Clash of the Titans

Cast:
Sam Worthington as Perseus
Liam Neeson as Zeus
Ralph Fiennes as Hades
Jason Flemyng as Calibos / Acrisius
Gemma Arterton as Io
Alexa Davalos as Andromeda
Tine Stapelfeldt as Danae
Mads Mikkelsen as Draco
Luke Evans as Apollo
Izabella Miko as Athena
Liam Cunningham as Solon
Hans Matheson as Ixas
Ashraf Barhom as Ozal
Mouloud Achour as Kucuk
Ian Whyte as Sheikh Sulieman
Pete Postlethwaite as Spyros

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Summary:
While the original “Clash of the Titans” still stands as a better-scripted movie, the new version definitely has areas where it excels, particularly in action scenes involving Pegasus and the Kraken. The 3D is lacking in a lot of respects but the movie is still worth seeing with the effect.

Story:
This film is based on the Ray Harryhausen film from 1981 that, as you know, was based on the original Greek mythology.

Orphaned as an infant, Perseus is found and adopted by a hard working fisherman named Spyros. Despite living a meager existence, Perseus is happy with his life. But when the city of Argos defies the Greek gods, their supernatural wrath is brought down on the people. Perseus’ family is killed in the ensuing battle led by Hades, the god of the underworld and brother of Zeus.

Hades is eager to punish the humans for turning away from the gods. He prompts Zeus to allow him to torment humanity in an effort to get mankind to return to adoring them. Zeus, reluctantly, agrees. So when the king and queen of Argos spit in the eye of the gods, Hades gives them an ultimatum – sacrifice the Princess Andromeda to the sea monster called the Kraken or it will destroy Argos.

Eager for revenge against Hades for killing his family, Perseus looks for a way to foil the gods and kill the Kraken. But he’s quickly surprised when Hades reveals who Perseus’ real father is – Zeus. This only makes Perseus more determined to spite the gods and save Argos. But will he do it as a man or as a demi-god?

“Clash of the Titans” is rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.

What Worked:
I have to be upfront that “Clash of the Titans” is one of my all-time favorite films. I loved it as a kid for the Ray Harryhausen creatures. It introduced me to Greek mythology. Despite loving the original so much, even I will admit it has its cheesy moments. I even wondered for the last 29 years what kind of remake you could create with CGI animation. So it was with great anticipation that I watched the new “Clash of the Titans.”

The new movie is without a doubt better in some respects. The scenes with Pegasus are really cool and, I believe, capture what Harryhausen wanted to do with his stop-motion animation. As Pegasus takes flight with Hades’ bat-like creatures pursuing him and Perseus, they fly in and out of the city and among the Kraken’s tentacles. It’s a fantastic sight, especially in 3D. I also think this new Kraken is a worthy successor to the original. The design is quite cool and when the creature rises out of the water, it is the highlight of the film. (It makes you wonder what the possibilities are for the new Godzilla movie.) The new giant scorpions are also a lot more menacing than the original. The battle with them is also one of the better action scenes of the movie.

The new Medusa was a bit of a mixed bag. I liked the fact that she was faster and there are some great moments where she pursues Perseus through the ruins of the temple. They also retain the fact that she’s an archer and picks off multiple soldiers from the shadows. I did think the original Medusa was a lot creepier and I think the original scene built up the suspense a lot more while emphasizing better the fact that Perseus can only defeat her by looking at her reflection in his shield. This is almost lost in the new version. But overall it’s a good remake of the scene.

The original “Clash of the Titans” essentially took the original myths, put them in a blender, and got a script that was a mix of Hollywood ideas and original Greek mythology. This new version similarly takes its own liberties with the myths and makes its own additions. A major new change is the addition of Hades to the story. He’s the driving force behind the conflict this time around and it does fit the original mythology to some degree. I think casting Liam Neeson as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes as Hades worked quite well. It was in the middle of one of their scenes together that I realized they were reunited from “Schindler’s List,” and you just have to laugh at little at the fact that they are now dressed as Greek gods. But overall it works.

