Clash of the Titans
By david roark
April 2, 2010
Our reviewer says this won't be remembered a few hours after it's over.
When Warner Brothers announced they would be remaking Desmond Davis’ 1981 classic, the question inevitably arose: Why? Evidently, director Louis Leterrier thought he was on to something with his 2008 superhero film, The Incredible Hulk, which followed Ang Lee’s 2003 adaptation of the same Marvel story. Truth is, it wouldn’t have taken much to please moviegoers after Lee overdramatized and characterized what they wanted to be brainless busyness and action. Nevertheless, Leterrier’s film was a relative success—thanks mainly to the aptitude of Edward Norton—grossing nearly $300 million, enough to pave the way for the 2010 3D disaster, Clash of the Titans.
If it wasn’t for Avatar, COTT would have released a week earlier, but the studio decided to run a last minute test to see if it could be reformatted in 3D. Somehow it passed, and in hope of increasing numbers in the box office, Warner Brothers moved the release date back and started the overhaul, now advertising the movie's amazing, 3D visual effects, as if the talented cast no longer existed. It turns out these gifted performers, who should have been the film’s anchor, are wasted anyway. Though, there’s nothing holding this ship down; it’s nothing but an expensive coat of paint that, with a couple of looks, turns out to be pretty ugly.
Sam Worthington, who wasn’t convincing in Avatar, plays Perseus, the abandoned son of Zeus who is literally hell-bent on avenging the deaths of his adopted parents and sister after they’re murdered by the wrathful god, Hades (Ralph Fiennes). He is motivated by vengeance, as opposed to love and courage like the original, which is really no surprise with Hollywood today: From nearly every Tarantino movie to the work of Mel Gibson, the bad guy is always brought to what is falsely masked as justice. Although Perseus does come to terms with his father, his other resentment is wrongly vindicated. Leterrier, like so many other directors have, forsakes ethics and integrity to feed the revenge-hungry appetites of his audience.
Traveling with Perseus on his vengeful voyage is Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), a stubborn soldier, and Io (Gemma Arterton), his angelic guide, along with a few other uninteresting characters. Together, the small band faces Davis’ same villains: giant scorpions, the man-turned-demon Calibos (Jason Flemyng), the three Fates and, of course, Medusa (cheesy CGI), which leads to a predictable showdown with the infamous Kraken, a creature that went from looking like Godzilla to the Rancor Monster from Return of the Jedi. Leterrier’s writers, Lawrence Kasdan and Travis Beacham don’t bring anything new to the old plot. With a remake, a director and his writers should, at the very least, be able to revive the original story, but that is not the case here; its script is as bad as its predecessor’s.
Unfortunately, this ruins what is seemingly a flawless cast, minus Worthington, who takes on the caricature of an angry caveman and does nothing but look mad and talk in sentences with five words or less. Liam Neeson, one of few great actors of today, isn’t given any opportunities to shine; though, he does physically shine wearing silly armor that glows to unbearable lengths. Fiennes’ talent is misused, as well: His character, Hades, sounds and acts like a bad version of Lord Voldemort, a persona he’s mastered maybe a little too well. Liam Cunningham, Mads Mikkelsen and Pete Postlethwaite are a few other gems thrown on the backburner. Leterrier works with some of the best actors money can buy yet proves he can’t direct them, or his writers for that matter.
So when all else fails, which it undoubtedly does, the solution nowadays seems to be more action, noise and visual effects. At least that's what Michael Bay thinks. Clash of the Titans tries all that and more, adding 3D just months before its release. But if there was ever a time to skip the third dimension, this is it. Unlike Avatar and recent animated pictures, the film's 3D gimmicks are blurry and jumpy, lacking a crisp, detailed tone. They look just like what they are: cheap tricks tacked on at the last minute. Thus, with the only viable thing left to save the film failing, it's best to skip every dimension of this junk.
The original COTT often receives criticism for Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion model animation, which was, indeed, outdated in conjunction with what George Lucas’ team was doing at the time. But Leterrier’s version proves that being tech-savvy doesn’t guarantee success. Despite its many flaws, there’s a reason Davis’ version is a cult classic. Similarity, there’s a reason Leterrier’s remake won’t be remembered a few hours after it’s over.