Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Clash of the Titans" Review

"Clash of the Titans" is an unusual film to remake for a modern audience. I mean, how familiar is Joe Moviegoer with the 1981 original or Greek mythology on the whole? The answer is 'Not very,' and the producers know it. They've taken broad steps to protect poor Joe from the alienating Grecian polytheism and comfort him with an immediately recognizable protagonist. To the layman, and in effect, for the layman, they've dumbed it down.

Sam Worthington is Perseus, which I guess is a big deal now that he's the star of the highest-grossing film of all time. And when you hire Sam Worthington, you get Sam Worthington. The '81 Perseus is aloof, oddly lackadaisical, with shoulder-length hair and a caring, inquisitive disposition. Worthington's Perseus is a buzzcut graduate of the Christian Bale/Batman school of acting. His dialogue is gruff, brief, and introverted, because coolness now is apparently inversely proportional to vocabulary and elocution. It speaks to a certain extent about the types of characters we hold up as heroes in our current social climate, but more so, it's a simple example of commercial viability over storytelling practicality. Worthington as Perseus is a carefully calculated business move, and the streamlining of his character is indicative of director Louis Leterrier's greater neutering of the myth for 13-year-old boys. After all, if there's one thing less cool than masculine eloquence, it's ancient culture.

Damn the gods indeed. 2010's "Titans" retells Perseus’ story through a decidedly Christian lens. Mount Olympus has been downsized, and Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes) essentially become surrogates for God and the devil. Most of the roles fulfilled by other gods in the original film have been reassigned to these two to keep things simple, which would be fine if they were interesting characters. Instead, a hunchbacked Fiennes rasps ominously at his brother, and Neeson sucks all ambiguity out of the king of the gods. It's worth noting that the original is far from a masterpiece, but the insecurities and petty vengeances of Zeus and his kin are among the more entertaining ideas it puts forth. The remake drops most of these characters and fits Zeus with a stoic (re: boring) gravitas, and a ridiculous set of digitally glistening armor.

And I can complain until I'm blue in the face about the intellectual inadequacies of "Clash of the Titans," but it's surface level mistakes like bad costumes and poor action choreography that really kills the film. The '81 version is defined by its special effects and set-pieces, and the best we can do in 2010 is CG monsters and post-production 3D? The remake is everything an effects-heavy film shouldn't be: sweeping and grandiose at the expense of intimacy. I don't care how many scorpions you render or how big you've made the Kraken when I don't even understand the decisions your protagonist is making.

But it's not like the remake ruins a classic or anything. The original has its share of problems, and one of the things the 2010 film does right is to kick the pacing in the pants where it needs to, leaving fewer sedentary dry spells than its predecessor. Regardless, I still hold the '81 version in higher regard because of its faithfulness in depicting the pantheon of the Grecian gods, and the charm and personality of its effects. The mythology is all "Clash of the Titans" circa 2010 has to distinguish itself by, and it downplays that difference instead of embracing it. Splash bland action and unimpressive effects on that cinematic identity crisis, and even Joe Moviegoer will agree you've failed.



  1. Nice review. I have already seen this movie so many times. I really enjoyed the second half part, first half didn't worked for me...Clash of the Titans Quotes