When Ray Harryhausen first heard in 2006 that Clash of the Titans, the 1981 film that he stop-motion animated, was being remade, he had one thing to say: “Oh. I hope not.”
Harryhausen’s contributions to the 1981 film, although impressive for being a more memorable performance than Laurence Olivier as Zeus, also had a way of making Clash of the Titans seem inherently pitiable. How sad it was to think of that dated, lumbering clunker of a mythological fantasy just fading away in the long shadow of Star Wars.
The original Clash of the Titans was a feat of stop-motion animation, but was obscured by contemporaries like Star Wars. This year’s messy 3D remake of Titans feels like beating a dead horse.
This bland, moronic remake just adds insult to injury.
Sam Worthington plays the hero Perseus on a quest to protect an uppity human race from being collateral damage in a sibling rivalry between big-bearded gods Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Not that Perseus, who was raised as a humble fisherman, really needs to trouble himself; the humans seem plenty willing to sacrifice a princess (Alexa Davalos) instead, if that’ll get the gods off their back. It’s just that Perseus does have his own axe—or magic sword or whatever—to grind, on account of Hades having killed his adoptive father (Pete Postlethwaite), and Zeus being his actual father. Yes, some people get joint pain in thunderstorms; Perseus gets heartburn and an identity crisis.
So he gets help, most notably from Gemma Arterton as a sort of guardian angel and Mads Mikkelsen as a noble warrior. The rest is business as usual: swords, sandals, scorpions. There is a sense of destiny playing out here. Which is to say a sense of lazy screenwriting, from Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. (Beacham’s next project is The Black Hole, another reboot of a movie best left to rest in peace, and Hay and Manfredi’s credits include Aeon Flux, which probably shouldn’t have been booted a first time. So it’s hard to know if these writers actually have any talent.) Certainly director Louis Leterrier, most recently of The Incredible Hulk, doesn’t do them, or us, any favors with Clash of the Titans.
One good purpose of 3D, and perhaps its only purpose in this particular film, is to keep critics from properly seeing their notebooks. If darkness impedes the jotting down of complaints, those glasses make it nearly impossible. Looking back on my Clash of the Titans notes now, I see that I’ve written something along the lines of, “Smffddh fgb Perseus Thp fddhup, Zeus!” Luckily for me, this scrawl actually describes the movie quite well: It has familiar names, smudgy action and some punctuation. I do recall that scenes on Mount Olympus are photographed as if somebody’s solution to all those flares in the lens was to give it another coating of Vaseline. But at least we get to see more of the strapping adventure-ready Worthington than in Avatar. And at least we get to hear Neeson say, “Release the Kraken!”
You’re welcome, Mr. Harryhausen.