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Clash of the Titans

dir: Louis Leterrier
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Did Clash of the Titans need to be remade? In 3D no less?

Of course it did, you anti-capitalistic naysayers. Everything should be remade in 3D. Weekend at Bernie’s 3D. Driving Miss Daisy 3D. Deep Throat 3D.

That last one could have your eye out if you’re not careful.

It’s profitable, isn’t it? And, as the drug, prostitution and pornography industries have always taught us: If something’s profitable, of course you should be doing it.

Most reviewers keep referring to the original flick as being not very good in the first place, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. The story’s based on Greek mythology from three millennia ago, so blaming Harry Hamlin or Ray Harryhausen seems a bit much. For all the blather regarding Joseph Campbell, the heroic journey and the fundamentals of epic story telling, the tale of Perseus slaying the Gorgon Medusa and saving Andromeda from a monster while riding a winged horse is pretty cheesy crap regardless of how big the budget or whether you’ve got Sir Ian McKellen or Fabio in a lead role.

Despite the fact that I was, as a child, tragically afflicted with the nerd gene that made me obsess over mythology, the occult, and all fantasy kinds of crap, the flick this allegedly repurposes for the 2010s was never one that I had an opinion on, one way or another. I remember scenes of Sir Larry Olivier swanning about like he owned the place just because his name was Zeus, but I more recall the perpetual expression on his face as if he was smelling a particularly unpleasant fart.

And I remember the bushy haired Harry Hamlin, who was kind of a prototypical David Hasselhoff of his day, looking pretty stupid in sword and sandalled attire. And some clunky battles with skeletons and scorpions, but I could be mixing this flick up with a bunch of other crap from the era. It’s certainly possible.

I’ve got no problem with it being remade. And I’ve got no problem with this remake. It is a significantly better and zippier flick than the first, though the almost universal hatred for this flick on the internets leaves me somewhat perplexed.

I’ll admit straight up that I watched this flick in its 2D incarnation, because many an early review, where the reviewer saw the flick in both formats, decried the 3D version as awful, eye-bleed inducing crap that had all been realised in post-production to jump on this most profitable of bandwagons, and not as a planned part of the production process.

It is with a light heart that I reassure the masses that have already gone and seen it in whatever format they chose, that it looks fine as a bog-standard fantasy flick. Every fantasy flick these days, whether it’s made in Uzbekistan or West Saskatchewan, looks the same, and that’s either because the effects people keep aping Lord of the Rings, or because producers and directors insist on everything looking like Lord of the Rings because they think that’s what audiences expect / want to see.

Sure, this is low-rent Rings, but it still looks pretty good. There isn’t as much of a story there (some might argue that the Rings had both too much action and too much story, but then some people are notoriously impossible to please, just like my last girlfriend. Just ask her, she’ll tell you ALL about it, in humiliating and Technicolor detail).

At the very least, at least this time around, the struggle between humanity and the gods is an ennobling one, because, just to completely distort the legend from its origins, humans are essentially the ungrateful children of the gods, who defy them even if humans do so at their literal peril, in that the gods here are happy to kill people for defying their will, and become greater than the gods by rejecting their petty and spiteful ways

Anyone who’s ever read Ovid’s Metamorphoses knows that trying to tell the tale of the actual Greek myths in film form, as opposed to these very loosely adapted versions, would be impossible. Ninety nine percent of the Greek myths are about Zeus seeing very beautiful women on Earth, pursuing / seducing / raping them, and then the women are either punished by Hera or the other gods / goddesses for being raped, or are transformed into flowers in order to save them from the sex-crazed immortals’ attentions. That wouldn’t make for pleasant matinee viewing for the whole family, which is why I’m prepared to cut them some slack.

The one thing I’ve never really been able to figure out is where the title comes from. In the film’s intro, the origin myth of the Greeks is related, as in that the Titans were the first beings in existence, whose children, being Zeus et al, ended up killing them. So by the time this story regarding the bastard son of Zeus having to save a town from a monster called the Kraken, there aren’t any Titans around. So how can the Titans be clashing, if there aren’t any Titans around to clash?

Riddle me that, Poindexter.

Oh of course it’s a petty complaint, but that’s pretty much all I’ve got. As is consistent with much of the mythology, yes, Zeus was the deadbeat daddy in many a conception, but the only bastard of his that this story is concerned with is Perseus (Sam Worthington), who is found floating in a coffin and who is brought up by a fisherman and his wife, ignorant of his origins and destiny, though he gets a pain in his heart whenever there’s lightning about.

