Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

Sam Worthington in Clash of the Titans
Photo: Warner Bros.

As someone that once loved the original 1981 Ray Harryhausen-produced Clash of the Titans, I now look back fondly at that picture, but recognize it as a silly (nearly) 30-year-old epic romance. I can only look back with nostalgia and fond memories. I imagine Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake will make a similar impression on the youth of today, though this is a much more rock ’em-sock ’em telling of the original story, but still just as silly. Boasting updated effects, gooier scorpion deaths and an even larger monster from the deep, this remake places action first, story second and characters last. Yet the story itself is fun enough that I was able to have a good time.

In comparing this one to the first film, the biggest difference is the motivation of the lead character Perseus (Sam Worthington), a demigod born of Zeus. In the original, the journey he follows comes as a result of his love for Andromeda as the Gods have called for her sacrifice in order to save the city of Jobba. The remake follows a similar journey, but Perseus is spurred on following the death of his adoptive family at the hands of the Gods. Here his goal is to save the city of Argos and do so as a man, ignoring his godly bloodlines, proving men don’t need the Gods to be great.

Like the original film, Perseus and his fellow journeymen do battle with giant scorpions, receive guidance from the blind witches, travel to the Underworld and face off with the evil Medussa. It’s the same story with a bit of a twist and as such I enjoyed it just as I did the original. It’s a CGI-filled epic, loaded with monsters and a ridiculous romantic bend, and the story holds this foolishness together long enough for the film to be enjoyable as the diversion it’s meant to be.

Scripted by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (the duo behind the abysmal Aeon Flux) along with Travis Beacham the film runs on thin threads woven by the original scripter Beverley Cross. While the story is not exactly the same, the diversions are mere formalities and Leterrier’s ability to film action as he did in Transporter 2 and The Incredible Hulk remains.

Leading that action is Sam Worthington, with a domestic film career that hasn’t done much to show us his ability to act in a dramatic role, but with Terminator Salvation, Avatar and now Clash of the Titans under his belt I would say his ability to act against a green screen has been proven. Whether he can turn this current career of corny speeches, a couple of grumbles and a wave of the sword into anything will be tested soon enough in John Madden’s The Debt and Last Night opposite Keira Knightley. He doesn’t appear to be of the no-brains-and-all-brawn action star niche so his likelihood of being typecast doesn’t seem immediately possible, but there’s no real way to gauge his talent when all we’ve really seen of him is a talent for chopping up CG creatures and robots to this point.

Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) plays the soft spoken Io, something of a guide to the group as she has been watching over Perseus all his life. Also among Perseus’s traveling band, Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale) plays the gruff Argos military leader Draco with the unique charisma we’ve come to expect from Mikkelsen and Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy and A Single Man) plays the young warrior Eusebios, which reminded me a lot of the timid yet confident performance of Garrett Hedlund in Troy as Achilles’s cousin Patroclus.

On Mount Olympus two names stand out, Liam Neeson is commanding as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes plays his scorned brother Hades, channeling his performance as the whispering menace Voldemort in the Harry Potter franchise, only this time with a lot more hair — and it works.

The marketing team at Warner Bros. has pretty much ruined any surprise the CG monsters have to offer, short of actually giving a full reveal of Medusa’s face (at least to my knowledge). They’ve even gone so far as to completely reveal the monstrous Kraken, the titan that serves as the film’s massive finale. It’s a blunder if there ever was one, hurting the chances to offer the audience any form of awe-inspired surprises. Next is the post-production 2D-to-3D conversion, a weak money grab that is evident in every scene. Some scenes, for that matter, can be watched without the glasses entirely with slight edge blurring where a faint hint of depth would otherwise be seen amidst the brightened image to offset the dimming of the polarized 3D glasses.

I would never recommend anyone see this film in the converted 3D as it is only a reason for greedy theater owners and the studio to take a larger bite out of your wallet and offer little to nothing in return. However, I would say anyone looking for a goofy good time at the theater with a big effects driven monster movie this one satisfies on that front. This is the rock ‘n’ roll battle of men and Gods, and up until the ridiculous final romantic drum beat, it serves as such.