Clash of the Titans

Clash of the Titans

Studio: Warner Brothers
Starring: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen, Jason Flemyng, Alexa Davalos
Rating: Rating System!Rating System!Equals 1/2 purse/ 5 Purses

I was so looking forward to this movie.  I was a huge fan of the original Clash of the Titans. I had a stuffed winged horse named Pegasus and a rather scratchy owl named Bubo; both of which I believe are cuddled in Sprout’s bed as I write this. Ray Harryhausen’s Medusa scared the dickens out of me and I loved her for it.

Needless to say, I was looking forward to seeing the reboot.

The basic plot remains the same.  Perseus, son of Zeus, is on a quest to kill the diabolical Medusa and use her head to turn the frightful Kraken to stone before it can kill the princess Andromeda. The princess is being sacrificed to the beast in order to make up for her mother’s frightful arrogance in face of the gods.

In the original, this was the straightforward story, but this time around, it’s only the framework for bigger narrative.  In the new movie, humans are sick of being ruled by the capricious and venal gods of Mount Olympus and are staging a rebellion against their deities by denying them worship and tearing down their temples and monuments. Manipulating the situation is Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the god of the underworld, who looks to use the conflict as the means to usurp his brother Zeus’ throne and gain Mount Olympus.

Enter Perseus (Sam Worthington), newly rescued after having his family ripped apart in the war between mortals and god.  He’s plenty pissed off to find out about his demi-god status, but is willing to lead the quest if it means he gets his chance for revenge on the Olympians who ruined his life.

The biggest problem with Clash of the Titans 2010 is the lack of  a character worthy of audience support.  You have no idea who’s side to be on.  Are you on the gods’ side even though they are corrupt and selfish and regard their creation (which they claim to love) as nothing more than playthings, easily discarded or destroyed? Or do you back the mortals who are trying to overthrow the Olympians tyranny but act as flawed and feckless of their would be masters, ignoring the plight of the poor and displaced while they revel in their supposed  moral superiority?

Finally, there’s the focus of the narrative, Perseus, who is, technically, the hero of the piece. Yet he behaves in such a way as to make a fangirl want to whack him upside of the head with her overweighted handbag in order to knock some sense into him.  Throughout the film, he behaves like a spoiled brat, refusing to use any of the abilities that come from being a demi-god to help the people who are traveling with him or to achieve his goal.  He even refuses to accept the magical sword that Zeus has given him in a rather tardy expression of paternal devotion.  You could practically hear him stomping his foot like a teenager while arguing with Draco (Mads Mikkelsen – best actor in the movie) who tries to convince Perseus to use whatever tools he has at his disposal to keep them all alive.  While Perseus throws a hissy fit, his companions are dropping like flies.  Worthington barely cracks a smile, or interacts with this companions in a meaningful way. It’s hard to see how Perseus could possibly inspire the loyalty of his comrades that would be required for men to follow their leader to the banks of Hell itself.  He barely seems deserving of their devotion.

The only person who invokes any audience sympathy is the Princess Andromeda.  She alone behaves as a hero should, risking her life to go out amongst people who are calling for her death in order to feed the poor and orphaned.  I would have loved to have seen more of her, she certainly was more interesting than any of the main characters, but unfortunately, she only gets about 10 minutes of screen time.

The lack of anyone heroic in the movie also makes for a rather somber atmosphere to the whole thing.  There are some feeble attempts at humour, but they fall flat against the unrelieved grimness of the story.  There is one scene however, probably the best in the movie, where you can’t help but chuckle.  The men are in the armory getting kitted up for the quest, when one of the young recruits ask what they should bring.  After discussing the possibilities of success, Draco tells them to pack everything.  Perseus, starts looking around for equipment, reaches into a bag and pulls out Bubo, the owl from the original, still whirring and flapping happily.  Confused, he looks to the others, who just shake their head and tell him to leave it.

And that is what the movie is missing, a sense of fun.  These stories are supposed to be grand adventures. How can a movie involving flying horses, snake women, giant sea monsters not be fun? It’s frustrating because all the ingredients are there, but director Louis Leterrier manages to suck all the joy out of it.

Technically, the movie is fine, but nothing to write home about. We didn’t see the movie in 3D, mainly because it wasn’t shot in that format and the producers only converted to the format after they saw how well Avatar did.  I don’t think we lost anything by seeing it in 2D. If asked, I would say that unless seeing a coin bounce towards you across the River Styx get’s your rocks off, save your money.

There really isn’t much more to say. The acting is passable, some times more than passable considering Gemma Arterton didn’t choke on such brilliant lines as “Perseus, you’re not just part man and part god, you’re the best of both!” The CG monsters were alright but nothing to marvel at and are completely devoid of the charm that infused their predecessors. Frankly I preferred the Harryhausen’s herky jerky beasts in the previous incarnation to these monsters.

The original Clash of the Titans was one of those films that was so bad, it was good.  Unfortunately, the new one is just bad.  It certainly isn’t worth the crick in my neck that I got watching it.

By the way, check out the great interview The Toronto Star has with Ray Harryhausen.

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