– Summary –
Director : Louis Leterrier
Year Of Release : 2010
Principal Cast : Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Feinnes, Pete Postlethwaite, Jason Flemyng, Alexa Davolos, Mads Mikkelsen, Gemma Arterton
Approx Running Time : 106 Minutes
Synopsis: Perseus, the bastard son of Zeus, vows to kill Hades after his adoptive parents are killed by the God of the Underworld. Tornbetween being allied to the Gods, or to mankind, Perseus must undertake a quest to stop the terrifying Kraken from destroying Argos, lest a princess be sacrificed during an eclipse.
What we think : Corny, by the numbers quest film, with effects and style to burn, directed with a sure hand by Louis Leterrier. Unfortunately, the clichéd scripting and lacklustre character development, as well as a meandering sense of pacing, leaves this Clash looking more like an cat-fight amongst teen girls. Predictable, slow moving in parts, this film will fill a rainy afternoon but not much else.
I do feel sorry for poor Sam Worthington. As a fellow Australian, I’ve watched on as he’s taken his place as a box office star in Hollywood, but I’m not patriotic enough to wave the national flag at the films he’s been in. While he may have appeared in one of the worlds biggest films (Avatar), as well as Terminator: Salvation, he still appears to be known only as “that guy from…”, much the same way Brad Pitt is known only as “…the guy married to Angelina Jolie”. His face is familiar, but his name isn’t. So the third of Worthington’s triptych of blockbusters, Clash of The Titans, should have given him currency within the general public’s awareness. Should have, but didn’t. Blessed by a reputedly dire 3D conversion after production on the film had wrapped, and was released to cinema’s in a cacophony of epic fail and general gnashing of teeth at an opportunity wasted, Clash of The Titans, I hate to admit, actually lives up to the reputation that preceded it.
In a rage against mankind for our lack of prayers to the Gods, Zeus (Liam Neeson) impregnates the wife of King Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) as retribution. Acrisius kills his wife, however fails to murder his son, Perseus, who is found by local fisherman Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite), and adopted as his own. As an adult, Perseus (Sam Worthington) feels that he doesn’t quite belong on Earth, and upon witnessing the murder of his adopted family by God of the Underworld, Hades (Ralph Feinnes), vows to destroy both Hades and the Gods themselves. At the behest of local Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), who’s home city of Argos will be wiped from the map unless she is sacrificed to the monstrous Kraken, Perseus journeys across the land to find a way of undoing Hades’ curse. Along the way, he must battle enormous scorpions, the snake-haired Medusa, obtain information from the Stygian Witches, before taking on the enormous Kraken itself. Perseus is accompanied by a group of solders from Argos, as well as Io (Gemma Arterton), a woman cursed with agelessness who gives Perseus the information he needs to save the day.
I never really found Greek Mythology, especially that concerning the Gods of Olympus and their ilk, particularly appealing. Apart from what I learned through the Asterix stories, as well as picking up titbits through general knowledge and whatever they taught at high-school, the stories of this mythology never appealed to me as a great emotional tale. Gods versus humans? Like we ever had a chance. I approached Clash Of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 film of the same name, and directed by Incredible Hulk/Transporter 2 helmer Louis Leterrier, with a great deal of trepidation. I’d heard some rubbish things about it, so I went in with low expectations. I’m glad I did, because if I’d had high expectations then I’d have been sorely disappointed. Essentially a video game come to life, Clash lacks the innovative class of the Ray Harryhausen stop-motion effects, instead relying on the computer graphic imagination of the boffins in the animation department. That’s not to say the effects aren’t impressive: they are, they just lack conviction in their intent. And that all comes down to the story. The problem with a story like this, based on a mythologised legend of heroes and Gods, is that it’s hard to make it emotionally resonant with a modern audience. Perseus has to battle with the fact that he’s the son of a human mother and a God, the Father of the Gods, no less, in Zeus. Perseus must contend with battling monsters that simply do not exist, and never have. Which leaves the film swaying into the realm of complete fantasy, rather than rooted in a semblance of reality (á la The Lord Of The Rings trilogy) to make it more accessible to the Playstation Generation.
