Clash of the Titans: A Movie That Took Itself Too Seriously

5 04 2010

A stylized and CGI-heavy remake of the cult-classic 1981 film, Clash of the Titans has made recent headlines regarding its hasty conversion into the 3D format. Both positive and negative reviews of the film have almost universally agreed: the 3D version is shoddy and even detracts from the film. In an interview with USA Today, James Cameron said, “They’re converting Clash of the Titans in eight weeks. But I’m guessing six months to a year to do it right.” Apparently the critics agree. Due to the overwhelming feeling that the 3D version was subpar, I decided to save the few extra bucks and see the film in the 2D format. Here’s the breakdown:

After the death of his family at the hands of Hades, Perseus vows to stand up to the controlling and merciless deities. In an effort to defeat Hades and his monstrous Kraken, Perseus sets out to get his revenge and save the city of Argos. Teaming up with Argosian warriors, a beautiful demi-god, Io, and the mysterious Djinn, Perseus must travel to the underworld and back again on his quest for revenge.

The Monkey: Overall, the movie was an enjoyable, entertaining popcorn blockbuster. Visually, the film was stunning. The production design was the film’s strongest point. From the Ferryman on his hellish boat to the creepy Stygian Witches, Clash of the Titans must have been a conceptual artist’s dream job. The portrayal of Olympus was original and beautiful, and I especially liked the Google Earth-esque floor, complete with swirling clouds.

It was great to see Polly Walker (Atia from HBO’s Rome) as Cassiopeia, Queen of Argos. Although she played pretty much the same character as her Rome role, and she only had about 2 minutes of screen time, it was nice to see her. Gemma Arterton practically stole the show; not only was she gorgeous, but her silky voice and sufficiently ethereal characterization was one of the only genuine performances in the entire movie. Now I’m even more excited to see how she does in the upcoming Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

The giant scorpion battle was the highlight of the film. Not only are audiences treated to some of the best and most intense action of the film, but the use of humor worked really well in this scene also. The final battle was exciting and offered plenty of eye candy; it was especially cool to see Perseus and Pegasus fly/gallop through the streets and skies of Argos, dodging Hades’ minions and the Kraken’s destructive tentacles. (note: anyone else notice that Perseus’ sword was basically a Greek lightsaber?)

The Weasel: The plot and characterization of the movie were sorely lacking. Even just writing the brief synopsis for this review, I had to ask myself, “Was Perseus trying to save Argos or get revenge? How did he get roped into helping the Argosians?” A massive disconnect in the main protagonist’s motivation is never a good sign.

I think the film’s biggest flaw, however, was that it took itself much too seriously. I mean, for crying out loud, you have flying horses, Liam Neeson in shiny armour and giant scorpion attacks! This movie should have been high-adventure, Indiana Jones-style. Where was the humor? Where were the clever one liners? Instead, audiences were treated to two under-utilized comic characters that served little function (why were they even there?) and some of the worst dialogue I’ve heard in a while. You know a script is bad when Liam Neeson can’t even pull off the dialogue without invoking laughter.

The movie needed much more heart, it needed to be lighter. That’s not to say it still couldn’t be action-packed, even violent. But the characters needed to resonate. The body count continued to rise as the movie progressed, but you realized, after the fourth or fifth death, that you don’t care. Where Lord of the Rings succeeded in creating a distinct character for every member of the trekking team, Clash of the Titans fails miserably.

While this might be another blog post altogether, I think The Dark Knight is to blame for movies such as Clash of the Titans. The Dark Knight somehow convinced studios that dark, gritty and serious equaled solid storytelling and a good movie. Wrong. The Dark Knight was so good because of the characters and the story; the fact that it also happened to be dark and gritty was secondary.

A quick note about the CGI: surprisingly weak. Hades’ fog of shadow looked extremely fake and the entire Medusa character looked like she belonged in a video game.

A brainless night at the movies, but a definite case of “the trailer was better.” There was a brief scene where Perseus discovers the mechanical version of Bubo the owl from the original 1981 version. He’s told to leave it behind. The scene was a symbolic gesture, letting audiences know this new version was leaving the old version behind. Big mistake. The film could have used some light-hearted, mechanical owl action.

2.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did Clash of the Titans live up to your expectations? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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