Theatrical Review: CLASH OF THE TITANS
Writers: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi (screenplay), Beverly Cross (1981 screenplay)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton
Studio: Warner Bros.
If the CLASH OF THE TITANS remake teaches us anything, it is that the gods are lusty and selectively meddlesome. They only come down to Earth to punish and pillage (oh, and there’s a lot of pillaging, at least in retrospect). Sam Worthington’s Perseus discovers that his birth mother was used as a political sex pawn, Medusa was raped and abandoned because she was beautiful, and Perseus’ adoptive family is killed without notice because they happen to be in the way. No wonder mankind is sick to death of worshiping these idols – who can blame them for wanting to tear them down and start anew? Turns out, when your gods can make landfall, bed your women, kill your soldiers, and (here it comes) release their Krakens, you should probably be a bit more fearful of your more hubristic renouncements.
Sticking at least relatively closely to the basic plot of the original, CLASH OF THE TITANS follows young demi-god Perseus on a deeply personal quest to stop the gods from taking over the world out of vengeance and spite. And by “deeply personal,” I really mean “he has nothing else to lose and a bit of a chip on his shoulder.” Perseus’ journey takes him through deserts and up mountains and down to the underworld and back, all while tossing in elementary school level Greek mythology and an ever-increasing group of enemies to battle with his wits (maybe) and a Mt. Olympus-fired sword (probably).
Worthington tackles pretty familiar ground here – in TERMINATOR SALVATION, he was a machine who wanted to be a man; in AVATAR, he was a man who wanted to be a Na’vi; and in CLASH, he’s a demi-god who wants to be a man. Inevitably, of course, Perseus will have to marry the two warring parts of his being to successfully defeat his enemies (or something similar and vaguely inspirational). But beyond Worthington’s passably proficient work in the film, the rest of the cast is often hilariously misused. Ralph Fiennes’ Hades is most notable for his abnormally large forehead, Liam Neeson’s Zeus probably directly influenced the creation and use of the political term “flip-flopper,” and Alexa Davalos’ Andromeda is too underdeveloped to be viewed as the lynchpin we so need her to be. Even the lovely Gemma Arteron’s Io follows Perseus around like an all-seeing puppy dog, often issuing the only thing even resembling a voice of reason (even the catastrophically awesome “calm your storm”).
The film is certainly entertaining enough to watch, at least in terms of pure spectacle. But, of course, CLASH’s predilection for jumping straight into action (or at least movement) means exposition is often thrown out the window. The film’s prologue will give you the most information on background. After awhile, you probably won’t even know most characters’ names. It really doesn’t matter. Perseus jumps headlong into his quest, careening from fight to fight, rarely questioning just what in Zeus’ name he is doing, while spouting off his devotion to people he’s only known a week. I suppose living your entire life on a boat will make you a little socially awkward. He probably doesn’t know their names either.
It hurts me to say this, but Kraken devotees will be disappointed. Despite being mentioned within the first few minutes of the history lesson prologue, the Kraken does not appear until the last few minutes of the film. Neeson’s Zeus languidly releases him, he flops his limbs around Argos for a bit, and finally emerges from the sea like one really big, really ugly, slightly angry worm. Release me, indeed. Other villains do provide more entertainment, however. Perseus’ journey brings his merry group of warriors and idiots into the path of vengeful Acrisius, a horde of horrifyingly big crabby monsters, and the mystical Jin. And then we meet the witches from which Perseus seeks knowledge – shrews who resemble the bastard children of the Kraken and that girl from THE RING. Those wenches knock the Kraken right out of the water.
What may be CLASH OF THE TITAN’s legacy, however, has very little to do with the basics of acting, writing, and directing. The film will, at the very least, stand as a shining example of what not to do when it comes to post-production 3D conversion. It’s not just distractingly bad, it taints the entire movie-watching experience. When the film is recognizably in 3D (and not just plain out of focus), the effect adds nothing to the quality of the film. It’s consistently dark and blurry, and it often renders distant views as laughably fake (see: the palace of Argos). I found myself removing my 3D specs to get a better, brighter view of the action. If Sam Worthington is trying to fight his destiny in a leather skirt, I certainly need to see that in a way that doesn’t so closely resemble the viewing port of the FINDING NEMO ride at Disneyland.