The script isn’t fleshed out at all, even though the actors try valiantly to make more of their flimsy characters than is obviously written. None of the Gods, except save Zeus himself, have any development beyond the wall-painting depth you’d see in Ancient Greece. Even Zeus, as played by a dull Liam Neeson, manages to raise only the barest of tension (none of the God-like qualities are ever explained… you’d have to have a degree in ancient culture just to understand what’s going on half the time!) and Ralph Feinnes, as Hades, manages to eke out a vaguely interesting bad guy. Pete Postlethwaite, as Perseus’ adoptive father, is about as close to a 3-dimensional character as the film offers, and he’s wiped out in the first ten minutes! Story elements feel forced, almost as if the script was written by a join-the-dots style template system, and it shows. Leterrier can’t generate any emotion out of Perseus, mainly because the script gives us nothing to root for; Perseus must embark on his quest simply because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. His attachment to his adoptive parents, and their untimely demise, lacks conviction because the script doesn’t allow it to be fleshed out. All we get to explain Perseus’ feelings are a few shots of Perseus glowering off-camera, “rage” boiling behind Worthington’s intense eyes. It’s hardly conducive to an emotional attachment for the audience. Even Gemma Arterton, as Io, is poorly written, and an undercurrent of romance between her and Persues feels like watching an incest video. It’s dreadfully constructed, and lacks anything like real passion. Feels like watching your brother and sister make out.
As far as characters go, only Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen gives the audience anything to hang on. Mikkelsen is best known to Aussie audiences as the central villain, Le Chiffre, in the recent James Bond flick Casino Royale. Here he plays Draco, the leader of the Pretorian guard assigned to accompany Perseus on his quest. His gruff, bearded Draco is probably the films central comedy relief, which is strange considering that’s not the characters intent. Mikkelsen out-acts everybody else he appears on screen with, which is depressing because he’s not even the main character! None of the fault of this lack of characterisation can be laid at the actors themselves: it’s purely the scripting that hamstrings virtually every conversation into a do-or-die monologue. Worthington delivers his lines with the conviction they require, the problem being there’s so many lines of conviction they lose impact after a while. And for all his posturing, Perseus sure gets his ass handed to him on a regular basis. You’d think he’d learn to adjust his attitude if he’s going to live in this world, right? The other disappointing thing is Leterrier’s use of the secondary cast. Having great acting talent in bit-parts and extended cameo’s, like Polly Walker, Elizabeth McGovern and Alexander Siddig, going to waste on non-events is appalling in the extreme. Characters in the film are there to move the plot along, but they have no soul, no heart, and Clash suffers badly because of it.
On the positive side, this version of Clash leaves the stuttering Harryhausen effects of the original film for dead. From the Gods palace on Olympus, to the snake-like evil of the Medusa, to the continent-sized bulk of the Kraken (which makes the version seen in the Pirates Of The Caribbean look like a Care Bear by comparison), Clash delivers the stunning effects you expect. The sheer scale of some of the concepts in this mythology allow free reign to the film’s conceptual designers, and the widescreen aspect allows for a dramatic, often visually stunning extrapolation of the ancient story. Giant scorpions and Kraken aside, we also get to see Pegasus, the winged horse, the Medusa, as well as various other malevolent forces brought to life thanks to a few hundred Pentiums. Director Leterrier, who smacked the ball out of the park on The Incredible Hulk, has a great command of the cinematic language of effects: he knows how to film it, use it and make it the most spectacular, and Clash benefits from his deft eye. Unfortunately, he’s let down by some inferior scripting and a clunky pacing that drags through the middle third, leaving the film as far from “epic” as you can get. This isn’t a Lawrence Of Arabia, although you do get the sense that the film-makers felt like they were making it.
Perhaps if the script hadn’t been so lead-heavy with inept dialogue and ham-handed scenarios lacking logic, and a little more “fun”, Clash Of The Titans might have been a great little adventure film. It’s an empty roller-coaster of effects and half-cooked concepts, badly scripted “acting” and some ludicrous plot developments wrapped up in a typically gleaming Hollywood package. Devoid of humour (for the most part) and lacking genuine excitement, this version of Clash Of The Titans suffers from the excess Hollywood often falls foul of. If I was you, I’d skip it for Harryhausen’s work in the original.