The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
Not since "Infra-Man" has a movie opened with a development more ominous than the crisis facing Earth at the beginning of "Flash Gordon." But Earth scientists are playing it cool: A NASA spokesman denies that there's anything unusual about an unexpected total eclipse of the sun. Unusual? That the moon is out of its orbit? Ha! It takes a mad scientist like Dr. Hans Zarkov to realize that the Earth is under attack, and speed to the rescue in his private space ship-with Flash Gordon and Dale Arden aboard as unwilling passengers.
If memory serves, this is more or less the same beginning as in the original movie serialization of "Flash Gordon," back in 1936. Even if it's not, this new Dino De Laurentiis production is true to the tacky pop origins of the Flash Gordon comic strip and the serials starring Buster Crabbe. At a time when "Star Wars" and its spin-offs have inspired special effects men to bust a gut making their interplanetary adventures look real, "Flash Gordon" is cheerfully willing to look as phony as it is.
I DON'T mean that as a criticism. You can make a city float in the clouds and look marginally realistic (as in "The Empire Strikes Back"), but there's something sort of fun about the "Flash Gordon" city that floats in the clouds and looks like a large miniature model floating in fake clouds. And as the spaceships lumber past on the screen, I really wouldn't have minded if they'd left a tube of model airplane glue lying in the lower left-hand corner.
"Flash Gordon" is played for laughs, and wisely so. It is no more sophisticated than the comic strip it's based on, and that takes the curse off of material that was old before it was born. This is space opera, a genre invented by Edgar Rice Burroughs and Hugo Gernsback and other men of unlimited imagination harnessed to definitely limited skills. It's fun to see it done with energy and love and without the pseudo-meaningful apparatus of the Force and Trekkie Power.