A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 254 – Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans (2010) – November 9th, 2010

Every so often someone decides we desperately need to remake a classic. Sometimes it’s obviously a money thing. Sometimes it’s a well-meaning nostalgia thing. But it’s a rare thing for it to be done well. Oh, it can be done. But it wasn’t done here. They made a concerted effort, and a lot of time and money and work went into this remake of the 1981 classic. Big name actors were cast as the gods and apparently a good deal of research went into the costumes and architecture. But for all of that? The best I can say is that it was a very pretty movie and the acting was fine. As remakes go, it’s not great. As movies go, it’s a whole lot of package and very little content.

Sadly, the movie started out fairly well. For about thirty seconds. The opening narration talks about constellations and how they tell ancient stories and whatnot, and then we hear about how Zeus overthrew his father and he and his brothers, Poseidon and Hades, ascended to power. And we were super excited because that right there is not bullshit! And then, as if this movie has something to prove and decided to do so by stating up front that it cares not about mythological integrity, we launch straight into how Hades made the Kraken from his own flesh and from there into something about how the world of men is tired of the gods. This is all to set up the plot of this movie, which differs a good deal in motivation from its source. It’s all about men rising up against the gods and the gods smiting them for being idiots.

I know there was motivation given to Perseus at some point. I suspect it had something to do with Io, who is totally not turned into a cow in this movie, which bothers me a lot more than it should. But Io shows up to confuse the mythology buffs and tell Perseus that she’s been watching over him his whole life, waiting for the right time to something something overthrow the gods something destiny something something. There’s a lot of heartfelt talk in here, about great destinies and the gods and it’s all more than a little confusing. Because, see, Perseus is a demigod, which he only finds out once he’s in Argos, and so he should be all super powerful and help the folks in Argos save their city from Hades, right? Except he doesn’t like the gods because the gods killed his mortal family. But he helps them anyhow. And you’d think Zeus would be all about helping his son like in the original movie, and he is, but he also gets all pissy and rants about how Perseus doesn’t pray to him. So no one likes anyone but they’re all off to see the wizard or destroy the one ring or whatever. Whatever in this instance being getting Medusa’s head to turn the Kraken to stone so the folks in Argos don’t have to sacrifice Princess Andromeda to save the city.

And okay, hold on. Let me get something off my chest. If a god showed up in my palace and said “Sacrifice Princess Whatsherface or I’ll have my monster destroy your city,” and then I trussed up Princess Whatsherface and dangled her like a cat toy for said monster? I’d be kind of miffed if said monster DESTROYED MY CITY even a little when it showed up for its snack. The deal was a princess for no city destruction. I delivered on the princess end of the bargain! That was to keep my buildings standing and my people not crushed. If the city was going to get smashed up anyhow, I’d have just evacuated, okay? Okay.

Back to Perseus. He has ever so many adventures along the way to Oz. I mean the underworld. He faces off with Calibos, who isn’t Thetis’s son in this movie, thank goodness, but is instead Perseus’ mother’s husband, transformed by Hades into a monster so Hades can stop Perseus from defeating the Kraken. Because Hades wants to rule Olympus. Which kind of makes me wonder if the folks who reworked the plot/script for this remake were reading the Percy Jackson books at the time. Anyhow, Perseus fights super giant scorpions and then rides one, and he meets up with the Stygian Witches and they’re nice and creepy. He fights Medusa and cuts her head off, of course. But before that, the movie seems to have yet more to prove. I mean, we can’t have a movie from the 1980s mucking with mythology more than the remake, can we? And we’ve already got the Kraken. Might as well add some djinn! I honestly started wondering if we’d get an appearance from Quezalcoatl or maybe the Ki-lin? And they’d have been gorgeous, but just as ridiculously unnecessary to the movie as the djinn were.

I know I’m bagging this movie pretty hard. I found the plot to be messy and self-contradictory and there were speeches and conversations that just made me tune out completely. The whole idea of men rising up against the gods is good fodder and all, but the movie never really follows through in one direction or another. Do we want to overthrow Zeus, or not? Do we care? The movie doesn’t seem to. And really, it shouldn’t have bothered to try a high-ish concept like that. Because the point of the movie isn’t the morals of power and divinity. It’s about the action and the fight sequences and the special effects and the monsters. And the actions and fight sequences and special effects and monsters? Are fantastic.

Now, speaking personally, they can’t top Harryhausen for charm and single-handed skill. Three people on the animation crew for the original made all of that amazing work, and there’s a certain touch to it that isn’t in modern computer animated movies. But the modern movies, like this one, are fantastic all the same. Medusa? Awesome and definitely pinged my ophidiophobia. I’m absolutely in love with the sort of winged cloak thing that Hades had following him everywhere. The Stygian Witches were supremely bizarre. And the Kraken. Oh my goodness, the Kraken. Take the Watcher in the water from Fellowship of the Ring and multiply it by a gajillion and you’ve got the Kraken, and well. While I prefer Harryhausen’s animation for its personal touch, I think I like this Kraken better for sheer terror factor. This is a monster that is the stuff of nightmares.

