Clash of the Titans
Director : Louis Letterier
Screenplay : Travis Beacham and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi (based on a by Beverley Cross)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2010
Stars : Sam Worthington (Perseus), Liam Neeson (Zeus), Ralph Fiennes (Hades), Jason Flemyng (Calibos / Acrisius), Gemma Arterton (Io), Alexa Davalos (Andromeda), Tine Stapelfeldt (Danae), Mads Mikkelsen (Draco), Luke Evans (Apollo), Izabella Miko (Athena), Liam Cunningham (Solon), Hans Matheson (Ixas), Ashraf Barhom (Ozal), Mouloud Achour (Kucuk
Louis Letterier’s remake--or reimagining, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it--of 1981’s campy mythological mash-up Clash of the Titans is just about what you would expect it to be. Maintaining only the barest of plot threads from Desmond Davis’s original, this new cinematic beast pours on the CGI and delivers a one-two punch of speed and size, upping the ante in every department except coherence and emotion. Perhaps you have to have been a child of the ’80s to fully appreciate the original, but seeing this ramped-up monstrosity is like watching a Saturday kiddie matinee on way too many steroids. It certainly has its moments, but as a whole it relies far too heavily on sound and fury at the expense of virtually everything else. It’s meatier, but not necessarily more filling.
Drawing from the original screenplay by Beverly Cross, who drew freely from numerous Greek myths and filled them out with some creative license and good-natured silliness (an approach she also used on 1963’s Jason and the Argonauts), screenwriters Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi give us roughly the same story, which involves the demi-god Perseus (Sam Worthington)--who was fathered by the king of the gods Zeus (Liam Neeson)--racing against time to steal the head of the gorgon Medusa in order to stop the monstrous Kraken from destroying the city of Argos. Those not up on their Greek mythology need not worry: Everything but the kitchen sink goes into the narrative blender, and as long as you can make some form of distinction between gods and mortals, all is well. A few in-jokes aside (notably a direct snub of the beloved/despised mechanical owl Bubo), you don’t need to have seen the original to find your way here, although familiarity with the adventures of Harry Hamlin, Burgess Meredith, and others will certainly affect your response.
This new version throws in a couple of good kinks, principally the inclusion of Hades (Ralph Fiennes), Zeus’s bitter brother and the lord of the Underworld who needles the gods into punishing humankind for their lack of faith and prayers (apparently the gods need prayers and adulation to survive, while Hades just needs fear; it’s kind of like Nancy Pelosi versus Glenn Beck). Unfortunately, by whittling down the immortal conflict to a spat between two brothers, this version loses the wonderfully campy, divaesque bitch-fest of the original, which pitted Laurence Olivier’s cotton-headed Zeus against Ursula Andress, Maggie Smith, and Claire Boom. This version also takes some strange license in the romance department, essentially denying union between Perseus and the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) in favor of Io (Gemma Arterton), another demi-god “cursed” with agelessness who has been watching over Perseus since he was a baby. However the film’s biggest and most telling misstep is its constant equation of louder, faster, and more intense with better, an error that is particularly noticeable during the sequence in which Perseus is trying to behead Medusa. For all of its campy out-datedness, the original turned this sequence into a dark, creepy, tense affair built on slow-burn suspense; here, Letterier (The Incredible Hulk) uses it as an excuse for another generic, attention-addled action sequence, with Medusa reimagined as a morphing beauty with lightning quick speed that robs her of any true malice.
Sam Worthington, who has already beaten his way through the big-budget spectacle of Terminator: Salvation and Avatar, is a decidedly different kind of beefcake hero than Harry Hamlin. While Hamlin’s heroism as Perseus was predicated on an old-fashioned sense of earnestness (“There has to be a way!”), Worthington’s is of a more modern variety, fueled equally by vengeance and a generic sense of severity that defines the movies as whole (it’s all in the hair: just look at Worthington’s buzz-cut intensity versus Hamlin’s sensitive fluff-job). Whereas the original just wanted to entertain you with its outdated special effects (by the great stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen doing one final hurrah) and sense of high adventure, the new-fangled remake wants to blow you out of your seat. It’s a fundamental difference of intent.
Copyright ©2010 James Kendrick
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