Clash of the Titans (2010)
The ancient Greek version of Bruce Willis, Perseus, is back in Clash of the Titans 2: Clash Harder. Director Louis Leterrier casts Sam Worthington (of Avatar and Terminator Salvation fame) as the mythical Greek hero. Liam Neeson feels miscast as Zeus, Lord of Olympus, through no fault of his own. Like every film franchise of old, the film gets a 'reboot' and we end up with a decent popcorn flick, with Perseus re-imagined with a dash of unwilling anti-hero, and the original story (the myth, not just the dated but well-loved 1981 version) are re-written.
I grew up loving the original Clash of the Titans. It was cheesy, and the special effects are now very dated -- but growing up the film enjoyed so many replayings on television that it has become to many people a well-worn cinematic friend. Hollywood has dragged this friend out from a comfortable and well-earned retirement, forced gaudy lipstick on it and put it back on the streets to earn some money.
Ok, that was harsh.
What's good about the film? Worthington plays a credible Perseus -- the bastard son of Zeus and the wife of a king who dared to cross the Olympian. He feels like the same guy we saw in Avatar and Terminator Salvation. Worthington, as an actor, strikes a single note -- 'strong-and-silent-warrior-guy', but that note strikes out loud a clear -- he's not miscast here. And Worthington does his own stunts.
Perseus' story begins when a fisherman finds a coffin adrift in the sea. Upon opening it he finds a dead woman cradling an infant Perseus. He raises the boy as his son, but Perseus wonders who his real father could be.
His life changes one day when his father's boat passes a cliff. Atop the cliff are Argossian soldiers, who topple a statue of Zeus into the sea, cheering. Moments later the Olympians exact retribution by sending winged demons to attack the soldiers, led by Zeus' brother, Hades -- Lord of the Underworld. Hades takes one look at the fishing boat and blasts it to splinters, leaving Perseus as the only survivor.
Perseus is taken to the court of Kepheus, King of Argos, who has declared war on Zeus and the other Olympians, declaring a new age, the Age of Man. Meanwhile, back on Olympus, Zeus is fuming -- he has shown the humans too much love, and he did create them after all. His brother Hades (not too happy about being trapped in the underworld) suggests that Zeus loved them too well, and suggests that he be loosed upon the humans, that they will rush back to his love and begin praying to Zeus again.
In this film, as in the original, the gods devour human prayers as a kind of nourishment.
Of course Hades (played well by Ralph Fiennes) has ulterior motives and a plan to usurp Zeus.
To add insult to the injury, King Kepheus's wife declares that their daughter Andromeda is more beautiful than Aphrodite herself. (No, we don't get to see Aphrodite, sadly. In fact aside from Zeus and Hades, none of the other gods get involved in the plot.) Hades immediately arrives to kill some Argossian soldiers and declare that in ten days time he will summon the Kraken, a creature so awesomely powerful that even the Olympians fear it. The Kraken, declares Hades, will wash away Argos in ten days time unless Andromeda is sacrificed to it.
In the mayhem that Hades causes it is revealed that Perseus is a demigod (he is able to resist being turned into human salsa by Hades) and we discover that ancient Greeks discriminated against demigods. The audience is never really told precisely how the Argossians know that Perseus is a demigod, he just survives so he must be one. It feels a lot like the Monty Python sketch from The Quest for the Holy Grail.
Peasant #1: "There goes a king."
Peasant #2: "How do you know he's a king?"
Peasant #1: "Because he's not all covered with sh--."
Perseus insists that he doesn't know what they're talking about -- and that he hates the gods, as a god (Hades) killed his entire family.
The Argossians enlist Perseus' help, and they set off to stop the Kraken. From there, the basic storyline follows the original. There are scorpions that form from droplets of cursed blood -- and these scorpions are hyped-up Hollywood super-scorpions, not the beautiful Ray Harryhausen stop-motion scorpions. The action is a lot grittier and visceral here. The action is simply better in this film than in the original. But the encounter with Medusa was a bit of a let-down. Yes, it had more and better action, but in the original film Medusa was mostly heard and not seen. There was just something about hearing that rattlesnake sound, and knowing the monster is near... but where? Here, she's just a computer-generated monster.
Clash of the Titans is a somewhat worthy remake of the original, but it's not going to become a classic. It breaks no new ground in terms of special effects or story-telling. It's a good action flick that will entertain, but it probably won't endure or endear as the original film. The film's major flaws are that you don't end up really hating the gods for their transgressions against humans. Second, the screenwriter delivers an interesting party of adventurers to quest alongside Perseus (including magical creatures called Djinn) but they get killed off so quickly we hardly get a chance to enjoy them.
Also, it's not worth seeing in 3D -- 2D will be adequate. Also, someone should have told the producers of this film about a video game that was made a few years back called 'God of War' that took the original Clash concept of humans rebelling against the Olympians and updated it and did a much better job of it.