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Clash of the Titans (2010) *1/2

April 2, 2010

Clash of the Titans ver5

Written by: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Produced by: Kevin De La Noy and Basil Iwanyk
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Rated PG-13 (for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality)
118 min.
U.S. Release Date: April 2, 2010

At the core of my cinematic soul, I remain an optimist. I believe that movies can still educate, enlighten, entertain and a viewer can even have (gasp!) fun at the movies. That’s right, it’s possible. Sadly, it’s become quite the challenge to maintain this approach to cinema when studio heads seem to assume what I will want to see (and how close I want to see it!) on the silver screen. Such is the case when I heard a remake of 1981’s “Clash of the Titans”, the Greek mythology epic, was greenlit. Of course, they’ll call it a “reimagining” to distance themselves from a film that is nestled in nostalgia for many or brushed off as kitsch by others. I groaned at the idea of a re-whatever-ya-wanna-call-it since the original had gob-smacked my nine year-old self. So, initially, I groaned but then I thought, if they could maintain the charm and spectacle while updating the special effects, well then, we might have something here.

Well, we do have something here but I highly doubt it would pique the interest of anyone immersed in the classic myths nor will it appeal to those who like to see awesome CGI aligned with heart, or at least, a brain. Sadly, director Louis Leterrier (“The Incredible Hulk”) prefers dazzle over depth. He obviously believes viewers will be drawn in by visual delights, paying no mind to lame dialogue, poorly conceived characters and weak 3D.

The film opens amid the stars in space as the camera swerves around constellations while a female narrator delivers Greek Mythology 101. She speaks of how Zeus, god of the heavens and Poseidon, god of the seas are brothers and how Zeus betrayed their other brother, Hades, leaving him as god of the underworld. Zeus winds up demanding that the humans he created worship him while Hades feeds off the fear of man. Nice god, this Zeus.

Hades (Ralph Fiennes) has had it with the underworld and demands Zeus (Liam Neeson) allow him to let loose on the arrogant and ungrateful humans. Zeus knows that man now rejects him despite the fact that he gave them life and sees how they need to be put in their place. Despite the disapproval of the rest of the Olympians, he relents to Hades unaware of his own nefarious plans. Why are all-knowing gods rarely ever all-knowing?

Meanwhile, a fisherman named Spyros (Pete Posthlewaite) finds a baby boy alive and well, adrift at sea in a coffin. He and his wife raise the baby as their own, calling him Perseus. As a young boy of about twelve, Perseus looks to the heavens, well aware of his upbringing and feeling like he has no family of his own despite the love Spyros and his family has bestowed upon him. Twelve years later, Perseus (now a strapping Sam Worthington who somehow manages to keep a buzzcut and specific amount of stubble throughout the story) now has a sister and works with his family on their fishing boat. Unable to catch any fish, Spyros becomes spiteful to the gods and discards his wife’s wishes that they should just be thankful for the lives they are given.

We see the camera hold on Perseus’ brooding face as his father proclaims that some day “someone must take a stand” against the gods. This is just one of many foreboding exposition lines that are thrown out. It proves that the writers clearly do not trust the viewers to discover on their own what will become obvious. The tempest of Perseus rising anger erupts when his family is drowned at sea by a careless Hades, becoming victims of the war that has started between the gods and man. It is here that we are reminded of Worthington’s limited acting ability. You don’t surface from the depths after desperately trying to pull your family out of a sinking ship and have the energy to cry to the sky. It would be more dramatic for us to see him barely hold on to the floating boat debris.

Hades lays down an ultimatum before the city of Argos, giving them ten days till an eclipse. Once the eclipse hits, if the lovely princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), isn’t sacrificed to the Kraken, the leviathan offspring of Hades….well, life goes to hell. There’s no explanation as to how he has control over the sun but we’re not meant to ask such questions. Thus, the timeless tale of a beauty quelling the beast goes back to ancient myth. Too bad there is no time taken to make us care for the people in jeopardy. Those that have lines are so arrogant and prideful that we could care less if they’re destroyed while panning shots of dirty villagers caring for their family, fail to move us.

Perseus is found, thrust into this drama and it’s revealed to him and everyone else that he is the demigod (part man, part god) son of Zeus.  Seeing that he has no love for the gods, he is none too thrilled at this revelation which is confirmed by a mysterious priestess named Io (Gemma Arterton) who supposedly has been watching over Perseus since birth (and she appears only now?). She tells him that hades will weaken if the Kraken is killed. King Kepheus (Vincent Regan), wanting to save his daughter, demands Perseus take a group of soldiers and defeat the Kraken. Perseus agrees, not out of a desire to save Andromeda or the people of Argos but out of straightforward revenge. So much for nobility and character in a “hero”.

The rest of the film is a droll update to the classic tale of Perseus as he and his sandaled crew make their way to the Stygian witches in order to find out how to kill a Kraken. It’s a journey that gets so muddled in side exposition that at mid-point, I had to remind myself of this. Along the way, they make time for Draco (Mads Mikkelson, playing one of the only intriguing characters), a career warrior, to teach Perseus the speed 101 version of “the way of a sword”. There’s also a quick introduction of Pegasus, the lone black flying horse in a meadow of beautiful white ones. We know that this horse eventually becomes Perseus’ steed and it’s fitting that he is retconned to black since this Perseus is all emo and angst-filled.

Oh and somewhere in here it’s also revealed that long ago Zeus basically raped Perseus’ birth mother. Again, nice god, this Zeus. Her husband wound up becoming a gnarly-looking, gargoyle-man named Calibos (Jason Fleming) who gets secretly powered-up by Hades, (told ya he was nefarious) and has it in for the son of Zeus. Calibos lacks the menace that oozed from the character in the original. The only thing oozing out of this Calibos is acidic blood that turns into giant scorpions. They snip and stab at our heroes but it’s okay cuz in no time they’ll be domesticated and saddled as transport since time is a-wasting.

And what of the infamous battle with the evil gorgon witch Medusa which freaked me out as a child? It’s turned into a video game here. There’s no menace or intensity as she slithers and rattles and cackles in her lair. I’m sure this whole sequence would be ten times cooler on an Xbox or PS3 console.

So, with my windy and somewhat snarky summation of this “epic fail” epic, it’s easy to see how hard it is for me to maintain any hope for a well-executed movie in this genre. It feels like this is just one of many films that have tried to capture the fervor behind “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and even the testosterone-infused “300” but this doesn’t even come close to those films. Not even in visual style. For the life of me, I could not figure out why Neeson and Fiennes (a “Schindler’s List” reunion!) looked like Appalachian Mountain Men in gaudy glam-rock outfits. These are gods, right? What do they need shiny armor for which they only wear while on Mt. Olympus? They’re all-powerful! They can walk around naked anywhere they want. I could go on and on, but I know my many questions will never be answered.

Since it has 3D slapped on the ads and posters, audiences will flock to it. Little do they know that the 3D here literally was slapped on at the end of post-production. This was not filmed in 3D like “Avatar” and it shows. The 3D is simply unimpressive and actually distracting instead of enhancing. No big surprise since it was tacked just like Tim Burton’s recent film. Ask yourself why and hopefully you’ll come to the realization that studios think you are stupid and know that 3D equals boffo box office. They don’t care about artfully rendering 3D environment and realistically placing the actors in it, they just care about consumers paying a higher price. And if you have to see this movie, you’ll be paying a price regardless but just see it in 2D and keep your extra six bucks.

There will also be plenty of families clamoring to see this remake. Parents, don’t let this be your child’s first exposure to the Greek myths. Watch the original with them and see how they do. Then go read some Greek mythology with them and figure out why those stories were told. Much can be learned about humanity in those stories. Those are lessons you won’t find in a CGI-infused blockbuster.

It’s uncertain what fondness or nostalgia Leterrier and crew have for the original film since this film lacks the whimsy and heart apparent in that gods and monsters adventure. Maybe there’s a subtle hint in a quick scene in which Buboo, the mechanized owl was completely discarded, just like anyone with a soft spot for the original. With the advances in technology, I’m not opposed to change or uprades if something amazing can be seen on the screen that still has substance. But a cool-lookin’ Kraken does not make a cool movie-viewing experience and this “Clash” feels more like a drawn-out dirge than a magical mythic tour.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2010 11:12 am

    Ideally, the people of Argos learn that Andromeda needs to be sacrificed to save the city, and then they storm the royal courts and kill her. Movie over. The idea that this serves as the film’s premise is crazy and slightly insulting. You’re right… the only thing this Greek drama does is distance us from the characters and ultimately has us wishing that they would just all die.

  2. David J. Fowlie permalink*
    April 2, 2010 11:35 am

    That woulda been great! And how in the world is the Kraken, with such a ginormous mouth, supposed to eat that tiny appetizer chained to the pillar? At least it serves as a reunion of recent James Bond and “Kick-Ass” actors…at least?

  3. April 4, 2010 11:27 am

    I am so bummed about this flick. I was hoping that they would have injected this film with some of the whimsy of the original version. Oh well. The poster art should have warned me that this was to be all visual and no story. I guess I will wait until this comes out on Blu-Ray. Thanks dude!

  4. David Adams permalink
    August 2, 2010 3:46 pm

    I liked your review until the end. A remake should be better or different than the previous film, not then.

    • David J. Fowlie permalink*
      August 2, 2010 5:41 pm

      You are to be commended for reading such a lengthy review….THEN liking it until the end! But what about you? Did you like this remake better THAN the original and are you anticipating a sequel?


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