I wanted to enjoy Clash of the Titans. The previews highlighted some terrific special effects and certainly Greek mythology is a fertile field of sweeping sagas, epic stories of men challenging the gods and strange, amazing creatures. Unfortunately, there were two problems with the movie, problems that doom an otherwise entertaining adventure film: the retrofit 3D effects and the poor performance of Sam Worthington in the title role of Perseus.
Perseus is a demi-god, the offspring of the god Zeus (Liam Neeson) and a mortal woman, Danae (Tine Stapelfeldt). When Danae’s mortal husband Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) learns that her child was not from him, he nails her and the baby into a coffin and hurls it into the ocean in rage. Miraculously, they safely wash ashore and become the wife and child of the humble Greek fisherman Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite).
That’s where things diverge from classic Greek mythology and that’s where the film starts to get confusing. In a nutshell, most of the mortals are tired of having to pay homage to the gods and begin to rebel. In one scene, they topple a massive statue of Zeus into the sea. The gods are not happy because it’s the love of mortals that give them life: if no-one believes in them, if no-one worships them, they’ll die. Meanwhile, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), brother of Zeus and god of the underworld, takes advantage of the foment to put his own schemes in place to become the top god and restore his place on Mount Olympus.
The journey of Perseus hinges on an angry Zeus threatening to unleash the Kraken, a horrible, mighty beast that will destroy the entire city of Argos if the mortal princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) isn’t sacrificed. Perseus is in love with Andromeda and vows to go to any lengths to save her and Argos from the vengeful Gods. The only way to kill the Kraken is to show it Medusa’s head, but Medusa (Natalia Vodianova) lives in the underworld and, well, if you look at her, you turn to stone. Bit of a tricky quest, finding the entrance to the underworld, convincing the ferryman to take you across the river Styx to Hades domain, killing Medusa, and bringing the head back, all in just a few days.
Along the way the film roughly follows some of the classic scenes of the 1981 Ray Harryhausen special effects masterpiece Clash of the Titans, with Pegasus the winged horse, giant scorpions, Medusa and strange flying creatures, but while the original had a sense of humor about it, the remake has a ponderous seriousness about it that makes it feel like a quest for the viewer too.
I saw the film in 3D and I have to say that I’m already tiring of the effect. Clash of the Titans had its 3D added after the film was done, at a cost of $10 million. There are twenty films that are lined up for those precious 3D-capable theaters, but more and more it feels like that’s because the studio can make more due to the higher ticket price than because it’s actually adding anything to the film.
Sam Worthington as Perseus in “Clash of the Titans”
In Clash of the Titans, the 3D was blurry and distracted from the narrative and special effects, rather than enhancing them. I can only hope that in the next year or two directors will insist on either skipping 3D entirely to preserve their vision of the film or will actually work with 3D from the first frame so that the effects are more enjoyable.
Does it ultimately sound like a soap opera with lots of vaguely familiar names? It is. The problem with Clash of the Titans, though, is that Perseus is the original heroic mortal and his journey is the archetypal hero’s journey, and that Worthington just doesn’t have the range to pull it off. Instead, he hacks and slashes his way through a mythic adventure without ever showing us growth and development as a person.
This left the film without a soul, another “look what we can do with computer graphics” DVD release that is unlikely to be a favorite for more than a viewing or two. Recommended if you’re a special effects junkie, otherwise catch it on HBO or rent the DVD, you’ll be fine.