Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clash of the Titans


  • Released Internationally on 26/03/10
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 14/04/10
  • Showing in ‘RealD’ 3D at Empire Cinemas, Buġibba and in 2D everywhere else

In a nutshell

If you learnt all your Greek mythology from secondary school and Disney’s Hercules, this might be a good opportunity for a not-too-accurate update. A remake of the 1981 classic, this battle of the gods is big, boisterous and not too brainy.

Oh my gods

The film opens with a much-needed prologue, where as we watch lightning snake across the sky, a soothing voice fills us in on the current state of Greek god affairs. Zeus rules the skies, whilst his brother Hades runs the underworld. We are also told that Poseidon captains the seas, but we hardly get to see him, despite Danny Huston (Birth) being cast in the role. One can only presume his scenes amongst the many that were allegedly cut. Back to politics – the people of Argos (the city, not the franchise), are angry with the gods for what they claim is poor recent management, so they declare war on Zeus by destroying the huge statue of him that stands astride their jagged coast. Bold move.

Of course, you know, this means war

In the meantime, we meet Perseus, who is adopted by a fisherman (Pete Postlethwaite – The Usual Suspects, Romeo + Juliet) after being found as a baby, adrift in a coffin with his dead mother. He grows into quite a strong lad, which can be partly explained by the fact that he is in fact the illegitimate son of Zeus. The attack by Hades on Argos, and on Perseus’ adoptive family, spurs the young man to accept a perilous mission to find a way to defeat the humungous Kraken, which Hades has threatened to unleash on Argos unless they sacrifice their princess, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos – Defiance).

I need a hero

Confused yet? If not, then by all means rush to watch this film. If you are, don’t worry – it won’t matter much in the end. The prologue unfolds so quickly and fitfully that before you know it Perseus is leaving Argos, with a small band of suicidal men, ready to face the numerous battle scenes that the script has prepared for him. Taking on this main role is rapidly rising actor Sam Worthington, whom you might have seen in Avatar. He seems to have walked off that set and onto this one, as he sticks to the same accent, look and motivation. Unfortunately, not even all the rousing one-liners that the screenplay throws at him are enough to breathe any true emotion into his role, and it’s ironic that the hero ends up being so two-dimensional in a film made for 3D.

Easy to hate

Films like this are unfortunately becoming common in this age where so much depends on your opening weekend box-office. Grand scope, enormous aspirations, hefty budgets, big names. Sadly coupled with poor writing, last-minute cuts and re-shoots that decimate the film, and a belief that spectacular effects alone with make the film a good one. Much like the 1981 original, the film boasts top-drawer actors in the roles of the gods, but the result is painful to watch, as Liam Neeson (Schindler’s List) as Zeus and Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) as Hades prance around in grotesque hair and make-up spouting dialogue that would make a Dynasty fan cringe. Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace), as Perseus’ tepid love interest, looks very British and slightly out of place amongst all the olive-skinned Greeks. Also jarring is the last-minute replacement soundtrack, which tries too hard to drum up some sense of awe, but could easily have been copied and pasted from numerous recent action films. For all the emphasis they are given, the effects occasionally falter too, with some of the creatures being only slightly more convincing than their Harryhausen predecessors. But in the film’s final act, when the kraken is released, nearly all is forgiven.

Fun to like

Ultimately, this film needs to be watched as a source for mindless fun, rather than inspiration or art. The film starts building to its climax from an early stage, and the oncoming kraken onslaught hangs heavily over the proceedings throughout. Once he (she? it?) is awoken, many of the wince-worthy moments that came before are forgotten, and we can sit back and grin through a bombastic and destructive conclusion full of shrieking Greeks and slithering tentacles. The scenes with Perseus astride Pegasus are probably the best in the film, and his mismatched duel with Godzilla’s grandfather manages to make some sense of all that came before it.

In the end

Director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk) seems to have taken on too big a project, but in his defence the end product is probably very far from what he originally planned to make. For such grave source material, the film is rather ridiculous at times, but if you’re after a couple of hours of beasts, bombast and numerous heavenly bodies, than you might enjoy this more than you expected to. It’s a quiet month, so why not?




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