Clash of the Titans
- Directed by Louis Leterrier
- Written by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi
- Starring Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes
- Classification: 14A
The Gods will probably be more bemused than offended by Clash of the Titans, a 3-D, CGI'd to death but otherwise redundant remake of the 1981 camp spectacle that re-imagined Greek myths through a Star Wars lens. The new version ups the action ante with some man-versus-monster battles that may appeal to adolescent boys, and a revolutionary theme of humans going to war with the Olympians adds an edge of impiety. But there's little here to improve upon the stilted quality of the original, and it's even more cumbersomely plotted.
Sam Worthington, in a tunic and the same marine buzz-cut he wore in Avatar, plays young Perseus, the unwitting half-son of Zeus who is raised as a fisherman. When his parents (Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern) are killed, Perseus is mightily irked by the callousness of the gods. He joins the King of Argos who, in a classic case of what the Greeks called hubris, has decided to rebel against the gods and their capricious behaviours, including Zeus's tendency to impregnate mortal women. They're burning temples, refusing to pray, everything short of declaring themselves non-believers.
This turn of events has the otherwise all-powerful Olympians unexpectedly worried: It turns out the gods, lead by Zeus (Liam Neeson), depend on regular doses of prayer and love from the mortals they created. Like the guardians in Star Wars, they spend a lot of time standing around in a circle wearing soft-focus raiment, soaking up the love and spitting out mouthfuls of indigestible pomposity. The exception is Hades (Ralph Fiennes, who wears the bushy beard of a sad old biker). He travels about in billowing black smoke, like the monster in the TV series Lost, and plots revenge for his crummy existence in the underworld. Hades gets by nicely on fear alone, thank you, and sees a major upward mobility opportunity from the human rebellion against Zeus.
Working as Zeus's agent, Hades quashes the human rebellion promptly, and, to add to the punishment, imposes an arbitrary, Hollywood-style deadline: He tells the king that he'll give him a week to choose whether to sacrifice his daughter, Andromeda (Alexis Davalos), or prepare to have the kingdom destroyed by a fierce creature, the Kraken. (The Kraken, left over from the previous movie, is borrowed from Norse folklore, one of several reasons why watching this movie is an unacceptable substitute for studying Greek mythology.) The presence of the creature has one major benefit: It allows Zeus to intone, with Neeson's discernible Irish brogue, "Release the Kraken!" in a way that sounds like an invitation to a long drunken party.
Perseus decides his only option is to kill the reputedly invulnerable monster, but first he has to go on a long journey over mountainous terrain, acquire some magic paraphernalia and fight some other monsters before the final smack-down. Perseus's posse includes Io (Gemma Atherton), here reconfigured from the nymph-turned-into-a-heifer of myth into an immortal hottie in a form-fitting white tunic. Also on board is the soldier Draco (Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who played the Bond villain in Casino Royale), who, unfortunately for the film, is a good deal more charismatic than the relatively one-dimensional Perseus.
The script includes both traditional and newly invented elements. Non-canonical adventures include an encounter with a djinn, a scabby-featured desert dweller with glowing blue eyes and garbled speech. The same encounter involves a nest of giant scorpions, whose terrifying size is somewhat undermined by their quaint, choppy movements, which recall the work of Ray Harryhausen, the stop-motion master who provided the effects in the original Clash of the Titans as well as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Jason and the Argonauts.
Traditional Persean adventures include the encounter with the three Stygian witches, a trio of coconut-headed cacklers who share one eyeball among them. There's a fairly breathtaking meeting with the winged horse, Pegasus, first seen descending into a field of skittish, similarly winged mares. But director Louis Leterrier ( The Incredible Hulk and the first two Transporter movies) saves his best for last - the encounters with the snake-haired Medusa and the battle with the Kraken.
The Medusa sequence, while involving a good deal more running and chasing than you might expect, has an unexpected bonus: You can appreciate why men are compelled to make fatal eye-contact with a Medusa who is played by Russian-born Calvin Klein model Natalia Vodianova.
As for the Kraken, the screen-filling, mud-coloured, Pillsbury Doughboy of a creature is massive rather than menacing, but as they say, size matters, at least when everything else about the movie is so insignificant.