Clash of the Titans (review)

The Gods Must Be Crazy

Those whom the gods wish to punish, they force to watch this movie.

How does something like this go so wrong? No one was looking to it to be Lord of the Rings or anything. We just wanted some gloriously goofy popcorn junk food, like the 1981 original offered. Instead… gah. Imagine if Oliver Stone figured Pirates of the Caribbean should be a highminded epic and tried to borrow some of Peter Jackson’s mojo by stealing his shots — literally shamelessly aping the framing and the camera movements and the ambitious grandness that made Middle Earth come alive. But then he also cribbed the Kraken from Cloverfield and cast Voldemort as Hades, right down to actually kidnapping, apparently, poor Ralph Fiennes and forcing him to seal his fate as the go-to guy for magical superbaddies with English accents.
Or maybe it’s that director Louis Leterrier took a look back at his own Incredible Hulk and said to himself, “Well, I love that final half hour of incomprehensible smashups of cartoon characters, but all the beautifully realized character, storytelling logic, and human emotion of the first three-quarters of the film has got to go.”

When I say that this is empty, cheap, cold, soulless corporate filmmaking, and that that’s its good side, it’s true. Because, on top of all that, someone made the boneheaded decision to convert the film to 3D using, it seems, someone’s nephew who’s got one a them fancy computers, because the 3D isn’t just pointless: it’s incompetently bad. Like to the point where courts martial for dereliction of duty should be convened. It’s as if the film were shot in View-Master Vision, it’s so majestically terrible looking. It’s as if the actors are all bobblehead dolls wearing spring-mounted masks. It’s actively nausea-inducing in places in a way that suggests that something is fundamentally scientifically unsound in its attempt to trick the human ocular system.

Clash of the Titans is epic, all right. An epic disaster of proportions so huge they rival the gods’ decision to let us do our own thing. Somewhere, Zeus is going, “Really, humanity? I grant you free will, and this is what you do with it?”

And, again, what is the big deal supposed to be about Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation)? How is he not just the latest meathead immobile of face and buff of body? Worthington’s Perseus is one of the least engaging heroes I’ve seen outside of a Steven Seagal movie. It’s as if he’s actively resisting every opportunity to join in the action and adventure that allegedly he’s in for as the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson: Chloe, Five Minutes of Heaven), king of the gods: I mean, he’s getting magic demigod swords lobbed at him, and all he can do is sneer cuz he likes playing at being a regular ol’ fisherman so much. (We see no evidence of this, though.) He’s got people like the gods-cursed Io (Gemma Arterton: The Boat That Rocked, Quantum of Solace) telling him, “You’re not just part man, part god, you’re the best of both,” but we really have no idea what she’s referring to. He mostly just stands around and refuses to do anything while Hades (played by Fiennes: The Reader, The Hurt Locker) threatens to release the Kraken (played by the Cloverfield monster) on some hapless ancient city unless they sacrifice Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos: Defiance, The Mist). Until, all of a sudden, he decides, What the hell? and jumps in.

One wonders why it took three screenwriters — Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi — to update Beverley Cross’s 1981 screenplay, and how it’s possible that Hay and Manfredi got another job after penning both Aeon Flux, and The Tuxedo. If only their idea of drama were, in fact, laughable: instead, the film’s steadfast adherence to a policy of utter humorlessness extends to it being ungracious enough to be overblown and melodramatic so we can chuckle at its pretensions. It is, perhaps, a special sort of achievement that Clash of the Titans manages to create the sense of a failed would-be highminded classically inspired drama without any of the actual content one might expect from such an endeavor — not even in poorly realized form.

On the other hand, when the movie isn’t standing around doing nothing and mistaking that for drama, it is overstuffed with ADD action sequences in which Perseus and others fight giant scorpions, Medusa, and other mythical beasts. It’s impossible to tell what’s going on in any of these bits, but they do offer the opportunity for you to close your eyes and recover a little from the 3D sickness.

Clash of the Titans is good for one thing, however: Percy Jackson & the Olympians is starting to looking downright awesome in comparison.

Watch Clash of the Titans online using LOVEFiLM‘s streaming service.

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