Clash of the Titans (2010)
Film review by: Witney Seibold
Dreary. Dreary, brown, and joyless, this new version of 1981’s mythology mishmash is yet another CGI-oversaturated remake of a previous Hollywood property that no one asked for. I hate to be so cynical and reductionist but I will merely reiterate here what is likely already scattered all over the internet: I’m growing increasingly tired of Hollywood remakes. They seem more and more like wastes of money, and a desperate need to simultaneously bank on mindless nostalgia, while attempting to revise film history. And seeing these remakes being constantly released is made all the more painful when they’re boasted as Big Events (this film was released in 3-D in some theaters), and, just like many action blockbusters of the past, turn out to be shoddily constructed, thuddingly dull extravaganzas.
But perhaps I’m being a bit too hard on Louis Leterrier’s version of “Clash of the Titans;” I seem to be criticizing more what it is rather than how it is. Let’s take a closer look.
This new “Clash of the Titans” is indeed a dreary, dreary film. Everything is shot with a sepia palate that seems to sap out all the details of a frame, leaving us with a jumble of indistinct images. This is a practice that started in 2000 with Ridley Scott’s film “Gladiator” and was codified by Zack Snyder’s inexplicable hit “300.” Our lead character is Perseus (Sam Worthington from “Avatar.”), who you can tell is a badass because of his military haircut and aversion to smiling. He was raised by a gentle fisherman (Pete Postlethwaite), but is secretly the offspring of Zeus (Liam Neeson) and a mortal woman. When Hades (Ralph Fiennes, the only actor who seems to be having any fun) butchers a group of bitter Argosian citizens for toppling a statue of Zeus (talk about instant karma!), Perseus avows revenge against the gods.
Oh, also, since the people of Argos have been transforming into an increasingly secular society, Hades appears to them and says that if they don’t sacrifice the princess (Alexa Davalos) in ten days, he will unleash a Kraken on the people. A Kraken is a giant Lovecraftian monster with tentacles and a propensity for wreckin’ stuff. Heck, the Kraken was the beastie that killed the Titans. Hades also calls out Perseus as a demigod in front of everyone, so he is enlisted in the quest to foil Hades plot to release the Kraken. Zeus thinks that if the people see a Kraken, they will up the prayer ante, and the gods will become powerful again, so he’s o.k. with Hades’ plan.
Hades, however, also has a secret plot to feed on the fears of the people, and overthrow Zeus. It seems kind of unclear how all this fear/prayer/godpower dynamic really works in this universe. Hades also has in his thrall a demon-like fellow named Calibos (Jason Felmyng) whose blood can grown giant scorpions out of the ground.
Anyway, Perseus teams up with Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), a hot young boy (Nicholas Hoult from “A Single Man”), and an immortal babe named Io (Gemma Arterton). They quest across an episodic landscape where they battle the aforementioned scorpions, cross the river Styx, chat up a trio of witches, and infiltrate Medusa’s lair. I don’t think I’m revealing anything to say that the Kraken is eventually released, as you’ve either seen the original film, or you’ve seen the ubiquitous ads featuring the Kraken.
The theology in this film is a little muddy. The Gods do exist, but they’re often seen as petty frontrunners and vengeful bastards. I’m o.k. with this, as there was, according to Bullfinch, pettiness in a lot of the old myths. But then they seem reliant on the prayers of people to have power. The characters all badmouth the Gods, and there’s a lot of uptalk of secularism. There’s a wild-eyed holy man who is clearly a manic. But, ultimately, it was belief in the Gods, and their divine intervention, that saved the day. It’s like the film wanted to preach, but didn’t have a long enough attention span.
Where was the fun? Isn’t “Clash of the Titans” supposed to be a wild adventurous romp with strange and fantastical creatures, spirited battles, and lighthearted heroes? Aren’t the Gods supposed to be classically demonstrative and not broody? Why bother remaking a film and sucking out all the corny, joyous aspects? Why do action adventure films all have to be brown and muddy and “realistic?” If you’re going to make a film with monsters and battles, and the convert it to 3-D, should it be bright and quick and enjoyable?
Find the original on home video. Watch it. You’ll have more fun.