MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Fantasy-Action/ Stars: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Luke Evans, Izabella Miko, Liam Cunningham, Nicholas Hoult, Vincent Regan, Polly Walker, Luke Treadaway, Pete Postlethwaite, Elizabeth McGovern, Sinead Michael, Ross Mullan, Robin Berry, Graham Hughes, Martin McCann, Rory McCann, Kaya Scodelario, Alexander Siddig, Tamer Hassan, Danny Huston, William Houston, Nina Young, Jane March, Nathalie Cox, Agyness Deyn, Paul Kynman, Natalia Vodianova/ Runtime: 108 minutes
I feel that I should start this review off by being honest with you about an integral movie from my childhood movie lovers: when it comes to the film from 1981 and helmed by Desmond Davis that is Clash of the Titans, it really truly is no Jason and the Argonauts for quite a few people out there (shocking I know). I say this because for many people if you rip off the nostalgia Band-Aid and omit entirely the wonderful work done by stop-motion artist extraordinaire Ray Harryhausen then what you are ultimately left looking at could be interpreted and seen as a overblown and slightly cheesy film with quite superficial in the way of their theatricality performances from a truly gifted cast. In other words: hardly the kind of thing that would make Odysseus hurry home that much faster to sit down and watch while ruling as king of Ithaca. I guess that is why the tiny but still quite vocal hostility towards film helmer Louis Leterrier’s 2010 stab at this “iconic film” really befuddles the heck out of me. Yes in all fairness, Leterrier and his creative team made quite a few intriguing changes to both the story and the cast of characters. Yes they tweaked certain things that most certainly didn’t need it whilst also permitting dated ideas to go through untouched. Oh and yes film lead Sam Worthington is most certainly not the most charismatic demigod this way of Hercules. Yet when compared to the first take’s all over the place script, the unruly sense of pace and patience-testing story, and a by-the-numbers turn as Perseus from Harry Hamlin, this version at least captures your interest just a bit better. Indeed is it giant and slightly idiotic fun? Oh make no mistake. Is it chock-full of CGI? Absolutely. Is it better than what audiences were given in 1981? In some ways, but just because that is the case does not signify that this version is any more of an iconic film than what came before though I certainly forgive you for thinking so.
The plot is as follows: When the spiteful god of the Underworld by the name of Hades decides to lay waste to a group of sacrilegious warriors, he also accidentally annihilates a fishing boat that also kills everyone. Well I should say almost everyone. I say that because an obedient young man by the name of Perseus manages to survive and makes it his mission to get vengeance on Hades no matter what. Yet it isn’t long thereafter that Perseus finds himself in the city of Argos where he again witnesses Hades appear. This time however, the dark lord gives the royals in Argos a difficult choice to make: sacrifice their beloved daughter in 10 days or watch as Argos is annihilated by a creature known only as the Kraken. Oh and that Perseus is Zeus’ illegitimate son, a development the king pounces on in the hopes that Perseus will help save Argos. Yet despite his initial and quite high degree of reluctance, Perseus soon comes around when he learns that by defeating the Kraken he will get the shot at Hades that he is craving. To that end, we soon see Perseus and a group of warriors set out on a quest. One that will involve rejected royals, giant and terrifying scorpions, a vicious creature known as Medusa, and which promises to test Perseus’ skill and determination in order to prove his worth. Not only to the gods mind you, but to mankind as well…
Now even though quite a few narrative ingredients and characters from the 1981 take are still in one piece, the film helmer and his creative team manage to quite easily break away from the original. That being said it’s sadly not always a better thing. Indeed, in this version, we see that Zeus is now a god who is trying to keep his status as ruler of the Gods and the source of his power comes from man’s obedient worship of him. Indeed it’s an intriguing wrinkle on a time-tested idea, but the fact still remains that Olympus and the gods themselves manage to operate as caricatures when the performances behind them are at their best. Indeed functioning as a jaded and spiteful leader one minute and a caring father to Perseus the next, Zeus is both the anchor this film has whilst also being the narrative’s most inconsistent player. Yet even more indiscernible is the main character of Perseus as we