As for the rest of the casting, Sam Worthington makes a good Perseus considering the script he was given. If you want someone tough with a chip on his shoulder, Worthington fits the bill. Alexa Davalos is also good as Andromeda, but she’s barely in the movie. Gemma Arterton is in the film a lot more as Io and she does a fine job with what she’s given.

What Didn’t Work:
Overall, I think there were a lot of missed opportunities with this “Clash of the Titans” remake. First of all, I think the original version had a better script. In it, Perseus falls in love with Andromeda, marries her, and then goes on his quest to save her and the city. It’s a much more classic, romantic tale. This time around Perseus is simply pissed off, thumbing his nose at the gods, and out for revenge. In fact, he has no romantic interest in Andromeda whatsoever. Their final scene together is incredibly unsatisfying.

The original script had better pacing, too. The quest was neatly laid out and made a lot more sense. Here, everything seems random and rushed. Literally in the space of 5 minutes Perseus is trained in swordfighting, gets a gift of a sword from Zeus, finds Pegasus, and has his first encounter with Calibos. It didn’t flow smoothly.

This new script seems all about emphasizing that the humans are sick and tired of following the gods. And if you didn’t get that, you’re reminded of it every couple of minutes. It’s a theme that’s driven into the ground to the point you start feeling the movie has a distinctly atheistic tone. Yet there are bits of the script that seem inconsistent with this established theme. For example, in one scene a soldier tells Perseus that he should use the gifts that the gods gave him to save the day. In a scene a few minutes later that soldier says he wants to ‘spit in the eye of the gods.’ Huh? And through the whole movie Perseus says he wants to be human and not like the gods. Yet instead of falling in love with the human Andromeda (like in the myth), he falls in love with fellow demi-god Io. It’s inconsistent.

I also felt some characters were underused. Besides Andromeda being barely in the movie, I thought Calibos was really a waste. In the original movie Calibos was driven by jealousy since he was the former fiancé of Andromeda and the gods cursed him. He was the complete opposite of Perseus and that jealousy is what drove him to foil Perseus’ quest. In this new version he’s Perseus’ stepfather and he only pops up twice to attack the adventurers. There’s nothing more to his character. You could have cut him from the movie and it would have made no difference to the core story. The addition of the new Jinn character was also unnecessary, as he added nothing to the plot. The same is true with two warriors who functioned as little more than a weak attempt at adding comic relief.

There were other scenes in the movie that simply did not work. For example, our heroes battle the giant scorpions only to later actually ride them in a caravan. It didn’t work. There’s also a hippie religious zealot in Argos that spends much of the film ranting and raving. In the grand finale, the awesome scenes of the Kraken are mixed with scenes of this religious nut freaking out. It drove me crazy. And while the movie wisely cut Bubo the mechanical owl from this version, he does make a brief cameo as a joke. In some respects it’s amusing, but it really didn’t fit in this film. It should have been an Easter Egg on a DVD.

This leads us to the issue of the 3D. As you may or may not know, this movie was originally filmed in 2D then converted to 3D rather late in the game. James Cameron labeled “Clash of the Titans” as a case of 3D done poorly. Initially I didn’t expect to see any difference, but as the film progressed I have to admit that some things did look a tad off. It was kind of like looking at an image through a glass bowl. The image looked like it was warped to simulate 3D. But at the same time, there were other scenes that looked fantastic in 3D like the Kraken and Pegasus scenes. I got the feeling that if Louis Leterrier knew from the beginning that this would be a 3D movie, he might have done it differently. The end result of this film is that it doesn’t add significantly to the theater experience. That being said, I still think it’s worth checking out in 3D and I think older 2D films like “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Jaws,” or “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” are very much worth converting to 3D.

The Bottom Line:
As you can see through this entire review I compared the new version of “Clash of the Titans” to the original again and again.I think my love for the earlier film definitely biased my review. But as we walked out of the theater, I found that the people who had never seen the original film liked this new one a whole lot better than the people that were fans of the original. So if you haven’t seen it, then I think you have a much better chance of enjoying it. But I still recommend that fans of the original check it out and do so in 3D. It’s kind of like seeing a new production of a favorite play of yours. It’s always interesting to see how it is reinterpreted by someone else.

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