Let me just say right off the bat that I didn’t see Clash of the Titans in 3-D. It didn’t seem necessary. Avatar and Alice in Wonderland were fantastic visual experiences, but I’ve been leery of this craze since it got here. “This is fun now, but it’ll somehow be gross later,” my inner jaded asshole warned. Hollywood couldn’t wait to prove me right. Turns out Clash of the Titans wasn’t even shot to be a 3-D movie. The decision to show the movie in 3-D was merely an excuse to cash in on public stupidity and charge an extra $3 for tickets. I wonder if those suits even bother to watch the movies they put out. The CEO of Warner Brothers is like, “Uh, yeah, I was really proud of Clashes and Titans. I’m, uh, you know, a big fan of watching movies.”
I’m a sucker for nerdy stuff as you all know. And before I found LOTR, Dune, X-Men and Final Fantasy (among many other things) Greek Mythology was right at the top of my list. It combined with Star Wars and the Chronicles of Narnia to form my childhood nerd triumvirate. You might even say it prepared me for the rest of my life. In early grade school I used to go to the public library on 75th street (I lived on 68th terrace at the time) and check out any books on Greek Mythology I could get my hands on. As it so happens, that was also a time when Clash of the Titans was on TV constantly. I grew up loving that movie. For me, it is a classic.
Having said that, I can’t imagine it was thought of as a classic at the time, or that it is currently thought of as a classic by most people. Harry Hamlin didn’t exactly light the world on fire afterwards. The director’s name was Desmond Davis, and he was known more for television directing than movies. So I’m realistic about the original’s probable flaws and limitations. But I know it was better than this latest big-budget stinker.
Maybe stinker is too harsh. I’ve certainly seen worse movies since I started this blog. Sam Worthington isn’t that bad, although I have no idea how he keeps getting these plum roles. The guy went from nobody to big-budget SciFi’s only leading man in less than a year. Casting couch, says Hatt. But I don’t hate Worthington. I don’t even dislike him. I thought his character was the only redeeming part of the most recent Terminator movie (which was laughably bad). In Titans, Worthington does what we’ve gotten used to seeing him do: give an adequate, if uninspired performance.
The rest of the cast left something to be desired. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes should’ve been hits, but weren’t. Part of the problem was that Neeson’s Zeus looked a lot like Fiennes’ Hades. But that was small potatoes, really. The bigger issue is that casting those guys in those roles felt uninspired. The work of studio execs, not a visionary screenwriter or director. “Who can we get to play Zeus? Liam Neeson*? Classic! Now what about Hades? See if you can get that guy who played Voldemort in Harry Potter. Everyone knows he’s creepy.” At the entrance to Warner Brothers studios they should have one of those adjustable signs that reads “___ days without a creative thought.”
*Something has changed with Neeson. Three years ago I thought he was a brilliant actor and now he’s like my crazy uncle. What happened? Is it callous of me to ask this given his wife’s death? I swear I’m not making fun.
I guess a fan of an original is always going to have problems with a remake. At first I took issue with the changes to the plot, of which there are many. I relented on this afterwards upon remembrance that the original drastically changed the plot of the actual Perseus myth. I figured I should give the remake the same latitude. But then, after further stony reflection, I realized that all the changes to the recent version were just attempts to make it more formulaic. This is particularly true for the beginning of the movie. In the original Perseus is a suitor for Princess Andromeda, hoping to win her hand in marriage. In this version, he’s a poor fisherman’s adopted son (found at sea) who loses his family in a boating accident caused by the Gods. He was just a simple man, but now he wants revenge! It’s like The Punisher set 3,000 years ago.
The goal was obviously to keep things simple. Establish an unquestionably good hero, give him some zany companions and have them all fight monsters. If it ain’t broke, right? The original actually had a fairly complex back story, so that obviously had to be scrapped. The new method of dealing with back story is just to keep things as vague as possible. This saves time that can be used on more valuable cinematic tools like chase scenes, CGI monsters, and cheap comic relief.
What is it with action movies and the obsession with comic relief? Is edging towards being a legitimate drama such a bad thing? They have to throw in a bunch of stupid characters who make stupid jokes? This new Clash scraps the robotic owl after a one-second cameo, as if to say, “we don’t need this little kid bull-shit.” But then they add a pair of wacky monster-hunter brothers, a wise-crackin’ old soldier, a big guy with a mohawk and some kind of chewbacca-like creature (gender indeterminate! Tee-hee!). And these weren’t even the worst characters. That honor goes to Gemma Arterton as Lo, the bizarre alternate romantic interest totally absent from the original. In this version, for some reason, Perseus isn’t into Princess Andromeda. Why this switch was made, I have no idea. It started to feel like they were just looking for ways to waste time.
On the plus side, all the big hits are still present and accounted for. Medusa, Pegasus, the scorpions, the blind witches and the kraken haven’t been tampered with, and they all looked reasonably cool. Or at least not totally stupid. And I got to see my girl Polly Walker, which is always nice. Although even that turned out to be kind of a bummer. Her part was tiny and she looked 30 pounds heavier than when we saw her naked in Rome. I fell in love with her that first season as Atia of the Julii. If I’m being honest with myself, things haven’t been the same since.
next week: The Secret of Kells. Reviewing an animated Irish movie is self-indulgent and I apologize.