xfinity Free on Demand Menu: Flash Gordon.

As a growing boy, I would watch this movie every time I was sick,living in the slums of Wilton, Connecticut.  I have so much emotional attachment to this film, but there is no way it holds up, right? WRONG. Sure, there are plot holes.  Sure, the acting is a little sub par.  But God damn it, is this movie watchable.  Guided by a spectacular Queen soundtrack, the audience follows journalist Dale Arden, Dr. Hans Zarkov (he’s a scientist!), and of course Flash Gordon: Quarterback New York Jets. Our heroes are thrown into an adventure in an effort to save the Earth from the merciless Emperor Ming, and maybe make a few friends on the way.

My only serious qualm with this motion picture is the love story between Flash and Dale.  They crash land into Dr. Hans Zarkov’s (the scientist) lab, after Emperor Ming has been torturing our Mother Earth with countless natural disasters.  Flash and Dale are holding hands as they walk into the lab, and are tricked by Zarkov (he’s a scientist) into flying off the planet to try to stop these atrocities.  Our lovers fall asleep in the rocket and we see Flash’s head drift and eventually fall on top of Dale’s. And boom, that’s love. The way they interact with each other for the rest of the film, the viewer would assume they have been married for years.  But no, they met just that same day.  As I watch this love story play out, I think to myself, “Beau, you’re single, how is that possible?”.  To that, the response is easy, “Beau, you’re not Quarterback of the New York Jets OR the savior of the universe”.  But I digress.

Possibly my favorite scene in the entire film is when our heroes meet the diabolical Emperor Ming.  They introduce themselves (Flash, of course, as Quarterback, New York Jets and Zarkov as, yes, a scientist), however, Ming orders his subjects to prepare Dale for their “pleasure”.  Flash obviously resists, because remember, Flash and Dale are in love 20 minutes into the movie.  Here is where it gets fun.  There is an obvious but unspoken political unrest among Ming and his kingdoms so when Flash does try to take Dale back, only Ming’s henchmen attack Flash, not the hundreds of alien warriors in the throneroom.  These henchmen initially defeat Flash, only until Dr. Hans Zarkov (the scientist) tosses him a green, egg shaped object.  Why would he do this? What good could this egg do? Flash realizes he’s felt something like this before, but what could it be? AH YES, A FOOTBALL.

That’s right, this new alien football revitalizes Flash Gordon, Quarterback New York Jets as he begins to truck down these petty pipsqueaks, just like Matt Forte plans to do against countless defenders in the upcoming NFL season.  Flash then gets in his quarterback stance, yelling, “41! 42! 43! HUT HUT!” And Flash is off! He pegs these henchmen one by one with accuracy that rivals a 2002 Chad Pennington.  Unfortunately, this heroism will not last as one of the green footballs soars into Flash’s cranium due to a terrible Tom Brady-esque pass from Dr. Hans Zarkov (the scientist). Flash falls unconscious and Emperor Ming has finally captured his man.  Flash is sentenced to death and is carried into the execution chamber.  

Well hell, if that doesn’t make you want to watch this masterpiece, I don’t know what will.  What will happen to Flash? Will he save the universe? I suppose watching this 1980 cult classic would answer everything about an NFL Quarterback’s journey to save the Earth. Quite honestly, what else could you ask for in a movie.  All I can truly say is that Flash Gordon shaped me as man more than any other professional football player ever will.  And he didn’t even go to fucking Harvard.

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