Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Judging from the title, you might think that this would be a movie about the Greco-Roman gods battling their parents, the Titans.  You might think that this film would feature epic battles and deal with the Freudian ideas of how children must usurp their parents in order to come into their own.  You might be a big, stupid moron.

This film is a remake of the campy 1981 movie of the same name.  Sadly, the stop motion effects of the original are replaced with actual special effects this time around (although the robotic owl from the original makes a cameo).  So, if this movie isn't about battling the Titans of Greek mythology, then what is it about?  The king and queen of Argos decide to topple their ridiculously enormous statue of Zeus, claiming that they need not worship the gods because now is the time of man.  Why anyone would do this when gods are known to walk the earth and smite mortals is beyond me.  Not surprisingly, Zeus (played by Liam Neeson) sends his brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), to spread some Hellenic-style smiting across the isle of Argos.  Hades does his damage and threatens to have his pet monster, the kraken, wipe Argos off the map unless Argos' princess is sacrificed to the gods.  Who will save Argos?  That would be Perseus, played by Sam Worthington.  Perseus' family was killed in Hades' attack, but it's all good; Perseus learns that he is a demigod and that Zeus is his father.  Perseus and a band of Argos' best warriors then decide to find a way to kill the kraken.  To do this, the crew must visit some witches, who send them to the underworld to kill (Or is that re-kill?  She's in the underworld already, right?  No!  Must...stop...thinking...) Medusa.  The idea is to cut her head off because any mortal (even a monster) that looks in her eyes will turn to stone.  Along the way, the men team up with a djinn, a warlock-like thing whose skin appears to be made of a cross between granite and tree bark.  They fight several giant scorpions and end up riding the rest across a desert, like camels.  In the end, we get what is promised:

the kraken turns to stone when it sees Medusa's head.  Consider yourself spoiled.

Huh.  How about that?  Yep.  It's a bit of an anticlimax.  You've got to give credit where it's due, though; you learn that Medusa's head can kill the kraken early in the film and it sure does.  Mission accomplished.  Who needs drama, anyway?  The plot fails to follow through with a lot of decent ideas here.  The hero has to kill a huge monster?  Awesome.  Instead of killing the monster just by showing up with the right tool, I would have rather...I don't know...had the monster eat the hero and have the hero cut his way out of the monster's chest?  That would have been cooler.  I would have had the witches be more threatening; they were only a cool-looking nuisance.  The giant scorpions were okay, but I had trouble figuring out who was fighting what scorpion; these were the most confusingly edited action scenes since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  I pay attention when I watch a movie, and if I can't tell how many giant monsters are in a scene, there's a problem.  The subplot with the sacrifice of Argos' princess could have been decent in a different movie, but it's just filler here.  Of course, I don't envy the writer who has to justify destroying a populated island over sacrificing one person, so I see why they left the subject mostly untouched.

The characters were equally frustrating.  Sam Worthington has yet to prove himself as an actor, despite leading roles in Avatar and Terminator: Salvation.  He plays the same basic character over and over again.  I know, he's not the only actor that does this, but I don't think Randy Quaid is a great example for young actors to strive toward.  Liam Neeson is okay, I guess, as Zeus; it's hard to judge Zeus as a character because the mythological god was all over the place, in terms of logic and attitude.  In this movie, he's alternately a doting father and an attention-starved god.  Ralph Fiennes really irritated me as Hades at first because he whispered all his lines; this served a plot-related purpose, so I'll let it slide this time.  His forehead dandruff was unnecessary, though.  The other gods barely got speaking parts, including Danny Huston as Poseidon.  This movie is all about throwing recognizable actors at you and not giving them time or space to act.  Jason Flemyng is a somewhat effective man-monster who spends most of his time running away from Perseus.  Nicholas Hoult (the weird kid from About a Boy) proves that ugly child actors can actually grow up to be reasonably handsome...and that's about all he does here.  Gemma Arterton pretty much reprises her role from Quantum of Solace as a pretty face with no character.  Mads Mikkelsen is the only standout here, and he just did a decent job as the resident military expert, but somebody had to look good against the cardboard cutouts this script provided. 

And yet...it's a special effects movie.  Do we really watch these with the same expectations as a Charlie Kaufman-scripted film?  The answer is that we should, but we don't.  Sometimes, effects are good and fun enough to let us turn our brains off and bathe in the screen's warm glow.  The effects in Clash of the Titans aren't good enough to make up for its many shortcomings, but they are pretty good.  The character designs on the kraken, the witches, the djinn, and Hades' flying bat creatures are all great.  I don't know how many of the locations were shot in front of a green screen (the movie was allegedly shot mostly in Whales), but the panoramic shots of Pereus and company descending into the underworld were awesome.  The strange thing about the effects is that they don't seem to be enhanced by 3D.  I realize that these 3D parts were thrown in at the last minute after seeing how well Avatar did in theaters, but I expected them to be...well, not crappy.  In fact, the 3D effects were the worst in the film; it seems like they were forced to go 3D, but didn't have the time or budget to do it right, so they just did it fast.

Overall, the plot wasn't great and the actors just showed up.  Neither was terrible, though.  The effects were good enough to make this film visually appealing, but the real star was the character design for the creatures.  Is that enough to recommend a movie?  Tough call.


  1. I want Sam Worthington's agent. I don't think he's a bad actor by any means, but it's quite something to go from obscurity to staring in three enormous blockbuster films in under a year. I'll be over here practicing my Australian accent.

  2. I bet he has Colin Farrell's agent. Remember how he all of a sudden appeared in a bunch of movies with big name actors?