Clash of the Titans Review
'Clash of the Titans', heralded as one of this year's blockbusters, was directed by Louis Leterrier. With a back catalogue including the explosive and exciting 'The Incredible Hulk (2008)' and, fluffy action productions such 'The Transporter I/II' and 'Danny the Dog', I was initially shocked that such a remake would be handed to such a novice director. It's obvious from watching 'The Incredible Hulk' that Leterrier is competent enough but this movie is cherished by millions, with the 1981 original standing as a cinematic landmark. I have very fond memories of the original and was a firm believer that this one should have been left alone (like countless others) and spared a faceless Hollywood remake. A couple of months before its cinematic release I checked out a trailer for this movie (a thing I rarely do) and was quite drawn in by the strong cast and action laden set pieces. Upon its release the poor reviews of the 3D quality, which was added at the eleventh hour in post production, and even worse reviews of the feature presentation, meant that I abstained from shelling out the price of a ticket. When the opportunity came up to review this disc on Blu, I figured that it was worth a watch.....let's find out if it is.
Set in ancient Greece, the inhabitants have lived for years worshipping their father and creator, Zeus. However, man has grown strong and overly cocky, deciding that they are greater than the Gods and vowing to rule the world and shun the inhabitants of Mount Olympus. Opening with the rescue of a baby, who is entombed to death at sea, we are introduced to Perseus for the first time. Adopted by a simple fisherman and his wife, it's clear that young Perseus is heading for big things. Flashing forward a couple of years, Perseus has matured into a strapping young man and helps his family with harvesting the dwindling fish stocks. Enter Hades, lord of the underworld and Zeus's brother. He engulfs Perseus's boat in a smouldering storm, dooming his family to death beneath the waves. Being a demi-God, Perseus doesn't die so easily and he's rescued by soldiers of King Kepheus, ruler of Argos (no, not the catalogue shop you uneducated peasants!).
At the forefront of Greek civilisation, Kepheus is a prime advocator of the “man is greater than the Gods” mantra and receives a timely visit from Hades, just as Perseus is making friends with Princess Andromeda (Kepheus's daughter). Laying waste to all around him with ease, Hades gives a doctrine that unless Andromeda is sacrificed to Zeus within ten days, he will release the Kraken; a monstrous beast with no known weakness. So, it's up to Perseus to recognise his lineage and realise his destiny as he begins an epic journey across mythical Greece. With a heady band of soldiers in tow, he travels to the battleground where Cronos and the Titans were defeated, to find the Stygian Witches; three grotesque sisters who hold the key to defeating the Kraken.
The cast is, on paper, very strong indeed. Along with acting powerhouse veterans, Liam Neeson ('Taken') and Ralph Fiennes ('Harry Potter'), we've also got Hollywood's golden boy of the hour, Sam Worthington ('Avatar'). Joining the fray are bit part wonders Jason Flemyng ('Solomon Kane') who plays Acrisius and Alexa Davios ('Defiance'), who takes on the role of Andromeda. Gemma Arterton ('Prince of Persia') and Mads Mikkelsen ('Casino Royale') also crop up playing secondary characters Io and Draco (respectively).
I have to say that I was actually a little taken aback by this movie, as I was expecting it to be completely awful. I attribute this initial favourable response to the fact that I have not watched the original in about five years. I've often thought about how a modern day remake of 'Clash of the Titans', 'Jason and the Argonauts' or indeed any of the 'Sinbad' movies would pan out and this updated version of a seminal classic was faring rather well until about the forty minute mark. This is when things started to go drastically wrong. The plot slowed, and I suddenly found myself hating what was happening on screen, namely Sam Worthington's performance. Speaking with a growl that Christian Bale would be proud of (well it's not that bad, although he does sound like a cross between Russell Crowe and Bale!), it seems as though Sammy boy is relying on his name rather than his acting ability to pull off a role that Harry Hamlin made his own in 1981. The manner in which he delivers his dialogue is completely forced and contrived (not to mention his accent), which, when coupled with some of the most abysmal and laughable facial expressions/body language I have seen in some time, left me wondering how the hell he got the part in the first place. I was also bemused by the director's choice to permit his star actor to retain his marine-esque haircut. Sure, this style was perfect for previous movies, but when surrounding by flowing locks and the decorative splendour of ancient Greece, the authenticity suffers and Sam's “fish out of water” performance becomes even more highlighted. Wooden to the core and emanating an aura of “not arsed”, Worthington manages, single handedly, to almost completely destroy this movie. Davios also hams it up but luckily she's not on the screen that much and so the damage that she wreaks to characterisation is limited (I wonder if she was cast because she has a Greek sounding name!).