see that it is revenge not love which moves the narrative to its predictable end and in the process of turning Perseus into an angst-driven action hero with a severe case of the worst daddy issues possible. In all fairness, from a performance angle, Worthington does do decent with the part even if the role involves all of just a handful of emotions, but on the written page this is one here that has no dimension to him whatsoever. Oh and did I mention the Djinn? Indeed put in this film for the sole reason of giving Perseus and his squad a way to get from place to place, the Djinn manage to show up and become truly horrendous narrative detractors especially when it comes to Perseus’ duel with Medusa. Yet even with these stumbling blocks at play, there are still positives to be found. Indeed Hades is a fantastic plus due to giving the story one antagonist to focus on. Plus we also get wonderful work from Gemma Arterton who as Io provides a decent feminine angle to the narrative as well as by the men, including Mads Mikkelsen and Nicholas Hoult, who form the squad backing Perseus up. Indeed they may annoy you with their misplaced sense of comic relief, but they are still better characters than the bumblers of the original.
Oh and as for those creations that were made with such love and care by Harryhausen in the original? Well you should know that they had a whole lot more to them than the CG critters in this one, but that doesn’t mean they were complete successes. For those of you who don’t know “a whole lot more to them” I mean the heart, passion, and skill that was integral to Harryhausen’s various designs and the animation that went into creating them, and not how believable they may have seemed or how much of an impact they left on audiences. Indeed whereas Pegasus has turned into a stock footage worthy horse as time has gone on from the original, this take on the fabled horse is both graceful and powerful. Also while most individuals wearing a pair of Jordans could run all over the original movie’s take on Medusa (astonishing as that moment may be), this version’s take on the terrifying snake-haired vixen is much more ruthless and vicious in equal measure. Also even though the scorpions once simply did the tango around Hamlin and his squad, these scorpions shake things up, viciously impale any humans in sight. Oh and despite the 1981 Kraken looking more like a giant with the face of an infant, this one’s version is a true force to be reckoned with. Indeed complete with razor-blade sharp teeth and too numerous to count tentacles, this one has no respect for the town of Argos’ architecture at all and is more force of nature than monster. Now I would like it to be known: I do have a fondness and respect for what Harryhausen did as a special effects artist and his iconic creature work is one of the few things which make the original Titans film watchable. Yet at the same time let us not allow praise to stand in the way of the truth. Sad I know. Ultimately this film is very much like Leterrier’s take on The Incredible Hulk. There are things which function well whereas others don’t, some thespians who work with heart and others for a paycheck, and some effects that are phenomenal and some the less said about them the better. Yet as a “reimagining” this film should still be seen as a success despite the flaws that are in both its script and its characters because at the end of the day this is meant to be a popcorn flick in every sense of the word. Yes it could have been better, but it also could have been a whole lot worse.
All in all it is relatively easy to say that the 2010 take on the tale that is Clash of the Titans manages to be quite a giant leap forward from the delightfully cheesy film brought to us by Desmond Davis in the far long and gone year of 1981…. well at least in regards to the work done by the special effects department (sorry Ray). As far as everything else goes however, film helmer Louis Leterrier’s 21st century update sadly is one that manages to be way too similar to its predecessor than it would care to admit right down to the embrace of superficial aspects as well as wallowing in the worst tidal waves of melodrama possible whenever the monsters are nowhere to be found. Yes, in all fairness the cast in this take do give better performances with their respective characters and the narrative is not as all over the place as it was in 1981, but nevertheless the narrative and the cast of characters still manage to be no more and no less than rough sketches of both the epic tales and the characters at the heart of those tales that managed to inspire this story be it the one in 1981 or this one. On a scale of 1-5 I give Clash of the Titans “2010” a solid 3 out of 5.