Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Titans will clash.

Perseus is born a god but raised by man. So when his adopted human father is killed by Hades, the god of the underworld, as punishment for mankind’s rebellion against the gods, Perseus swears revenge. The people of Argos ask him to lead a mission to stop the Kraken before Hades uses it to destroy their city as punishment for their defiance towards the gods. Hades has secret plans of his own to use the Kraken to weaken Zeus and dethrone him as the ruler of Mount Olympus.

 

The original Clash of the Titans is one of my childhood favourites so yet again it pains me to see Hollywood pillage the past for its present money-making needs. However unlike a lot of the originals that have spawned remakes and sequels, the original Clash of the Titans is certainly a flawed film and one that could have been improved upon dramatically. The special effects and the mythical creatures are fondly remembered by many people but it was Ray Harryhausen’s last film and certainly not his best work overall. The era of Star Wars had ushered in a new era of effects and Harryhausen’s craft was to be rendered obsolete. It’s a film which is looked back on more fondly than it probably deserves but enchanted and inspired a generation of people who grew up on those types of films – the last of its era holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Remaking something like that is usually a no-win scenario because comparisons to the original will always be brought to the fore. If it’s a better remake, people will say that the original has better nostalgia purposes. If it’s a worse sequel, people will say “I told you so.” S I’m going to try and forget about the original whilst writing this review, as hard as it may be.

But maybe I’m making this review too “personal.” When one of my favourite films from childhood receives a big budget remake, I expect it to stand head-and-shoulders above everything else simply for the fact that I want it to. But when a film is so rooted in the mainstream rot that the last couple of years of blockbusters have produced, it’s hard to feel anything but aggrieved and that’s the major problem with Clash of the Titans. Modern mainstream cinema is dead – it’s just a mass of overblown action films that roll off the conveyor belt, each one more dumbed down and insulting to the intelligence than the last one. The studios believe that the awe and wonder of millions of dollars of special effects can keep us from scrutinising the story and characters and it gets worse as the years go on.

To say the film is based on a legendary Greek myth, there’s so little story to be told here it’s unbelievable. The film spends little time explaining the underlying story and it barely gets past the whole “we need to go from A to B” approach, adding little depth to the story or the characters in the process. Everything seems so rushed, so straightforward and so easy for Perseus that he hardly breaks sweat! There’s no sense that he’s going to fail his quest and the lack of peril really makes things chug along a little more underwhelming than they should. It’s also chocked to the brim with the clichés you expect from any summer blockbuster – CGI overindulgence and overkill at a grand scale; the unnecessary and overlong aerial panoramic shots of various landscapes; token slow-motion moments during action scenes; the smallest amount of time possible between set pieces; characters drained of as much characterisation as possible………the list goes on.

It’s a film that clearly looks towards its toy lines and potential for a sequel. Other clichés come in the form of the ‘Braveheart’ speech that Perseus gives to his men (see Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Troy, King Arthur, et al), the fact that most of his men are given a handful of lines between them (can you say expendable?) and the seemingly forced love interest between Perseus and Io.

From a technical standpoint, the film is superior in every way but that’s to be expected with a budget of $125 million. The special effects look crisp but if you like your cinema and have seen any big budget blockbuster from the past couple of years, you’ll know what to expect. Modern CGI effects are so overblown now that they just fail to impress me anymore. It doesn’t matter how many temples, mountains, deserts, stars, moons and clouds or how detailed everything is, I yearn for the day when everything was just simplified (I blame Lucas and the ridiculous amount of background detail he crammed into Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). Nowadays, there’s so much going on in the background in a lot of scenes that it just overloads your senses to the point where you lose focus on the main detail.

The major set pieces from the original are still here: the scorpion attack, encountering Pegasus, the venture into Medusa’s lair and the finale with the Kraken. The scorpion attack is arguably the highlight of the film and definitely an improvement over the original. Although clearly sculpted on the Scorponok attack from Transformers, the fight does at least do it’s best to conjure up the spirit of the original. The Medusa sequence looks flashier here with a complex multi-level lair adding to the proceedings. But there’s no sense of atmosphere or dread here and it all looks rather straightforward for Perseus in the end. Medusa looks like a computer game sprite and is a totally wasted opportunity to scare the hell of young kids! The same scene from the original is ten times scarier, has ten times more atmosphere and it may not look as flash, but its way more effective. Pegasus also looks good and has been changed into a black horse although its use in the story seems to have been cut short.

Finally, we come to the end set piece with the Kraken. It’s ramped up in size about a thousand times and despite its massive tentacles crashing everywhere in the city, it doesn’t come off as awe-inspiring as it should. Maybe it’s the fact that it doesn’t do much to warrant getting worked up over it or maybe it’s because we know Perseus will arrive in the knick of time to save the day.

Such a great cast is wasted on films like this as there are too many people around and too little for them all to do. In the leads, Sam Worthington still does little to convince me that he can handle the acting chops of a big budget film as his Australian accent breaks through at almost every opportunity. He’s as flat and bland as he was in Terminator: Salvation. He may have the physical presence to be an action hero but the guy can’t handle dialogue and that’s perhaps why his character has one of the lowest amounts of dialogue I can recall from a lead role in many years. In fact it’s the gods who steal the show in the acting department and you’d wish they’d have been given more to do.

Liam Neeson gets little more to do than walk around in a blinged-up silver suit and stroke his beard. Ralph Fiennes seems like he walked straight off the set from the recent Harry Potter flick with his Voldermort character being channelled into Hades as some pantomime-like villain. Gemma Arterton adds little as the love interest and fellow demi-god Io, other than a set of superb legs and thighs and being forced to look stunning for eternity. In mythology, I believe she is some great, great, great grandmother to Perseus so the fact that they cop off at the end makes me squirm around in my seat a little bit. There are so many other names in this that get little or nothing to do that it’s just a criminal waste of talent. The likes of Mads Mikkelsen and Jason Flemyng get decent supporting characters to get into but not much to do in the film with them. Only Liam Cunningham, as one of Perseus’ crew, adds anything like a proper character to proceedings with his sarcastic old soldier adding a few funny lines before his eventual doom.

 

I can’t say that Clash of the Titans is a total failure because it’s not. It had me entertained throughout but in the end it just fails to capture the imagination in any way, shape or form. It’s ‘just another blockbuster’ with no emotional connection to the audience, save for the anger at the ridiculous amount of money some people would have paid to see it in 3-D. Clash of the Titans had potential to inspire a new generation like the original did but all we get is wasted opportunities and another ho-hum modern blockbuster.

 

 ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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