- Clash of the Titans
(3-D version reviewed)
Directed by Louis Letterier
Screenplay by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
Perseus – Sam Worthington
Zeus – Liam Neeson
Hades – Ralph Fiennes
Calibos/King Acrisius – Jason Flemyng
Io – Gemma Arterton
Andromeda – Alexa Davalos
Danae – Tine Stapelfeldt
Draco – Mads Mikkelsen
2010’s First Really Cheesy Blockbuster
Has an Abominable Script, Great Creature Effects
The first Clash of the Titans, made nearly thirty years ago in 1981, is a cheesy, unintentionally hilarious retelling of a classic Greek myth, the tale of an epic battle between gods and men. Fans of the original film (which rightly became a cult classic) will not go to the 2010 remake with visions of perfection in their heads, since they know exactly what they’re in for. If you search for substance in your movies, you’ll be sorely disappointed, but those who want a simple, fun, adventure filled with great mythological creatures will leave in high spirits.
Greek mythology is full of sex, wrath, jealousy, and other juicy foibles you can find on the cover of any tabloid at the supermarket. Clash of the Titans tells the story of Perseus (Sam Worthington), son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), ruler of the heavens, as Perseus leads the humans in a battle against the gods of Olympus. Specifically, Perseus has a grudge against Hades (Ralph Fiennes), Zeus’s brother and ruler of the underworld, because Hades murdered Perseus’s adoptive family in a fit of rage. Zeus loves the humans and believes he needs their worship; Hades, secretly resentful of his banishment to the underworld, disagrees. Humans, particularly those in Argos, are vainglorious creatures who think they need no gods. When Queen Cassiopeia proclaims her daughter Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) more beautiful than Aphrodite herself, the gods wage war on the humans to teach them a lesson. Writers Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi should have been able to do more with this kind of juicy material, but unfortunately they stuck to the lowest common denominator.
Some films were meant to be viewed in three dimensions, but this one wasn’t. Clash of the Titans was not made for 3D, but converted after filming. Director Leterrier says, “The conversion to 3D adds incredible depth to each scene, enhancing the story and providing an all-encompassing ‘Clash’ experience.” That’s debatable: seeing this movie, audiences may wonder for the first time if Avatar (which also starred Worthington) changed cinema for the better or for the worse. The fascination with 3D and overblown CGI appearing in the wake of Cameron’s film seems detrimental to 2010’s blockbusters. Viewers may find themselves blinking when the dimensional layers don’t quite match up, or wishing the coin hurled at the camera had indeed flown at their faces. Unfortunately, high dimension graphics also reveal little to cheer about. Fiennes’ wig is clearly visible, and if your 3D glasses slide down your nose a bit, you may notice that most of the film would look better in two dimensions.
To be fair, though, Clash of the Titans is certainly imbued with gorgeous scenery and fantastic creatures. The flying horse Pegasus is rendered beautifully and the enormous scorpiochs that must be tamed are genuinely frightening. The Jinn, a race of desert sorcerers made from “charwood and black magic,” are creepy, treelike humanoids whose glowing blue eyes and sharp teeth would give children nightmares. The cursed wretch Calibos is a deformed, horrific monster—a far more formidable enemy in the 2010 version than his 1981 claymation countenance. The Kraken, a legendary sea elemental, is less impressive than the trailers would have you believe. The movie was shot largely in the Canary Islands, and cinematographer Peter Menzies, Jr. uses the lush scenery to its fullest. The camerawork is dynamic—swooping and sweeping around characters and through ravines and desert landscapes.
The movie attracted a cast of well-known faces. Sam Worthington seems to have two emotions: serious and more serious. Lucky for him, the role wasn’t demanding of any more than that—and frankly, he plays a more interesting version of Perseus than Harry Hamlin’s dull jock in the original. Neeson, who also voiced Aslan in the Chronicles of Narnia films, seems to be drawn to god roles. Like Aslan, Zeus is very shiny, always surrounded by a sparkling halo. Fiennes, who also plays Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter films, must by now be comfortable appearing in artful clouds of black smoke. He plays Hades like a slightly less mad, more humble Dark Lord. The filmmakers cast a number of models to look pretty; Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova gets her turn as a much lovelier (and less scary) Medusa than you would expect, and English beauty Agyness Deyn stands in the background of Olympus as Aphrodite.
One of the most interesting aspects of Greek mythology is the emphasis on the power, intelligence, and beauty of the goddesses. Dame Maggie Smith got a fantastic turn in the original film as Thetis, but not a single goddess has a speaking line in the newer version. Luckily beautiful, accursed warrior woman Io (Gemma Arterton) fills the gap fairly well, forming a much more sensible and likeable female lead and love interest than Andromeda.
It’s only April, but Clash of the Titans is the first of 2010’s cheesetastic blockbusters. It’s badly acted and horribly written, though it is certainly visually impressive and the creatures are memorable. The filmmakers should’ve avoided the temptation and released it only in 2D, since 3D didn’t do them any favors. Bottom line: see Clash of the Titans if you want to spend two hours gawking at pretty scenery and laughing at a terrible script. Otherwise, skip it and have a second viewing of the original.