Luckily, there's some solid support in the form of Neeson and Fiennes. Fiennes in particular is moderately impressive as Hades and manages to inject some menace and threat into his portrayal of the keeper of the Underworld. However, his presence is a little lacking in that he's depicted as a large cloud of ash (with a face!) for the majority and the “Voldemort” aspect of his performance feels like we've seen it all before. Neeson is impressive as Zeus but some pretty weak dialogue means that his projection of supreme power is tainted. Mikkelson fares the best of the bunch and outshines Worthington in all of their scenes. He does look disturbingly like The Rock in the facial area though. Although these three are by no means perfect they at least add a little weight and believability to proceedings. As a whole though, the characterisation is incredibly shallow.
It's clear that Letterer's casting skills are not up to much and neither is his ability to get the most from his actors. He does, however, know how to keep things moving along and this is where this movie comes up with the goods. The action, for the first hour or so, is more than adequate and builds excitement as Perseus grows in strength and prowess. But during the last third of the movie, the plot becomes slow and disjointed. Some of the main action set pieces, such as the raid on Medussa's lair and the final battle with the Kraken, are included but they just didn't capture my attention or interest the way the first half of the movie did. Don't get me wrong, they are most certainly exciting and enjoyable but it's as though the climax did not meet expectations at all. I firmly believe that the halt in pace and the over-saturation from Worthington served to put me off the remainder of the production. I also felt as though the second half of the movie was a little rushed and although it may seem in complete contradiction to my opinion of this movie so far, I believe that a longer run time would have been of benefit. There are some elements of comedy thrown in for token effect but this are decidedly hit and miss (with the higher percentile of gags falling into the latter category).
The re-creation of ancient Greece and some of the mythological creatures did go some way towards redeeming this movie and that's due to some impressive CGI work. The cinematography is sweeping and has a real 'Lord of the Rings' feel as Perseus and his crew embark on their adventure. During the encounters with the many mythical beasts (such as the awesome giant Scorpiocs), the camera roves and rolls, placing the viewer right in the centre of the action and it was during these portions where the movie excelled. The encounter with the Medussa is also well shot but it's as though we know what's going to happen at this stage and no attempt has been made to spruce up this section of the movie, as we progress to the showdown with the Kraken with plodding certainty. I also thought that some of the battle scenes were shot a little too close, making proceedings difficult to follow.
If I had not been such a fan of the original I may have had a different opinion of this movie as some parts are enjoyable and the CGI recreation of Greece is very authentic. The visual effects are at times impressive and some of the battle sequences are engaging and exciting. As we move into the final third of the movie, it's as though the encounters with Medusa and the Kraken are simply linked, rather lazily, to one another by pointless and irritating character interaction. Coupled with some woeful dialogue and acting, I came away feeling cheated that I fell for the romantic notion that everything was going to work out fine. It's the case here, once again, that Hollywood has chosen to cash in and damage not only a couple of actors' careers but also to shatter the memory of the magnificent original. The sense of adventure, charm, characterisation and wonder is simply not present and hopefully, one day, Hollywood will learn. While it's not as bad as everyone says and is worth a rental at least, fans of the original will be sorely disappointed and will undoubtedly feel as cheated as I did.
On a side note, many elements of this remake differ from the original. Calibos did not seem to be present (his part was taken over by Acrisius), Perseus's weapons are lame and the helmet of invisibility was also absent. The climatic showdown with Hades was also a brand new addition and a pretty poor one at that. Some liberties are taken at the beginning of the movie, with regards to the mythological origins of the Gods (the War of the Titans) and the creation of the Kraken. This may seem like nit picking but if you're going to do something, do it right! At least there's a passing nod to the mechanical owl though.