Sam Worthington has been in three of the biggest big budget flicks of the last year (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation and this), but no-one can stand him. Why are people so unkind? Do they find him bland? Are they just sick of Australians stealing all the plum Hollywood roles and sleeping with all their girlfriends? Has Russell Crowe permanently soured the rest of the world on Australians, or at least people from the Antipodes? Does it help that Sam is only pretending to be that down-to-earth, knockabout larrikin that everyone thinks he is?

He does an okay job. It’s really easy to joke that the reason the directors of these CGI-heavy blockbusters like him is because there’s no chance of the special effects being upstaged. I like the fact that he doesn’t overact, but it’s possible that this flick maybe needed a bit of overacting to give it some more life.

The story is pretty ridiculous, but then everyone knows that. It’s about gods, krakens and giant scorpions, and chicks with such poor hygiene that one look will petrify you.

Not only is it ridiculous, it’s also trite and clichéd beyond the point where it’s familiar because it’s a remake. It’s familiar because it’s the same story as every other flick of this and many other genres of the last forty years. Whether he’s called Perseus, or Harry Potter, or Luke Skywalker, it’s the same fucking variation on a theme. There’s even, and I wish I was joking about this, a sword which is usually only the hilt, which magically shoots out whenever Perseus holds it aloft in his mighty hand.

I could nitpick the fuck out of this flick, but the fact is I enjoyed myself in the cinema. I liked the story despite some strange decisions (why were the Greek gods wearing shiny, shiny armour, why did Danny Huston only get one line of dialogue, why did Ralph Fiennes look and sound like an old pervert trying to convince a boy to jump into his car?), and despite the presence of two young fuckheads in the cinema who thought they were so, so clever with their running commentary. After I screamed at them to please shut the fuck up, like always, they were quiet for a while before the commentary recommenced, albeit in whispered form.

Even that didn’t fuck it up for me completely. I liked Perseus’s struggle with his human/divine nature, and his decision to reject the part of him that represented the morally corrupting aspect of power and immortality. This film doesn’t let us forget that the bloody Greek gods were a vain, mean-spirited, perpetually horny, petty and capricious bunch of deities, and that when they were killed off by the invention of Jesus, deodorant and beer, that it was a great day for humanity. Perseus’s stand, which is the same kind of live free or die – rugged individualism bullshit inherent in every Hollywood flick, didn’t bug me, because I’m never going to inveigh against anyone who’s happy to rail against the gods.

Some of the cast, despite what you might hear in the plethora of negative reviews, do stand out. I thought that the great Danish actor Mads Mikkelson was really good in the “acts like a gruff bastard but eventually comes to respect the protagonist” role of Draco, the leader of some arbitrary team journey. Gemma Arteton, looked, ahem, at least to my eye, um, every inch the pale demi-goddess as Io, who looks out for Perseus whenever the story requires it. Whilst I didn’t think much of Liam Neeson as Zeus, or Fiennes as Hades, who is the flick’s villain, of sorts, I didn’t hate them entirely. Neeson can act his way out of any situation, and even he does well in his ambivalent relationship with his son and with all his children, who the Greeks appear to be. He loves them but sometimes wants to kill them. What parent can’t relate to that?

I thought the effects looked pretty good, with the high point being the battle with the Medusa. Sure, the Kraken’s advance on Argos is supposed to be the flick’s climax, and I thought it looked suitably grand, but by that stage I didn’t really care if Andromeda (Alexa Davolos), who’s a non-presence in most of the flick, or the entirety of the city were wiped out. It’s not like anything was at stake. And they were nasty to Perseus too, so screw ‘em, that’s what I say.

It’s all right for what it is. It certainly isn’t deep, it certainly isn’t going to entrench the audience’s willingness to pay even more money for substandard 3D effects. There’s nothing really here, apart from a battle with giant scorpions and the battle with Medusa that really could benefit from the “oh look, that shit is flying straight at me” crap that’s supposed to justify the headache and constant reminder that you’re watching a flick that comes from wearing 3D glasses.

But I enjoyed it, not just because I enjoy the tales of myth and legend, but because I’ve got a thing for flying horses. Oh, and chicks with snakes for hair, and people sticking it to the gods. It’s not God of War, which would be a pretty hideous / awesome retelling of the Greek myths with a really bloody battle against the titans and gods, but it’ll do. For now.

6 times I never knew Ralph Fiennes was made up of flying monkeys but it makes sense out of 10
“Everyone I loved was killed by the gods... The gods need US! They need our prayers! What do WE need the gods for?” – good question, chess piece on a cosmic board, Clash of the Titans.