So yes, it is a visually stunning movie. I would expect it to be, really, given the special effects standards of the day. The fights are exciting and the action is great in general. There’s some real tension built in here. I wasn’t blown away by any particular actor in the movie, but I wasn’t displeased with anyone either. But then there’s the plot. And the fact that this was supposed to be a remake of the 1981 movie. And I get the nostalgia factor. I get that remakes get made to cash in on people’s fond memories of the original. I know. But if they’d ditched the remake concept and simply started from scratch, building a new Greek mythology based action epic, perhaps it would have gone better. Or perhaps they’d have ended up with Percy Jackson, and since that only came out a few months before this did, that’s a little soon for a remake.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | 1 Comment

Clash of the Titans (2010)

November 9, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Aside from the title, the Kraken and some of the character names from the 1981 movie this one bears very little resemblance to its forebearer. I kind of thought as we put this in tonight that I knew what I was going to be watching. I thought it was going to be the same basic movie as yesterday, but with modern big-budget effects. In truth it bears more resemblance to the God of War series of games – but with a slightly less unlovable hero.

The core quest – to slay Medusa and use her head to stop the Kraken from destroying a city and save Andromeda remains the same, but all the motivations have been changed around, and the mythology is far crazier than even in the first movie. Right from the beginning it’s established that there’s some big conflict between the gods and mankind in this movie. Humans are sick of being playthings for the gods and have decided to just stop worshiping them. Perseus’ adoptive father Pete Postlethwaite says that men have “declared war” on the gods when he sees a giant statue of Zeus being toppled into the sea, but really it’s more like men have just kind of decided it’s too much bother all that burning sacrificial cows and whatnot and are kind of hoping if they ignore the gods that the gods will just leave like unwelcome party guests. Of course they go too far and start bragging about how they’re the gods now, which kind of upsets the big folks on Mt. Olympus.

Then things get even more muddy. It seems that Hades has a plot to depose Zeus by forcing people to fear him, thus depriving Zeus of his worshipers. It’s like the writers of this movie learned everything they know about Greek mythology from the Disney Hercules movie. I don’t actually recall much quarreling between Zeus and Hades in the myths. Most of the time it was Zeus and Poseidon (who here is played by some guy who REALLY wants to be Brian Blessed, but only gets about two lines.) Or Zeus and his jealous wife Hera – because he was always sleeping around with mortals. Hades was the quiet guy with his own entire kingdom to rule who fed pomegranates to visiting princesses or something. I never got the sense that he was dissatisfied with his lot aside from maybe being a little lonely.

Anyhow – Hades is going to release the Kraken (who in this version was a tool used to defeat the Titans who begot the gods.) He gives the people of Argos (which in this movie has not been destroyed already) the choice of letting their city be destroyed or sacrificing their princess Andromeda. Our lumpy hero Perseus in this movie doesn’t really care either way. He arrives in Argos all pissed off because he has just seen Hades kill his entire adoptive family in retribution for the destruction of Zeus’ statue – which they didn’t even participate in. We can tell he’s the hero because he’s the only man in all of Greece who doesn’t have tragically awful hair – everybody else has sort of dreded out braids but he has a buzz cut. Anyhow, he doesn’t give a damn about Argos or about Andromeda (who seems like a nice enough girl who is fully willing to sacrifice herself to save her people) and he’s not too thrilled to find out that he’s the son of a god. Along comes Io – who here is the scrappy female companion and romantic interest for Perseus – and she somehow convinces him that if he doesn’t get off his ass and make with the quest ting this whole movie is for nothing, so he becomes a reluctant hero and along with a rag-tag band of lovable caricatures who are clearly doomed he sets off. There’s the laconic old guy, the gawping new recruit, the bitter commander who only wants to spit in the eyes of the gods, a couple of local hunters for comic relief and a bunch of cannon fodder besides.

You know what? Who cares about the plot. The motivations aren’t there, the hero can’t decide if he wants to be a hero and has this complex about being just a simple fisherman, the entire conflict between Zeus and Hades seems contrived and the “romance” between Io and Perseus seems almost laboured. Perseus has absolutely no reason to want to save Argos so it’s odd that he just keeps on going through all these obstacles to do it. After the group on their quest defeat some giant scorpions in a big action set piece a bunch of undead Djin show up and I had to just throw my hands up in submission. Now it seems that this God of War inspired Clash of the Titans movie is throwing in stuff from the most recent Prince of Persia game – it’s just silly. After a while I just stopped caring about anything in the movie except for the action scenes, and maybe that was what the creators intended. The action scenes are fun, I suppose. There’s the scorpions and there’s Medusa, and there’s the climactic chase scene through the streets of Argos with Pegasus and a bunch of flying demon-things that have stolen Medusa’s head, and there’s the Kraken, which is big and breaks a lot of stuff. It’s nice to look at, I suppose, but when you don’t really care about anybody involved it loses some of its impact.

Ultimately I feel like this movie is simply forgettable. It’s a soulless effects laden summer blockbuster with none of the charm or heart of the movie it was based upon. It will be remembered mostly as a footnote. Its most memorable feature I suppose was that it started a sad trend of slapping 3-D effects onto a movie in post production at a time when 3-D was perceived as being the next big thing in cinemas. (Don’t get me wrong – I love 3-D movies and fully intend to get a 3-D television in the next couple years, but post-production fiddling is absolutely the wrong way to go about it.) Amanda tells me now that there’s a sequel to this in pre-production. I hope it involves an ash-covered bald Spartan and his quest to kill his father Zeus… or maybe time travel and steampunk robots – at this point I’d believe they’d throw in just about anything.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment