We are entering a new age of cinematic pulp.
I know for some audiences, the word “pulp” makes them immediately think of Quentin Tarantino, thanks to the way he staked his claim on it in the ’90s, but for some of us, pulp is a particular flavor of fantastic fiction that has only been flirted with in recent years. “Avatar” may have felt brand new to many audiences, but I thought it was a big fat slice of pulp science-fiction, unapologetic about it. And with “John Carter Of Mars” in production now and Sam Raimi talking about “The Shadow” and Shane Black writing a new “Doc Savage”… well, it feels like now’s the time if you are sitting on a pulp property worth doing.
And when I spoke with director Breck Eisner today about his new film “The Crazies,” I had to ask him what is up with “Flash Gordon,” a project he’s been associated with for a while now. There was a immediate difference in him, like he perked up. He sounds happy with “The Crazies,” but he sounds positively rabid about “Flash Gordon.”
“‘Flash Gordon’ is a project I’ve been passionate about for years and that I’ve been pursuing for years. I love sci-fi. I absolutely am obssessed with sci-fi,” he told me. “The ‘Flash Gordon’ that we’re currently writing… we’re turning in the script in a month or so. Maybe two months.”
I asked him what approach audiences could expect if he actually gets the film made. “It’s not in any way a remake of any version that’s been done before. It’s not going to be the camp of the ’80s. It’s not going back to the serials. We’re looking at the original Alex Raymond strips and treating those as if… those strips were drawn and written in the ’30s and the ’40s, and that audience saw them much differently than this post space-age audience.” That’s certainly been a sticking point in adapting other pulp properties, so it’s smart to consider how to handle the material in a way that’s true to intent but that also plays like it’s of the moment. “So our approach is, what if Alex Raymond were doing the strips today? What would that be? It’s much more aggressive and intense and dynamic, and it’s still action adventure and fun, but for a more savvy world. It’s a much more dynamic journey that this character goes on.”
I told him how it feels like the pump is primed, and how pulp is suddenly in the air, and I asked him about the inevitable comparisons to “John Carter Of Mars” when he makes his film. “I know. ‘John Carter’ will beat us [to release] for sure. They have a good script and they’re going now. But hopefully the studio will love the script we turn in and ‘Flash Gordon’ will happen soon.”
I’d love to see what a 21st-century Alex Raymond world looks like, and I’m curious what sort of design team Eisner puts together on this film. In the meantime, I’ll have more from Eisner on “The Crazies” next week, and if we hear anything about “Flash Gordon” in the months ahead, you’ll read it right here on HitFix.
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