Clash of the Titans
by M. Faust
Unleash The Kraken!
The producers of Clash of the Titans, a loose remake of the 1981 film that existed primarily as a vehicle for the stop-motion animated effects of Ray Harryhausen, have reason both to thank and to curse the gods that landed their movie in theaters two weeks after the opening of How to Train Your Dragon.
That hit, with its state-of-the-art 3D effects (better, in my opinion, than those in Avatar), has doubtless whetted the appetite of audiences for more. Technologies like these develop at lightning pace, and viewers may well expect that a new 3D film will be at least as spectacular, if not more so. (The fact that both movies have mythological settings surely can’t hurt.)
But while the popularity of Dragon will contribute to a spectacular weekend opening for Titans (as will the holiday), unfavorable comparisons will probably cause a precipitous dropoff. Like Alice in Wonderland, Titans was shot in 2D but converted to 3D in post-production, and that makes all the difference. The depth effects are mundane at best, and what you gain there is more than balanced by the problems that plague 3D, particularly the murkiness that descends on the film from watching it through those dark glasses. If you want to see this, by all means find a theater showing it in 2D.
The plot, for those of you who don’t recall the original, follows the adventures of Perseus (Avatar’s Sam Worthington), a fisherman’s son who gets two jolts in one day: His entire family dies in a boating accident, and he learns that his real father was Zeus, that god of gods with a taste for canoodling with the mortals.
It’s not a good time to be too closely identified with the gods, as humans are casting off their ancient allegiances or even declaring open war on them. (Those of you for whom all fantasy stories are allegorical should be advised not to twist your brains into a migraine trying to read this as a humanist parable. If you must interpret, you’ll probably find it more fruitful to substitute “the government” for every mention of “the gods,” but you won’t like the results that way either.)
Miffed at this lack of respect, Zeus and his banished brother Hades declare a truce in order to whip humanity back into shape. (They are played by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, both of whom show an ability to deliver ridiculous dialogue with straight faces that would do Laurence Olivier proud.) That Hades has his own agenda comes as a surprise to no one except Zeus, who probably has trouble getting a clear sight of anything given the blinding armor he likes to wear.
All of this provides moderately irrelevant backdrop for a quest that has Perseus and a ragtag bunch of warriors journeying through monster-studded lands in order to save the city of Argos. They battle giant scorpions, the half-snake Medusa, and the gigantic but anticlimactic Kraken.
Much leaner than the original, this Clash benefits from having trimmed any vestiges of romance, mortal and Olympian. (Excising the Burgess Meredith character also helps, and everyone who hated that R2D2-ish robot owl in 1981 will get a chuckle at how it is referenced here.)
The locations are gorgeous and the cast attractive (though you have to wonder how Perseus keeps his hair so closely cropped), but a movie like this stands or falls on the strength of its monsters, which average at best a B. The scorpions are fine, the Medusa adequate but a letdown after Harryhausen’s. The Kraken is sheer overkill, so enormous that its emergence from the sea is unavoidably implausible—no way something this size is going to sneak up on a coastal city.
Bottom line: If you only see one movie at the drive-in this year, this is the one.
Watch the trailer for Clash of the Titans
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