Simply put, it was a film never made to be taken seriously. Clearly, its performances, effects, and production design were all a bit over-the-top -- much in the tradition from the comic strip's original look -- and maybe even in some small way was meant to poke fun at the tropes all captured within the wildly imaginative universe. Coming as it did on the not-too-distant heels of George Lucas' Star Wars and a host of studio imitations, I guess it was just easy to dismiss Gordon's cartoonish sensibilities as a creative misfire, but I think the flick looks and behaves exactly as it was designed.
And what about the casting of the much-revered musical legend Topol in the role of Dr. Hans Zarkov?
Well, the decorated actor's inclusion might've been part of what threw folks off a bit. Given his reputation for appearing in the realm of the stage and theatrical movie musical could've had some anticipating something a bit different from the flick. (Not that there's anything wrong with musicals, folks, but I personally can't stand them ... but that's just me.) With the man's pedigree, I can't help but wonder if audiences expected something a bit more -- erm -- highbrow? I was in my high school years at the time of this one's release -- saw it more than once on the big screen -- and I unabashedly loved it, so I can't speak for any confusion.
Still, this isn't to say that the actor was entirely perfect for the role. I think while the part was written reasonably well, it's hard to hear the man deliver lines and not think of him singing them instead; his deep, rich voice does kinda/sorta have that effect in a few places. I can't even begin to imagine that's what was intended, but maybe -- just maybe -- producers thought Topol's inclusion might've somehow elevated the film's reputation and/or reception upon release to the critical community. I mean -- after all -- who's going to criticize Topol?
But because the picture is a bit of a legend in certain genre-laden circles, I think it's safe to say that the man has enjoyed a life well beyond the scope of singing and dancing.
Alas, none of us lives forever -- even Prince Vultan cries out "Who wants to live forever?" in the film -- and word has reached SciFiHistory.Net's news desk this morning of the man's passing.
Thoughts and prayers are extended to the family, friends, and fans of Topol. May he forever rest in peace.