I was SO not impressed. Why did we need a remake of Clash of the Titans? And what about that inaugural tagline: “Titans will Clash”? Ugh, with a marketing team like that on other films we might have had taglines like “War in the Stars” or “Man will Iron 2”. Besides, the ORIGINAL Clash of the Titans was… well, titanic, right? I remember that film overpouring with awesome back in 1981 and, somewhere in a box at mom’s house, a Pegasus action figure still testifies to that slavish devotion. Sadly, I NEVER got the Kraken figure, adding to my “horribly unfulfilled” childhood. Now, director Louis Leterrier and actor Sam Worthington were about to ruin it further.
Surprisingly, I beat them to it.
Gathering with some buddies to revolt against the Hollywood machine, we rented the classic “Clash” and – for a fully satisfying double feature – The Beastmaster (the ONLY Beastmaster, mind you – like Highlander, there can be only ONE). Determined to have a fantastic time, we kicked back and waited for Laurence Olivier – NOT Liam Neeson – to demand the release of the Kraken. What happened, however, is that they released the CRAPPEN.
Don’t get me wrong, 80s fantasy movie lovers. Beastmaster is still bombastic, Tron is still terrific, and even Condorman is cool compared with the utter waste of everything but Ray Harryhausen effects in 1981’s Clash of the Titans. The acting isn’t bad, it’s nonexistent, and the plot is… oh, I’m sorry, I’m laughing at the notion that it even HAS a plot. Hairy Harry Hamlin makes Mark Hamill look like Peter O’Toole, Burgess Meredith was better as The Penguin, and even the Kraken looks like he’s eyeing a Greek watch on one of his four arms wondering when the paycheck will clear so he can get out this wretched excuse for cinema. WORST of all is the utter contrivance of Bubo the Owl – a forced compilation of C3PO’s face with R2-D2’s beaps to make Star Wars loving kids swallow poor man’s Greek mythology.
Don’t believe me? Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Exhibit A:
To be fair, the new Clash of the Titans is no Lord of the Rings. By Zeus, it’s not even 300. It’s EXACTLY what I’d expect from Leterrier, the man who brought us Transporter and Hulk movies… a lean and mean fight flick with swords, sorcery and superhuman action. Whereas the Raimi-produced Hercules and Xena TV series always skewed too absurd for my tastes (chariots peeling out with squealing tire sounds, and puns that even made ME groan) the new Clash lands itself squarely in the campy court of 80s fantasy flicks that the original ought to be. There is cheesy dialogue, but not the dripping Velveeta that oozes off of the original like decade old gas station nachos. This is a guy film, a fun film, not epic but exciting, and surprisingly even the converted 3-D works well in several scenes to enhance the visual experience.
3 simple reasons why it’s superior to the original:
#1: Liam Neeson actually gives us some enjoyable ACTING as Zeus, instead of the previous offering of Laurence Olivier, who looked vaguely amused with his own cue-card reading, phoned-in performance. You can actually sense Neeson’s inner glee when he gets to say “release the Kraken”.
#2: Sam Worthington may be a bit flat as Perseus, but he doesn’t stand gaping like the seemingly mentally-deficient Harry Hamlin, who may be a hunk… but only a hunk of something. Seriously, in another “kids-these-days-like-Star-Wars” bid they tried to make Hamlin look like a genetic hybrid of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. Result? Zero charisma. Greek EPIC fail. Worthington established himself as a Terminator and Avatar (believable butt-kicking cred). If not stunning, he suffices.
#3: The villains: Hades is slithering sweet, like a Greek Starscream, Charon is breathtaking, and the new Kraken looks like the appropriately hideous offspring of Japan’s Gamera turtle and the Star Wars Rancor, which is simply spectacular in every way imaginable. I think Harryhausen would be proud.
Last but not least, the film offers some intriguing commentary on the nature of god(s) and man that begs for some Pauline-style unpacking. In the following two posts we’ll look at the film’s other tagline – “DAMN the gods” (click here) and the polarized polytheism the movie waves like a flag for thought-provoking conversation.
For a primer, you can also check out my short video-review of Clash of the Titans at The Resurgence.