Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (PG-13)

The Gods Must be Crazy

By Roxana Hadadi

Once upon a time nearly 30 years ago, a cult classic was born with “Clash of the Titans.” With this year’s 3-D remake, all you get is overdone slop.

Really, there’s little here to link the two movies. Sure, the basic characters are the same – hero Perseus, princess Andromeda, the gods Zeus and Hades – but the situations they’re thrown into and their motives are incredibly different, and in many ways, the 2010 version is far less believable. Yes, the effects are far more advanced than the stop-motion Kraken and mechanical owl employed in the first film. But there was a charm and a wonderment there that is lacking in this “Clash of the Titans,” because all you get is effects.

Of those, there are plenty – just not enough awesome ones to verify a 3-D cost. The film was originally shot in 2-D, with 3-D effects were added in later after the phenomenal success of “Avatar.” Though they aren’t too technically awful (nothing seems blurry or duplicated to the viewer, a give-away of hastily done 3-D), they aren’t prevalent enough. For example, the Kraken lunging out at you or Medusa slithering around close to your head both would have been interesting uses of the technology, but most of the 3-D is unnecessarily used in the film’s introductory opening sequence. If you’re expecting to walk away scared, drop those expectations.

But if you’re familiar with the tale of Perseus, you’ll recognize some of this tale, even though Hollywood takes its typical liberties with it. The film starts off by informing viewers that “the oldest stories ever told are written in the stars,” and that a child would one day be born “that would change everything” and impact how the gods Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston) ruled Earth, the underworld and the seas, respectively.

Of course, that child is Perseus, a baby who is saved by fisherman Spyros, who sees a wooden coffin floating in the water. Spryos (Pete Postlethwaite) and his wife then take Perseus in as their own, but over the course of 12 years, the bounty they receive from the ocean dwindles, and Spyros is “tired of being thankful for scraps” the gods provide. Also tired are the Argonauts, who send a group of their soldiers to push a statue of Zeus into the sea – but their act of disrespect is punished harshly, and Zeus kills most of their soldiers as a message not to mess with him. It’s not just the soldiers who die – Spyros, his wife and their child are also killed as a result of Zeus’s retribution, lighting in the grown-up Perseus (Sam Worthington) a fire that can only be quenched by getting revenge against the gods for what he has lost.

Making the score even, though, isn’t that easy. These are gods, after all, and they need people’s prayers and worship to survive, so Zeus sends Hades to Earth to strike fear into man and get them to recognize their love for Zeus again. But Hades, who still resents his brother for tricking him into ruling the underworld, has motives of his own, and while he seems to do Zeus’s bidding at first – visiting Argos and proclaiming that he will release the devastating monster the Kraken in 10 days if they do not sacrifice Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) first – he also sets a plan into motion to undermine Zeus. Perseus, who Hades recognizes as a demigod when he isn’t hurt by an attack on Argos’s soldiers, will just be another victim in his path.

But this tale is legend, so of course it’s not going to go down that way. Despite being shocked at the realization he is a demigod whose father is Zeus, the very god that killed his family, Perseus still burns to avenge their death, and he and a group of Argonaut soldiers decide to kill the Kraken, beginning a journey across the land that puts them in contact with Io (Gemma Aterton), an immortal who has watched Perseus since his birth and knows of his destiny to shake up the ruling order of things; King Acrisius (Jason Flemyng), the man who was married to Perseus’s mother when Zeus impregnated her and who now wants revenge against Perseus; and a group of Djinn, bizarrely disfigured desert people who agree to help the Argonauts.

There’s also the Stygian Witches, or Graeae sisters, who Perseus bends to his will, and Medusa, who can turn a man to stone with her gaze. You can probably figure out what happens to them, though, because this is a hero’s tale, not a loser’s one.

And that lack of suspense is most of the problem with “Clash of the Titans.” Since it’s such an action-fueled assault visually, there’s little to no time invested in character development: Sure, Perseus is angry that his family is dead and wants to do things on his own terms as a man, but why not use his demigod advantages? Andromeda is different than her parents in that she feels the plight of her Argonaut subjects, but what made her that way? And why doesn’t Zeus, being the almighty ruler of the gods, realize that Hades may be out to get him?

Nevertheless, logical decision-making isn’t really what you should anticipate from an action flick, and some of the battle scenes do make up for it, such as when Perseus fights Acrisius and the former king’s drops of blood turn into gigantic evil scorpions. But the ultimate moment – when the Kraken is unleashed – is so CGI-heavy that it’s laughably unbelievable. At least the original “Clash of the Titans” was campy enough to draw an appreciative laugh, not a derogatory one.

For kids who haven’t seen the 1981 version, though, this one might be enough to inspire some interest in reading a Greek myth or two, especially because while the film’s action scenes are exciting, they’re not graphic or ultraviolent. Couple that with only one instance of cursing and one subtly implied romantic relationship between two of the main characters, and the film is surprisingly inoffensive. It’s just also not that good – and certainly not worth forking over the dough for a 3-D ticket.

Previews at an April 3 viewing included “Salt,” “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “The Losers” and “Furry Vengeance,” as well as 3-D previews of “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole,” “Step Up” and “Tron Legacy.”

 

Roxana Hadadi last reviewed "The Last Song."

 

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