Fox to Bring ‘Flash Gordon’ Back to the Big Screen

The campy science fiction superhero Flash Gordon may finally be getting the big-budget treatment, as Twentieth Century Fox has secured the film rights, according to a report from The Hollywood Reporter. Fox landed the rights in a deal that has John Davis producing and the writers behind Star Trek 3, J.D. Payne and Patrick McKaye, writing the screenplay.

The Hollywood Reporter said that Davis worked for over a year to get the rights for a film version of the comic strip from the Hearst Corporation. Various Hollywood studios have been trying to get a Flash Gordon project off the ground for years, and the publication cites that Universal, Mandalay, and Sony have all gotten film rights to the strip in recent years, but no movies have materialized.

Flash Gordon was created by cartoonist Alex Raymond in 1934. The superhero is a blonde, blue-eyed, handsome Yale graduate and polo player who is friends with the scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov. Zarkov creates a spaceship to help find the source of fiery meteors that have been raining down on Earth and Flash joins him on the trip. They crash land on the distant planet Mongo and find that the planet’s evil ruler Ming the Merciless is responsible for the meteors. Flash Gordon has to save Earth from the evil alien and has many adventures on Mondo along the the way.

While Flash Gordon was never as popular as DC heroes Batman and Superman or the huge Marvel franchises that include Spider-Man, the Avengers, X-Men, or the Guardians of the Galaxy, movie audiences have shown time and again that they’re willing to show up to theaters in droves for big-budget comic book adaptations. Fox has scored what’s almost a sure bet with the rights to Flash Gordon — if it manages to get the project off the ground unlike the other studios who have gotten the rights to the movie.

Flash Gordon already has a long history on film as well. He was the subject of several movies made in the 1930s as well as the cult classic 1980 film Flash Gordon starring Sam J. Jones with music by the band Queen. It will be interesting to see if Fox can find a way to tackle such frequently goofy material in the same serious style of The Avengers, X-Men, and Batman films that have recently performed so well at the box office, or if the studio will keep Flash Gordon’s campy nature intact.

The Hollywood Reporter mentioned that Fox may try to parlay the film into a franchise. Comic book spin-off movies focusing on one particular character amongst an ensemble of heroes has proven to be a successful formula as well, which has been seen with the seemingly endless Avengers franchise and The Wolverine movies starring the most popular X-Men character.

Fox might get some good information to guide the project from how the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy movie performs. That Marvel series tackles similar interstellar subject matter, featuring an American pilot who steals a powerful orb from a bloodthirsty alien named Ronan. To escape Ronan, the pilot has to team up with a group of misfit heroes who also help him gain a better understanding of the orb’s power. The movie is set to come out late this summer and has an ensemble cast including Chris Pratt as the hero, as well as Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, and Vin Diesel.

Guardians of the Galaxy, like Flash Gordon, is a fringe comic strip compared to The Avengers, Spider-Man, and others that have made for such successful movies. If audiences enjoy Guardians despite not being familiar with the characters beforehand, then Fox can be confident they’ll sign on for a Flash Gordon movie as well.

More From Wall St. Cheat Sheet:

Follow Jacqueline on Twitter @Jacqui_WSCS