Friday, August 20, 2010

Clash of the Titans

I've seen the original Clash of the Titans, though it's quite telling that I don't remember very much about it. There was some charming stop motion, a kraken, and assorted Greek things. Given that the film was such a memorable event, it stands to reason that the new Clash of the Titans is something equally memorable and distinct.

Given that it's 2010 rather than 1981, a few changes have been made to the formula. For one, stop motion is out like Ricky Martin and Lance Bass, replaced by shiny, shiny CGI - and I do mean shiny, the armor of the Gods is so glittery it's reminiscent of a prom photo circa 1987. The camera swoops and shakes, the script is slightly darker and more extreme, and the film owes an obvious debt to Lord of the Rings, especially in how it takes in sweeping landscapes.

The story largely does remain the same. Sam Worthington is Perseus, the generically handsome demi-god, who grows up with a family so wholesome you know they won't make it very far into the film. After they're completely expectedly killed, he decides he doesn't like gods very much, and is charged with slaying the Kraken, which is to be released by Hades, played by a combination of Ralph Fiennes and CG glitter - not sure why Hades has glitter, but there you go - as part of an elaborate plot to weaken Zeus, played by Liam Neeson and even MORE glitter. He goes on an epic quest involving giant scorpions, a disapproving Mads Mikkelsen, a sexy Gemma Arterton, lots of landscape shots, and a need to behead Medusa, as often happens in these greek myth movies.

Surprisingly, for all the mythology and big CGI battles, the film is surprisingly boring. One culprit might be the general overuse of CGI in all movies. While the original was charming in its silly stop motion animation, CGI can take the wonder and imagination out of a picture. There's no question of how they did the various stunts, we know, they had a bunch of computers render big beasties. When anyone with a PS3 and God of War 3 can see equivalent visuals, the magic is kind of sapped.

The script is also pretty dull, in the end. When you're working with material as well known as Greek mythology, the last thing to do is just go through the expected motions - oh boy, I wonder where the shiny shield is in Medusa's cave? - and Clash of the Titans doesn't stray very far from the beats followed by the original. Since the original wasn't that interesting to start with, it keeps it from being too compelling.

Putting Mr. Excitement himself Sam Worthington at the middle of the film is another stroke of dullness. I know, the guy was the star of Avatar, but he's still an actor most remarkable for how unremarkable he is. He's just some guy, and while that works in some contexts - like Avatar - when he's supposed to be a demi-god it kind of deflates the title.

At least Worthington has a bit of restraint in his performance, something nobody else in the film does. The acting here is bizarre, with over emoting, and BIG. ACTING. MOMENTS. which would make William Shatner hide in shame. It's bizarre, nobody in the film acts like a real person, the king of the bad acting being Luke Treadaway, who plays Prokopion. He's amazing, it's an acting train wreck, and he flails around wide-eyed. You just have to ask what is wrong with this character, and while that might be partially intentional it's blissfully distracting.

Still, it says a lot when the lunacy of one minor performance can trump the entire rest of the film. The CG battles won't stick with me, though I do remember one being confusingly edited. The story, I've seen it before, done better, and I'm not referring to the 1981 original - I am, however, referring to a Saturday morning cartoon series of which I can't remember the name. I'm not sure wh

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