Directed by: Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton
OK, so Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans isn’t very good, but neither is it very bad—considering the type of movie it is. I’ve given some thought to the topic (well, maybe 30-minutes worth), and I’m not coming up with a really good film based on Greek mythology. When I was 8 years old, I thought Jason and the Argonauts (1963) was the bee’s knees, and now—exempting nostalgia and the impressiveness of the Ray Harryhausen effects (most of them, at any rate)—I couldn’t make much of a case for it in terms of acting, writing or direction. It’s a swell fantasy—for a younger audience. I suspect that much the same could be said of Clash of the Titans.
The 1981 version of Clash of the Titans has its adherents—mostly comprised of folks who saw it at an impressionable age and those who think that Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation is enough to put a film over the top. I was too old at the time to be impressed, and I’ve never been sold on a movie strictly because of its effects work. Even so, apart from being less stilted—and reducing that damned R2D2 knockoff owl from the original to an in-joke cameo—I don’t see that this remake offers much in the way of improvement. The film feels perfunctory and something of a bore. I had a more compelling time in fourth grade with a dog-eared library book on Greek myths.
The premise finds that humankind have become fed up with the gods and their capricious ways, which would seem a more tenable stance if said gods weren’t quick to take offense and retaliate with full smiting power. Still, the gods need the love and worship of the folks who don’t live on Olympus, because this somehow feeds their power. Thus, the gods must do something. Zeus’ (Liam Neeson festooned with nine yards of crepe hair and the most highly polished suit of armor in history) brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes with even more crepe hair and in dire need of a good scrubbing after arriving on the scene in a cloud of dirt) makes a deal to scare the humans into worshipfulness. (The boy has a future as a fundamentalist preacher.) However, this is really a ploy it seems to unleash his sea monster, the Kraken, and so doing cause the people to hate and fear (the emotions Hades feeds on) the gods even more. Hades makes the good people of Argos a deal: Sacrifice the king’s daughter, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos, Defiance), to the Kraken and everybody else will be spared.
While the people seem pretty cool with this notion—especially a bug-eyed religious zealot—Andromeda and her family are understandably less enthusiastic. But all is not lost, because the rather gloomy bastard son of Zeus, the demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington), has decided to go fetch the head of Medusa and use it to turn the Kraken to stone—mindless of the property damage a gigantic crumbling stone Kraken might cause. Apart from being gloomy, Perseus’ only character trait is that he hates his father and thinks of himself as a fisherman like his late adoptive dad (Pete Postlethwaite). In fact, he spouts the fisherman bit often enough that I kept expecting him to paraphrase the John Lennon quote from “Magical Misery Tour”: “If I could be a fisherman I would, but I can’t because I’m a f**king demigod.” Alas, he doesn’t.
Of course, many special-effects obstacles—including giant scorpions that are subsequently used as cumbersomely slow transportation—must be overcome. There are also some helpful Djinn rock (or maybe wood) people, who appear to have been imported from Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars (1938), to add color to it all. When the big Kraken showdown occurs, it doesn’t seem quite worth the bother—perhaps because the damned thing looks like a soggy version of the anatomically unlikely monster from Cloverfield (2008). And the final scene—looking hopefully toward a sequel—is straight out of one of those Italian Sons of Hercules epics.
The gods themselves—apart from Zeus and Hades—don’t get much of a workout. In fact, they appear to be beamed up to the Enterprise when the going gets rough. It’s just as well. The acting is spotty to say the least. The gods all speak with Royal Academy of Dramatic Art-graduate accents (because we all know the ancient Greeks sounded like upper-class Brits), while Sam “If I could be a fisherman” Worthington uses his normal Australian tones (class distinction maybe). Of the actors, only Neeson, Fiennes and the fellow who plays the religious zealot seem to realize that this is campy stuff. Everyone else is ridiculously serious. Worthington proves what I suspected after Avatar: that he was only charismatic in Terminator Salvation (2009) because he was standing next to Christian Bale.
In the end, the film is simply adequate, but it is that at least. I saw it in the 35mm 3-D version, which, as I predicted, didn’t look appreciably different from digital 3-D. But all in all, the 3-D is nothing to get excited about. You’d be just as well—perhaps better—advised to see the movie in plain old 2-D and save the extra expense. Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.