CLASH OF THE TITANS, 2010
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Nicholas Hoult, Danny Huston, Izabella Miko
The mortal son of the god Zeus embarks on a perilous journey to stop the underworld and its minions from spreading their evil to Earth as well as the heavens.
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You know you've got a good story on your hands when people are still telling 2,500 years or so since it came up. The first tale to popularize the Greek gods as we know them, the myth of Perseus has everything you need to stay in peoples imagination: giant monsters, a damsel in distress, kingdoms in the balances. It's impossible to screw up, though director Louis Letterier ("The Incredible Hulk") gives it a shot.
All of the classic elements of the myth make an appearance in Letterier's remake of "Clash of the Titans." Young Perseus (Sam Worthington) is abandoned in a casket in the sea with his mother due to her unwitting infidelity with the Zeus (Liam Neeson) the king of the gods and grows up without any knowledge of his divine heritage. After events force him from his home and into the wild world for the first time, Perseus soon finds himself in the kingdom of Argos, about to be consumed by the fearsome Kraken unless the king's daughter (Alexa Davalos) is sacrificed to it. The city, not to mention Andromeda's, only chance is to find some way to defeat a Titan.
The first "Clash" is no classic but it had much to appreciate about it; it wouldn't be particularly fair to compare the new version to it so I won't. The new "Clash" is very much a product of its time. Actually, that's probably the most interesting thing about the new version, though the makers may not entirely realize it.
The Ancient Greeks were terribly superstitious. In surviving mythology, everything that happened to men, every choice they made, was the province of the Gods. If they made some horrible decision it was because some god put the idea in their heads.
Fast forward to the modern day and that kind of thinking is terribly outmoded. The Greeks of Letterier's film put up with the Gods because of the physical power they posses, but they twist and chafe under that yoke. The Gods need their love to stay immortal but treat them like chattel and respond to any reticence like a parent to a misbehaving child. It's no wonder the primary point of the film is the ability of men to do for themselves instead of asking for some divine help for their troubles.
That's an awful big leap to suggest the filmmakers had that sort of comparison in mind but it's not like the film itself offers much to hold your interest, outside of the action scenes themselves.
It is a film created for its action scenes, so that's to be expected, and as they go they're pretty good, though Letterier proves once again he's from the school of more is more, so a lot more's got to be even better. It's adventure film as done by Johnny Extreme. You like battles with giant scorpions? How about battles with giant scorpions TO THE EXTREME!! You like fights with Medusa? How about fights with Medusa TO THE EXTREME!! I'm actually impressed they stopped themselves from tying chainsaws to the scorpions claws.
But there's no connection to anything, and that's a big problem. The primary driving force of the story is to stop the Kraken from killing Andromeda and destroying Argos. But Perseus has no connection to her or the city or any reason to save them. Any good he does them is a pure by-product of his quest to kill Hades (Ralph Fiennes). When the protagonist doesn't have a solid stake in the main plot it's going to be hard for the audience to.
In another sign of how much of its own time "Clash of the Titans" is, much of its real thrust is about the relationship between fathers and sons. The relationship between parent and child is at the heart of the narrative, as that is the general relationship the Gods see for themselves and mankind. Perseus' main desire is to avenge the death of his adopted father (Pete Postlethwaite), which also incites him to turn his back on his true father. In a lot of ways its a good fit considering Perseus origin. On the other hand, its the sort of thing adventure filmmakers have been doing a lot of since "Star Wars," and that's a long time. "Harry Potter," "Batman Begins," the last "Star Trek." Isn't it time we moved on?
As much attention as Letterier et al. have paid to designing and conducting their action scenes, they've equally ignored any sort of plot considerations or sense. Despite Perseus having no idea who his true father, it takes about two seconds for everyone else in Argos to figure it out. Nor does he have any real connection to his main villains. The closest we get is Jason Flemying's Acrisius, the man who killed Perseus real mother and who may have a legitimate beef but Perseus doesn't really have any real way to connect himself to that either. That's mainly because most of the important story elements are thrust at him in a continuous stream of exposition from immortal Io (Gemma Arteton) who has been introduced to do precisely that and not much else.
Or maybe it's just Worthington, who continues to prove that Steven Seagal wasn't a fluke and things like acting ability and charisma are not prerequisites at all to being an action star.
But it's mainly it seems to be that to Letterier things like plot and character are irksome things you have to get past to get to the action and Liam Neeson shouting "Release the Kraken!" On that end he delivers, but for all but the most hardcore of action lovers its more than a little unsatisfying.