Clash of the Titans

Wicked/Winged Things

Clash of the Titans

Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson

By Robert Patrick

The people, with hubris beyond their body capacity, have lost their faith in Zeus. A demigod has arisen in the wake of this spiritual uproar. And the Gods, upset by the humans and their disrespect for the heavens, mount a counter strike. The dusty, yet barely archaic, premise of 1981’s “Clash of the Titans” is given a makeover by the powder brush of computer animation. No longer functioning on Ray Harryhausen’s stopmotion effects, as innovative as they were at the time, “Clash” finds itself embroiled in the world of 3-D.

Perseus (Sam Worthington), a fisherman with the blood of the Gods, finds himself man’s only hope against the cruel monarchy of Zeus (Liam Neeson) and his impervious followers. Armed with only a troupe of grizzled allies, each possessing the prowess of a salivating mountain cat, the unlikely hero and his men leap into battle against unearthly foes in an effort to quell the megalomania of Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his kin.

As expected, the action sequences are kinetic and wrought with heavy carnage, as Perseus and his motley crew of warriors plough through maniacal obstacles en route to extinguishing the Gods’ infernal reign upon man. The mortals in the film face everything, from giant scorpions to the infamous Medusa, before they attempt to tackle the most nefarious creature of them all – the kraken.

The buzzing of giant terrestrial arachnids, mixed with the grievances of watching fallen allies careen into the dirt/sand/lava/unidentifiable mists of the underworld, gets a little stale at some points, but “Clash of the Titans” smartly decides to pull on the reins before the film’s running time throws itself off a cliff – even though the cavalcade of special effects can make one desensitized to feeling engaged by all of the violent exchanges.

Traditional battle scenes from the first “Clash of the Titans” are reissued using today’s obligatory action direction, including fast-paced chases that are intermittently slowed down for theatrical effect before they are sped up again; close-ups of swords whizzing through the air; loopy one-liners being spewed out for comic relief. It’s essentially the same recipe stirred by a different spoon, sure, but the formulaic mischief often finds itself entertaining the audience. Some integral characters and situations are omitted in the updated reworking of “Clash of the Titans” – Persues’ owl, Bubo, makes only a cameo appearance – but the truncated parts of the 1981 epic don’t hinder the overall affect of director Louis Leterrier’s fanciful remake.

The casting of Ralph Fiennes as the manipulative and uncouth Hades is a bit uninspired, as much as the casting directors think it is clever, and gets a little tired after a few innocuous scenes of leprous behavior. Liam Neesan as Zeus is equally as exasperating, as he does little more than brightly shine throughout his screen-time, while he dons some sort of dubiously reflective chest-plate. The stars of the film, as they are billed, are pretty ridiculously underused and criminally boring. Initially Sam Worthington looks not so much a Greek warrior as a member of a Greek fraternity, but he proves to be a worthy occupant of the Perseus armor, even though his warbled Australian accent knocks back vowels as if they were bowling pins. Worthington swivels his body, lops off giant scorpion legs, then arches his back in victory. There isn’t much character depth, but perhaps the linear structure of the film is good for the testosterone-overdrive that Worthington permeates. Worthington, after all, isn’t required to do anything more than sneer at the oncoming baddies, throw his blade into someone’s artery, then shimmer in the sunlight.

The original, despite being clunky and visually choppy, is still much more heady and exhilarating to watch – even when held against the behemoth flame of today’s CGI torch. There is a lot more texture to the Desmond Davis original that is, because of today’s glossy interpretation, lost to the silkiness of computer graphics. No matter, the soul, albeit marred and not without exploitation, is still relatively intact for this 2010 update. Worth a watch, but you wont remember it later.


Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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