oedipus rex

bubo the owlMen, they say, make the gods in their own image.  If that is so, then ancient Greece must have been way messed up.  Nothing the gods do makes any sense, unless it is viewed through the prism of human desire and emotion.   Witness the latest “didn’t need to be remade” movie version of Clash of the Titans.  The gods, for some reason that is unexplained, are either ignoring their subjects or outright tormenting them, and humans, for some reason that is unexplained, are either stepping  up the worship or desecrating the temples.   Hilarity ensues.

The original Clash is barely 20 years old but it seems much older, partly because when it came out in 1981 Star Wars had already changed everything.  Clash was Ray Harryhausen’s magnum opus; he retired after it came out and it remains one of the best of his films (which, depending on how you feel about stop-motion animation is either a good thing or a bad thing).

So why remake it?  Well, because Hollywood has never met a classic  film it doesn’t think it can make better, especially if the classic was made in the days before CGI and digital 3-D and has all sorts of special effects opportunities.   The idea is that the remake will have a built in audience (those who liked the original), plus it will appeal to today’s core demographic (preadolescent males) who apparently love explosions almost as much as they love scantily clad women.  Thus we have Clash of the Titans reloaded.

[CAUTION SPOILERS AHEAD!]

The old Clash revamped the myth of Perseus, who was tricked into slaying the Gorgon Medusa.  The new one also plays off the myth.  Perseus (played as an adult by Sam Worthington, late of Avatar fame) is found drifting in a coffin with his dead mother by a kindly old fisherman, who takes in the babe and rears him as his own son.   Perseus grows into a fine, strapping young man, living on the boat with his crusty but sweet stepdad, his surprisingly young and beautiful stepmother, and his cute kid stepsister.   One day while minding their own business (although griping a bit about the gods’ refusal to fill their nets with fish) they see some Argosian soldiers toppling the immense statue of Zeus that looms over the coastline.  No sooner has the statue crashed into the sea, nearly swamping the fragile little fishing boat, then all hell breaks loose. Literally.  Hades releases his minions and nearly all of the hapless soldiers are slaughtered.  As an afterthought Hades sinks the fishing boat and Perseus helplessly watches his entire family die.

Perseus is taken to Argos by the surviving soldiers and after Hades makes an appearance there to kill off the remaining army he finds that he is a demi-god.  It turns out that back in the day another city-state was PO’d at the gods for their neglect and cruelty and rebelled.  Zeus disguised himself as the king and slept with the queen, leaving her with a bastard son.  The king, enraged, had his wife and the baby sealed up in a coffin and tossed into the sea.  The queen did not survive but the baby did and grew up to have one hell of a father complex.  Simply put, Perseus hates the gods.

The gods for their part sit up on Mt. Olympus and moan that no one loves them anymore.  Hades proposes to give the humans a choice: either they sacrifice the beautiful, saintly, princess Andromeda or he will release the Kraken on them and destroy Argos.   Hades of course has ulterior motives but Zeus agrees with this plan.  When this crappy set of options is presented to the humans, Perseus decides that he will kill the Kraken and free humanity from the tyranny of the gods forever (heh).  He sets off with a ragtag bunch of retired honor guard, untested in battle new recruits, and one beautiful woman (Io, cursed by the gods to never age) to visit the Stygian Witches (who will tell him how to kill the Kraken) and then off to slay Medusa.  Hades uses all sorts of tricks to stop him.  Etc.  We’ve all been here before.  We know how it ends.

The move is OK.  Barely.  There are a few glaring problems, the primary one of which is Perseus.  Alone among the actors in the movie, Sam Worthington looks very modern.  He’s buff in the modern way (i.e., he doesn’t look like he got his muscles hauling in fishing nets).  He has a modern haircut (Marine short).  He speaks in a modern fashion.  He’s very earnest and likable but whenever he is onscreen he sticks out like a sore thumb, although he does look pretty good in the short leather skirt he wears throughout the movie.  Liam Neeson, as Zeus, is also glaringly out of place in the Pantheon; it is only when he puts on human costume the he looks remotely at home in the role.  The director must have simply told Ralph Fiennes to “do that Voldemort thing” because that is basically how Fiennes plays Hades.   The rest of the gods are nonexistent.  The two women who play Io and Andromeda are fine.  Their job is to be pretty and in danger and they manage both competently.   The absolute standouts are Mads Mikkelson as one of the retired soldiers Draco and whoever it was that played Medusa.  She has a brief role but she manages to make one realize what a raw deal Medusa got from the gods.

In these movies the actors just exist to support the special effects and with a couple of glaring mistakes the special effects in this version of Clash are acceptable.   The Pegasuses (Pegasi?) look pretty good.   The Kraken is just big.  The djinn look fake.  Medusa looks great.   The Stygian witches are a  direct rip-off of all of Guillermo del Torres’ recent movies.   The citadel of Argos is the worst matte painting ever.   The giant scorpions would have made Harryhausen weep with joy; they look like they were created with stop-motion animation (although they weren’t).  The movie was not originally shot in 3-D but the 3-D effects aren’t too bad.  Every once in a while they are good.   Bubo makes a brief guest appearance.  In short, it’s about what you expect from an early summer big dumb movie release.  In a few days you will forget you ever saw it.  And it won’t have nearly the staying power of the old one.

I learned something new when I went to see this movie.  Theaters don’t cut the price for 3-D movies for matinees.  That makes Zeus very, very angry.  You won’t like him when he’s angry…

Score:  Meh.

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~ by gun street girl on April 12, 2010.

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