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Clash of the Titans
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton
Unlike a lot of the Hollywood remakes being greenlit nowadays, I think most people can agree that Clash of the Titans is a film that was due for a makeover. The original was made in 1981 and featured stop motion effects created by Ray Harryhausen. Sure, they were cool at the time, but the film looks dated now, and it takes away from a fantastical story like this when the special effects are no longer cutting edge. Considering the current renewed interest in sword and sandals epics, this movie should have been an easy win for all parties involved.
Unfortunately for Clash of the Titans and director Louis Leterrier, the movie also managed to get caught in the middle of the Hollywood transition to 3-D. At the last minute, Warner Brothers decided to up-convert the film to 3-D in post-production in order to capitalize on the trend, a decision that has proven to be both distracting and problematic. The movie has plenty of other issues as well, but the poor use of 3-D is what ultimately underwhelms and puts the nail in the coffin for what should have been, at the very least, a satisfying visual spectacle.
The story is based on the myth of Perseus (Sam Worthington), the adopted son of a fisherman who does not know that he is actually the demi-god son of Zeus. When the people of Argos rebel against the gods, Zeus does not take kindly to their actions and allows his brother Hades to strike back (killing Perseus’ parents in the process). Hades will release a Kraken (a giant sea monster) to destroy the city in 10 days, unless Perseus can stop him. Together with a band of warriors and his ethereal guide Io (Gemma Arterton), he sets off to do just that.
In some ways the story is immune to criticism because it’s such a simple, archetypal tale, but they did stray from the original in a number of ways, mainly to add more CG and more sex appeal. Io was not in the original, but here she plays Perseus’ love interest in place of Andromeda (his quest to answer a riddle for her hand in marriage is also excised). They also added a strange race of sand people, one of whom ends up tagging along and grunting like Chewbacca for comic relief. Yes, screenwriters Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (Aeon Flux, The Tuxedo) have created something that feels quite a bit like a George Lucas movie here… take from that what you will.
There are definitely two tones in competition with each other throughout the film. Clash of the Titans wants to be macho, dark and violent, but it’s also a PG-13 adventure movie for the whole family. It’s a hard balance because I think some of the monsters are probably too scary for younger kids, while the older kids have grown up with movies like 300 and video games like God of War and will probably wonder why this movie isn’t more bad ass. One thing’s for sure: almost all of the humour in this movie is groan-worthy and extremely corny.
Sam Worthington’s sudden rise to stardom continues with this film, starring in his third major blockbuster in the span of a year after his roles in the ridiculously successful Terminator Salvation and Avatar. While he has a certain amount of charm, and an everyman quality, this is probably his least memorable performance out of the three. Perseus doesn’t feel particularly heroic, since his stubbornness to use gifts from the gods just comes across as stupidity, rather than pride or bravery. The death of his parents is not built up enough to mean anything, and anytime they attempt to give him an inspirational, fist-pumping speech, the words just fall flat. He’s no Viggo Mortensen, no matter how much Letterier wants this to be The Lord of the Rings.
I realize, however, that all anyone really cares about is the special effects. Clash of the Titans does deliver some pretty cool imagery at times, including some disturbing Pan’s Labyrinth-esque creature designs and massive set pieces. As far as the action sequences go, I enjoyed the scorpion battle and some of the swordfights, but for every decent battle there is twice as much exposition that slows down the pace. I wasn’t a huge fan of Leterrier’s work on The Incredible Hulk, and once again he shows here that he knows how to orchestrate destruction, but he doesn’t really know how to give scenes weight. Also, I think it’s worth pointing out that certain characters (ie. Medusa) did not feel nearly as real or creepy in this version, so there’s still a trade-off with the original.
If you’re just going to the movies for an escape and for mindless eye candy, Clash of the Titans may satisfy on some level, but it’s yet another big blockbuster that just feels very empty and personally I’m getting kind of tired of this. It has that generic paint-by-numbers approach where you can feel all the artifice behind it and never once are you drawn into the story. People who grew up with the original will not find a worthy replacement here, and I predict that in 5 or 10 years time, this one will look just as dated. Above all, stay away from the 3-D version of this film. Don’t let studios sucker you in, because in this case, it adds absolutely nothing to the experience. Titans do clash, but I’m afraid that once the dust settles, titans will be all but forgotten. — Sean