Exclusive: Flash Gordon Director Aims To Resurrect Alex Raymond’s Idealism

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Earlier today we talked to Breck Eisner, director of The Crazies, about what it was like to revive a horror masterpiece originally molded by the great George A. Romero. (Look for our Crazies review Thursday)

Well, Eisner is also tentatively attached to the still-in-development big-screen reboot of Flash Gordon. When we spoke on Monday night, I couldn’t resist pressing him for details on the state of the Flash Gordon project – a film that a wide swath of American men would jump at the chance to see, particularly on the glory of an IMAX movie screen.

I see something about Flash Gordon on your IMDB resume…

I’ve been pursuing Flash Gordon for years, watching when the rights shifted or became available. And it’s now set up at Sony.

How far along in the production process are you?

We broke story after I finished post-production on The Crazies and it’s now with the guys. There’s an unbelievable amount of source material to go through. And my big focus was to go back to the original Alex Raymond strips from the ‘30s and ‘40s. He did one every week for two decades pretty much, and there’s a lot of material to go through – a lot of searching and exploring different avenues.

Why did you choose to go all the way back? You could have chosen a couple different routes to update that franchise…

I’ve always been a fan of the source material – I loved the ’80s Flash Gordon but I recognized it was a bit campy and silly. As an adult, it’s the strips that I’ve really enjoyed –

What is it about those strips?

It’s that really innocent view of the universe, that kind of naïve outlook on space, that it exists in a way where there’s a clear good and evil. It’s very black and while. I think there’s something special there. And I think, like The Crazies, we want to update it for a modern audience, but in this case it’s a much bigger spread of time from then to today, so we’ve decided to treat it like Alex Raymond is still alive and drawing them today and to keep the spirit of it alive from today’s perspective. (More at Techland: Percy Jackson, and the all-time best sci-fi child heroes)

Do you think you can actually preserve that sense of naivety, in this day and age? I mean, most superhero movies today need action and CG sequences and some major-league blockbuster effects. It’s hard to be pure nowadays, with so much money involved.

Yeah but I think about the original Superman movie, the first one, and that had a wonderful level of naivety. And you look at Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man, and there’s a place for it. It just can’t be the defining characteristic of the hero, it has to be a human asset that then changes over the course of the movie. Something the character works through.

You mentioned Sony and Spider-Man, they are obviously focused right now on 3D. Would you plan on making this in 3D?

Oh it would definitely be in 3D, it’s the right project to use that with. And the other thing I’m really excited about is that next week I’m seeing this demonstration of a new German 3D sound system, which uses over 100 speakers in the theater and it’s just as expensive to equip each theater with this sound system as it is to outfit it with new 3D projectors.

So we’re talking only a few theaters, but the whole point is that it would push the experience to a whole new level. It has a mix of like 23 channels, versus your standard 6 or 8 channels, and it allows you to bring an audience into the experience in a whole new way.

So you’ve definitely signed up for this thing, at least mentally –

Flash Gordon has been a passion project of mine for so long. But it’s going to be a very big movie, so naturally it’s a big rock to push up the mountain. And I hope I get it up there. I’d love for it to be the next thing that I do, it takes years to develop something of this scale. But I know fans would love it.

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