5 April 2010

Greece Is The Word

Louis Leterrier's 2010 upgrade of the 1981 favourite Clash of the Titans essentially amounts to a more simplistic retelling of what was a simplistic retelling to begin with, specifically on the story of Perseus, son of Zeus. When the people of Argos (don't laugh) tear down a statue of Zeus in dissent against the gods, Perseus is caught in the crossfire. His mortal foster family murdered, he vows revenge against resentful under-lord Hades, and rejects his immortal heritage when he discovers it from fellow demi-god Io. Nevertheless, he's drawn into a mission no mortal man could hope to survive- he has ten days to get the tools he needs to slay the hellish Kraken when it is released by Hades upon a helpless Argos.
As another 2D film that was latterly retro-fitted with 3D to poke the audience in their bespectacled faces, Clash of the Titans oddly suffers from the same narrative stigma as last month's re-imagining of Alice in Wonderland. We're told at the beginning of the story that our protagonist is prophesied to slay a big old beasty. There's a time limit for when this prophecy's going to come true, and so everything in between this proclamation and the film's climax caters to the means of slaying said beasty as opposed to developing characters or creating tension. So even for a popcorn flick, its narrative is found wanting. The other side-effect of the 3D is that the majority of reviewers seem to have reviewed how terrible the conversion looks rather than the film itself, as if 3D was some unimpeachable device before this. Have no fear, I saw it in 2D, and also found myself underwhelmed.

The problem with remakes like these is, as ever, that the advancements in technology just mean that directors either opt for style over substance (i.e. Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes) or just utterly overdo it (i.e. Peter Jackson's King Kong). Clash of the Titans has more CGI scorpions than you can shake a pincer at, and its digital rendition of Medusa is actually laudable for not being Uma Thurman as this year's Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. It's all fairly easy on the eye and it's never really boring, but I did struggle to be actually interested in all of it at various points. Although I still think Sam Worthington is a capable action star, he has bugger all to do here as Perseus, the most Australian Greek you've ever encountered, and he ultimately fails to make the audience invest in his plight or his celestial daddy issues.

Gemma Arterton fares even worse as Io, or as she might as easily have been called, The Woman. See, Warner Bros. doesn't want you to get bored watching a load of beardy men trailing after Perseus, so they needed someone with boobies, and added a few contrived lines along the way to make her actually seem useful to the plot. Sadly, this is the same fate that befell Arterton in Quantum of Solace, where she was solely there as eye candy amidst a more angsty and emotionally interesting film. I have high hopes for her to break this mould in the upcoming The Disappearance of Alice Creed, but thus far it seems that while she's undoubtedly attractive, she serves as set-decoration in most films.

Elsewhere, the cast is rounded out by a mix of very accomplished actors and ones who you will spend most of the film trying to remember what else they've been in. Mads Mikkelson, Jason Flemyng, Pete Postlethwaite, Nicholas Hoult, Liam Cunningham, Danny Huston- you'll try to remember all of them! And as to the former category of course, you have Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, reuniting after Schindler's List in this, of all things. Fiennes' Hades is essentially his Voldemort by way of Chester A. Bum, hamming it up and chewing the scenery almost as much as Neeson's Zeus, who is resplendent and tittersome in a lens-flare inducing suit of armour. Spare a thought for Danny Huston's Poseidon though, who is trussed up in make-up and a wig to look like the Cowardly Lion, only to appear for two seconds or so.
While the cast could otherwise have lent it some credulity, the film is submerged in the aforementioned action sequences, with all else in between seeming ancillary. At their best, they give us genuine thrills in the form of a great face-off with Medusa towards the end of the second act, and at their worst they can be unintentionally funny. All of its best moments are blown in the trailer, which quite successfully made this look like a guilty pleasure in the vein of 300. Even though Neeson's "Release the Kraken!" is gleefully over-egged to become this year's "This! Is! Sparta!", the film itself amounts to about 150, because it's actually only half as good. It's a shame because Leterrier has proven to be an effective action director before with the Transporter films and the underrated reboot of The Incredible Hulk, which actually borrowed elements of Greek mythology to bring Bruce Banner's struggle to a modern context. There's nothing so clever here.

In short, Clash of the Titans resembles nothing so much as a music video based on the 1981 original. Like a particularly butch Lady Gaga video, it stumbles from action sequence to action sequence and generally fails to deploy any of the talents it boasts, at least outside of the special effects suites. OK, I will single out Liam Cunningham as Solon here, because he has a great streak of gallows humour going throughout the film, but he's hardly foregrounded. It's daft and relatively inoffensive, but it seems to lack any kind of magic or charm that might have made it a more memorable retelling. There's the textbook "this might happen again, and this time we'll be ready" ending to make for a clumsy sequel hook, but I can't imagine anyone busting down the doors of the multiplex to see this continued. An underwhelming popcorn flick.

Clash of the Titans is in cinemas nationwide now, showing in 2D and 3D. It was "up-converted" to 3D in post-production, so I reckon you'll be better off seeing it in glorious flat-vision- let me know what you think in the comments.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.


Bella said...

After having watched the trailer and read the reviews, I cant wait to see this for my self..

Mark said...

To avoid disappointment, I'd say watch it in 2D. And please come back afterwards and let me know what you made of the film :)