I’m about to say something unpopular: The original Clash of the Titans wasn’t all that good. It’s true that Ray Harryhausen’s iconic monsters were groundbreaking and impressive but the unintelligibly episodic story was hokey and difficult to follow. So why, then, are we being so hard on its new incarnation, in the form of Louis Leterrier’s epic tale of man against God? Well, that’s because despite its faults, the original Clash held just enough magic to weedle its way into our hearts and collective movie mythos to matter. And magic is something Leterrier’s movie sorely lacks.
Thankfully, they’ve spruced up the plot a bit for us feeble minded 2010-ers. Perseus, born of a noble woman who was tricked into sleeping with Zeus, is cast — with his “unclean” mother — into the sea to die. But Perseus is a demi-God and, instead of dying as a man would, he is rescued and raised by a fisherman to be humble, loving and kind. Too bad for him. When his family is killed by Hades, God of the underworld himself, he is rescued by soldiers and taken to Argos. The king and queen of Argos have engaged in a full-scale war on the Gods, embodying the very definition of heathen. The Gods have had enough and Zeus is convinced to unleash Hades on the world, to again turn mankind’s love to the Gods by instilling them with fear. Hades demands that Andromeda, princess of Argos be sacrificed to the Kracken, a creature from the deep, ruled only by its id. Perseus, being identified by Hades as the son of Zeus is voluntold to lead the expedition to find some way to stop the sacrifice of the city’s beloved princess.
The film itself is a solid action flick, but nothing more. It’s complete with cheesy lines and cliched action sequences, but its cast was genuinely remarkable. Liam Neeson, Ralph Finnes (who has to stop playing this role), Mads Mikkelson, Jason Flemying, and even a wee cameo by Danny Huston as Poseidon — and we’re not even talking about the principal characters here. Sam Worthington, who is a pigmentally challenged Will Smith, did a good furrowed brow angry face and screamed in anguish/anger when needed, but showed us much more in Terminator Salvation, something I didn’t actually think was possible. Sadly, I think his performance was less a victim of his talent and more a casualty of the script. Mads Mikkelson managed to bring depth and intrigue to a character who had approximately 2 minutes of collected dialogue in the film — but then, this is Mads Mikkelson we’re talking about here.
Interestingly, the script does actually try to make a point. Easy lines of comparison can be drawn to the way the Biblical story of Jesus is told. You know, son of a God who wants only to be a man and becomes the bridge of understanding between the two. There is a great deal made of religious fanaticism in Argos with some very pointed scenes clearly meant to critique today’s strong beliefs. The fact that the film opened over Easter was not lost on the viewer, either. What was lost, however, was the point of this critique. This theme has been done much better in considerably more intelligent movies. Heck, there are television shows who discuss this better. The film made no real point of it and, worse, it made little sense in a world where the Gods actually visit mankind — there is no dispute about their existence.
The technical aspects of the film were excellent, in fact, the best part of the film. Brilliant CGI, sets, and costumes were pretty much everywhere the eye went. For the parts of the movie where Worthington wasn’t trying to emote, the girl wasn’t trying to pout and some over-done point wasn’t trying to be made, it was like being a kid in a candy shop. The film certainly suffers from “Lord of the Rings Syndrome”, but its illness suits it and it makes for a solid watch. Disappointing though, was the fact that there was not one single nod or thank you to Harryhausen, without whom much of this would likely not exist. I might be overly expressing my bias here, but I felt strongly that someone should have insisted.
Clash of the Titans serves its purpose today just as it did in 1981: It’s a pulpy romp designed to make you smile and forget your ills for a while, and on this level it succeeds. Don’t think too hard and don’t expect too much, in fact, if you’ve got some rose coloured glasses, take them along. It can only help.