Mania Grade: D+
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- Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, and Mads Mikkelson
- Written By: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi
- Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Clash of the Titans Movie Review
Clash of the Titans: Smiting For All!
By Rob Vaux
April 01, 2010
BIAS ALERT: For all its cheesiness, the original Clash of the Titans holds a special place in my heart (1981 was a really good summer to be nine). I don't believe my borderline loathing of this film has anything to do with those rose-colored memories, but it bears mentioning. One could also cite the blatant disregard for Greek mythology in the epic failure of the new Clash of the Titans, but that's disingenuous too. Popcorn films are allowed to play fast and loose with their material in the name of good clean fun. Clash of the Titans, however, proves unwilling to live by the rules of its own plot, which it breaks and rebreaks so many times that its narrative becomes an utter hash.
Moreover, its slavish reliance on admittedly strong F/X destroys any sense of dramatic pacing. We just get an orgy of Greek monsters plucked from the first film and shoveled at us without rhyme or reason. The actors remain either bored or wooden (you can actually see Liam Neeson spending his paycheck in his head), and the rudderless storyline crashes against more rocks than Odysseus himself. Fault director Louis Leterrier, who hides his lack of storytelling acumen behind copious effects like so many studio hacks before him.
The basics remain the same as in the original. Perseus (Sam Worthington), bastard son of Zeus, quests to find the head of the Medusa--the only thing capable of destroying the monstrous Kraken. The vengeful gods are preparing to set the beast loose on the city of Argos, razing it to the ground unless the people put their princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) up for sacrifice.
That much is clear. Delve any deeper into the particulars, however, and the proceedings quickly collapse into a big wet pile of stupid. For starters, men hate the gods: defying their will at every turn and declaring themselves exempt from divine rule. It's part of the screenwriters' ill-conceived notion to depict Perseus as the child of two worlds; his quest an effort to declare his allegiance for humanity and overthrow the gods' rule once and for all. Zeus (Neeson) is understandably irate at all of this and responds… by sending Perseus a magic sword to help him out.
Then there's Zeus's brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who volunteers to go down and smite the mortals on Zeus's behalf. Why the king of the gods can't do his own smiting is something of a mystery, especially since he nails King Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) with a ginormous lightning bolt early in the proceedings. But no matter. Hades heads to Earth to lay the smackdown on mortaldom… then says he'll spare them if they sacrifice Andromeda. Given free rein to commit wholesale genocide, he settles for a single hot chick, a move which will doubtless get him tossed out of the Evil Mastermind's Guild on general principles. It's all part of some scheme to seize control of the universe from Zeus, which involves stopping Perseus for reasons never made entirely clear.
Leterrier shows no interest in untangling these thorny knots, content to leave the audience sputtering in bewilderment while the monster mash kicks into high gear. Even then, Clash of the Titans might had prevailed if said monster mash displayed any sense of grace or timing. But the fight scenes are edited into pointless sound and noise, defined only by the particular CG beastie which Perseus and his pals are fighting at any given time. The Pegasus shows up to aid him at one point--black instead of white to emphasize how much more bad-ass this version is than the original--but Leterrier has no sense of how to properly set up such a concept. The horse just gets thrown into the mix haphazardly until it becomes indistinguishable from the other sights onscreen.
So too do Perseus's companions appear to us in a random hodge-podge. As if realizing that Andromeda doesn't register enough screen time to make a proper love interest, the script provides Perseus with a guide, Io (Gemma Arterton), who delivers ungainly chunks of exposition and differentiates which monster is which as they come barreling at us. The slapped-on 3D imagery don't help matters, darkening the film's palette and rendering the action even less comprehensible. If there's any justice, it will crash and burn in 3D and put a quick kibbutz on this burgeoning gimmick to which Hollywood suddenly seems addicted.
The effects themselves are solidly rendered, and Fiennes does well as the ostensible villain, reminding us how much he's going to rock the house as Voldemort this fall. But that's cold comfort for a film as clumsily delivered as this one, crushing the modest charms of its predecessor beneath soulless computer-rendered bulk. The creators of the first Clash had a keen understanding of how Greek mythology worked, with its capricious gods that you could outwit but never openly defy. This new Clash lacks the wit or insight to recreate such a notion, or even deliver half-decent action. The myths it presumes to reinvent serve only as empty grist for its effects houses, mangled by storytelling incompetence past the point of recognition. The gods should be thankful for that, at least: they don't need to take responsibility for the mess created in their name.
Watch the Movie Maven's take on Clash