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Clash of the Titans (2010) Print E-mail
Friday, 02 April 2010

ImageGreek tragedy was a form of drama (in point of fact, the first form of drama), in which a man is undone through his hubris, a specific form of pride that defies the gods or fate (or both). Almost all of the famous Greek myths revolve around this idea. No one avoids fate. Oedipus, despite everyone's attempts to the contrary, really does kill his father and marry his mother. Achilles' humiliation of Hector at Troy echoes his own fall along with the city under siege. And not even Perseus, son of Zeus, could escape the words of the Oracle. These things prove that Clash of the Titans is a quintessentially American tale, using elements of Greek mythology to tell a tale of independence at all costs.

Clash of the Titans (the name itself is a misnomer; Titans were a separate mythological group that predated the Olympians) is the loose story of the achievements of Perseus (Avatar's Sam Worthington). In Greek myth, Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danae, who was imprisoned by her father because of a prophecy that her son would kill her father. In the movie, Perseus is the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) for an entirely different, far more salacious reason. In Greek myth, Perseus goes to claim the head of the Gorgon Medusa because it is required by a King. In the film, he goes to get Medusa's head as a way of stopping the Kraken, a giant (Norwegian in origin) sea monster that will be unleashed on the city of Argos unless they sacrifice Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) to Hades (Ralph Fiennes).

Clash of the Titans Slide 1

In Clash of the Titans, humanity (or at least the city of Argos) is waging a war against the gods, for being cruel (although very little evidence of this supposed cruelty is shown). Perseus, found in a chest in the sea as a baby, is raised by a fisherman and becomes part of the family. When their fishing boat gets mixed up in the fight between Olympus and Argos, Perseus' family is killed and he vows revenge on Hades. With a small band of soldiers and Io (Gemma Arterton), a woman cursed by the gods, in tow, Perseus battles to defeat Hades by defeating his creation, the Kraken.

While some of the basic elements of the Perseus myth inform the plot of Clash of the Titans, the film also veers sharply away from the myth as known and even freely mixes in figures from other pantheons (the Kraken is Northern European, probably derived from giant squid, and Djinn are Arabic in origin). More importantly, the film is a complete 180 degree turnabout from traditional Greek themes. And none of that would have mattered had the movie been a fun action romp. Sadly, it is not.

Clash of the Titans Slide 2

Clash of the Titans (a remake of the 1981 film by master stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen) is unwieldy, needlessly complex, and seriously lacking in human empathy. Director Louis Leterrier, who had a much better time of things in the entertaining and simple The Incredible Hulk, lets events and big proclamations pile up, but doesn't take a moment to let the characters develop beyond "comic relief" or "tough guy who will ultimately sacrifice himself for the hero even though he initially doesn't like him." Take Andromeda. She is a major character, essentially kick starting the plot by her very presence, but she does little beyond looking like a saint (and eventually a martyr), waiting for Perseus to come and save her. Similarly, despite a stellar cast playing the Olympian gods (Liam Neeson, Danny Huston, even Deep Space Nine's Alexander Siddig), they barely do anything other than standing around looking shiny.

The action, when it comes, feels shoehorned into the plot, starting abruptly and ending just as suddenly, usually through the use of deus ex machina (if you've gotten this far into the review I hope you either have a good knowledge of Greek drama or have looked it up so I don't have to explain what that term means and why it's a problem that the movie is littered with it), and much of it is hard to follow and riddled with poor CGI. By the time the team makes it to Medusa, it's hard to care. And as the film limps into the home stretch, it feels rote and by the numbers. We even get a happy ending, perhaps the most un-Greek thing the filmmakers could have done. Even if the point was to turn the traditions on their head, it all just rings hollow. If you want a really great take on Greek mythology, look no further than Sony's God of War video game series, which tells a similar tale, but with more pathos, more believable action, and better computer graphics than Clash of the Titans can muster.

Clash of the Titans Slide 3

A postscript about 3D: After the incredible success of Avatar, the studios feel it is in their best interest to get out 3D content and to get it out as fast as they can. Warner Bros. has really jumped on the bandwagon, proclaiming that all of their tent pole releases will be in the format, and Clash of the Titans is evidence of this commitment. Unfortunately, the film was not developed or shot in 3D, and WB's last minute decision to make it so required a hasty post-production conversion. Now, conversions can look good. Toy Story and Toy Story 2 looked excellent, but that process took eighteen months. Clash of the Titans was converted in six weeks. Again, eighteen months for a pair of movies which actually had 3D renders already available for every element, versus six weeks. Not surprisingly, the 3D release of Clash of the Titans looks awful. The image is mostly flat, and the few elements that pop out and look out of place. The end result is disappointing at best and distracting at worst. If you're going to see Clash of the Titans, see it in 2D. At least then you'll be spared one small bit of WB's hubris.

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