Saturday, April 3, 2010
TEFB REVIEW: CLASH OF THE TITANS
Directed by Louis Letterier
Starring Sam Worthington, Mads Mikkelson, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
*NOTE: This is a review of the 2D release of Clash of the Titans. The 3D version was completed through a process called "upconversion", meaning the film was shot using regular 2D cameras and then processed in post-production for 3D presentation. Word on the internet is that this process has severely cheapened the look of the film. With theater chains raising prices on all ticket sales and 3D tickets especially, I believe you are being ripped off if you pay money for the 3D release of Clash of the Titans. DO NOT pay more for an inferior product. And now, on with the review. *
The original Clash of the Titans is a cheesy yet utterly fun fantasy-adventure that featured serious actors (like Lawrence Olivier) camping it up and visual effects by the legendary Ray Harryhausen. Modern viewers would most likely chuckle at the stop-motion animation and Harry Hamlin's hair, but the film still possesses a certain charm, and it's easy to see why it's become one of the better known cult-classics.
It's no surprise that Hollywood has decided to remake the film, then. Always looking to improve on an original (using the "we can do with technology today what couldn't be done 30 years ago" mantra), director Louis Letterier (Transporter 2, The Incredibly Hulk) was commissioned to make Clash of the Titans bigger, leaner, and meaner than the original. He has succeeded. He's obviously improved on the effects (but then again who couldn't? Even an 18 year old with basic knowledge of Adobe After Effects could create a better looking Medusa than the original - which is not a slight to Harryhausen's amazing work, advanced and mind- blowing at the time), made the monsters bigger, and made Perseus a bad-ass with a buzzcut. The only thing he forgot to do was capture the spirit and fun sense of adventure of the original. For every new and improved visual effect used, a layer of joy is taken away, making Clash of the Titans 2010 a depressing, joyless, plodding film that only occasionally picks up to slap smiles across the face of the audience.
Predictably, the writers of Clash '10 have modified the story from the first film. In Clash '81, Perseus was a pawn in the game of bickering gods Zeus and Thetis. The revamp bestows Perseus with an adoptive father and mother (Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern) who spout exposition and make sure Perseus knows he's destined for great things. Meanwhile, mankind declares war on the gods who reign on Mount Olympus. To keep the humans under control, Zeus (Liam Neeson) lets his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) advise the humans that if they do not spill the blood of Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) in ten days, then Hades will "release the Kraken" on the city of Argos, effectively destroying it. And no one, I repeat, no one wants to see Hades's Kraken. Especially not Perseus, who gets all fired up because his step-parents are killed during Hades's initial attack on Argos. Eschewing some characters (like Burgess Meredith's Ammon) and side-quests from the original, Perseus's goal in this film is to simply slay the Kraken. To do this, he joins the army of Argos and becomes, for reasons really unexplained except that he is a demi-god (Zeus, it comes to find out, is Perseus's father) and it is his destiny.
The journey to find out how to kill the Kraken includes encounters with gigantic scorpions, Stygian witches, Pegasus, and Medusa. Letterier has an eye for action, and it is in these scenes in which a glimmer of fun can be found. The scorpion battle is especially impressive and, as it occurs at the beginning of the second act I began hoping the rest of the film would maintain the same momentum to be found in that scene - as the first forty minutes or so are a slog. Unfortunately the scenes between the battles are also sloggy (I'm coining that term, by the way), and the film seems much longer than it is.
A lot of the problems rest with director Letterier who can, as previously mention, shoot an action scene. What he can't do is properly tell a story. His partner in crime, though, (crime against cinema, that is) is the complete and utter personality void that is Sam Worthington. Worthington is quickly becoming one of the most annoying actors in Hollywood, while at the same time becoming one of the most popular. It's easy to see why he has starred in 3 of the biggest films of the last 2 years (Titans, Avatar, and Terminator: Salvation): he plays every character as broad as possible, so that every single person in the audience - from the geekiest pale-white male to the oldest frail grandmother - can project themselves onto him. While that makes for a good character/actor to identify with it doesn't make for a good character to develop or to even have a real interest in. Don't get me wrong: actors like Worthington have been around for decades, but at least someone comparable like Vin Diesel has cocky charisma going for him. Worthington sinks to such new and unique levels of vapidness that, from now on, I will refer to actors in the same league as having "Worthingtonness."
If it sounds like I'm being too harsh on Clash of the Titans 2010, I probably am. After all, the original film isn't perfect and shares some problems with the remake. Titans '10 does have some positives: close to flawless use of CG, nice use of practical locations, Mads Mikkelson, gigantic scorpions. But again, there is a spirit of liveliness that runs through the center of the original even when it slows to a crawl. The remake takes itself way too seriously - so seriously, in fact, that Bubo (the golden owl from the original film) gets a small cameo (Perseus grabs the owl out of a box and says "what's this?"), and Worthington recently denounced the usage of the character in the original film, telling Letterier at one point "you're going to ruin my career with that owl!"
If the director and actor lightened up a little bit, Clash of the Titans 2010 could have been a fun and gigantic kick-start to the summer film season. Instead, it's mildly enjoyable in parts but instantly forgettable.