Clash of the Titans

As far as remakes go, Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans single-handedly confirms as some early naysayers grumbled when the film's production was first announced that there simply is no earthly reason for this film to exist; it offers a weaker storyline, a charismatically challenged actor in the role of hero, and insults the audience's pocketbooks with poor, poor 3-D. And then, as if those reasons weren't enough, it dismisses the innocence of the original film as somehow inferior to the mighty special effects this one offers: in one early scene, Perseus digs through a chest of weapons, preparing for battle, and pulls out a mechanical owl (the much beloved Bubo from the original film). Holding it up as if it were merely a child's toy, he asks about the owl in a rather disrespectful tone and is told to leave it alone... as if it were junk... as if this film, complete with its Kraken-sized special effects, is somehow better. Well, it's not... at all.

The story behind Clash of the Titans isn't hard to digest: human beings, created by Zeus (Liam Neeson), are tired of being playthings and disrespected by the gods especially Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Their plan? Withhold their prayers to the gods and take down the statues that surround their cities and party like its 1999. In doing so, Hades who has "a cunning plan" (at least we think he has) to trick Zeus out of his place as King God convinces Zeus to declare war on the humans and allow him to have some fun. All this deception leads to a lone fisherman's son, Perseus (the oh-so-very Australian Sam Worthington), throwing down his fishing line (something we never saw him pick up in the first place) and declare revenge on the gods after some quick sword training from Draco (the entirely watchable Mads Mikkelsen - who would have, in my opinion, made for a better Perseus) - but first must get the head of Medusa to stop the kraken before it is released. If the story sounds silly, well, it is silly; it always has been, yet, somehow, screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi have managed to suck all the joy, the romance and the fantasy from the original script and present us with something when we aren't battling a giant scorpion (in the movie's only inspired scene) or a giant-Disney-Eat-Your-Heart-Out-sized kraken - as dry and as rambling as Death Valley.

Clash of the Titans should be fun, but it isn't in this remake; it's played straight and that just amplifies the plodding problems with the film's barely-held-together-by-words script. Director Leterrier, may be gunning too eagerly for a Titans trilogy, needs to tell the actors to loosen up and not be so gravelly-throated serious with their lines. Neeson and Fiennes are great actors but they do not play off each other as much as they could have; there's a certain camp factor in what they aren't doing on-screen and it makes for missed opportunities to have some fun. And speaking of fun, Worthington may be the luckiest Nobody in Hollywood right now (starring lead in Avatar and Terminator: Salvation), but he doesn't have the charisma to pull this film off. He broods as the lowly boy fisherman of adopted father Pete Postlethwaite. He broods as demi-god son of Zeus as he rides a flying horse and uses his fancy god-kissed sword to fight off Hades. In fact, he does so much brooding throughout the film that there's very little room for his "acting"; he's lifeless, boring, and downright miscast as Perseus. [Note to Hollywood: Bring back someone with a hint of charisma, please, - even Harry Hamlin wasn't this awful.]

Clash of the Titans should be imaginative, but this really isn't. We should be transported by the special effects, not reminded of how earthy everything looks; we should feel the heroic journey to Medusa's lair, not be reminded of how dull and plodding their conversations are as they walk, walk some more, and, finally, do even more walking all captured on film by aerial shots we've seen before ala Lord of the Rings. The film has mighty, mighty special effects that are just like every other modern film of fantasy and some really horrible 3-D moments [Note to parents and fanboys: Do NOT pay extra $ to see the film in 3-D], but it is not nearly as imaginative as the 1981 original and, in one of the clumsiest efforts in recent memory, repackages old ideas and images from far better films (like Enemy Mine, Jason and the Argonauts and The Dark Crystal) as if it was being wholly original. Including, for no reason, a random moment of Perseus riding a black Pegasus (because we certainly can't have Pegasus be white now can we?) on a beach at sunset isn't a respectful homage to The Black Stallion, it's a blatant rip-off. There is a difference, folks. When it comes down to it, Clash of the Titans is everything it shouldn't be (especially with a script this impossible to take seriously): self-important.

While Leterrier claims to owe a debt to the cast of the original Titans with the success of The Incredible Hulk, that debt remains royally unpaid with this inferior remake because there is simply nothing memorable to it. His Clash of the Titans while technically a better film than his previous features ultimately sinks in Poseidon's perilous seas because it can't create a real enough atmosphere solid enough to keep it afloat. Yes, it's dark and magical, but the film provides no real and earned atmosphere to set the stage for the danger afoot; it's all presumed to be present by the use of CGI; however, not even the Stygian Witches or Medusa scenes comes near the creepiness of the original's rendering. Undoubtedly, CGI can certainly create strong images but, believe it or not, it cannot single-handedly create the overall atmosphere of a film. Detailed texture is set up by a number of factors in film...and intelligent CGI alone does not a wondrous film make... unless you are eight-years of age...and even then, if it were me and my dollar, I'd dash into a showing Percy Jackson and the Olympians instead.