** TWO STARS (Stick with the original)
The big budget remake of “Clash of the Titans” opens this weekend buoyed by an aggressive marketing campaign, a polished trailer promising many thrilling, CG-created action scenes scored to ass-kicking metal music, and 3-D effects added in post production to cash in on the Avatar phenomenon.
Sadly, none of this superficial eye candy makes the movie entertaining.
Give me the original movie’s stop motion special effects, prestigious actors (Lawrence Olivier and Maggie Smith) draped in cheap loin cloth and a mechanical owl any day over this soulless and unintentionally hilarious remake by Transporter director Louis Leterrier.
As in the original, Sam Worthington -in his third attempt to catapult to Hollywood Action Hero stardom- plays Perseus, the half-man, half-God protagonist. He battles scorpions, the snake-headed Medusa, and the Gods themselves as he flies on his winged Pegasus on a noble quest to save the lovely queen Andromeda from being sacrificed to the underwater creature Kraken.
In a nod to the original, Worthington’s Perseus picks up a mechanical owl and asks, “What’s this?”
He is quickly told to “Leave that behind.” The filmmakers also left behind coherent storytelling, interesting characters and exciting action sequences.
Granted, this is all pretty silly stuff to begin with. Nonetheless, the original ‘s tone sublimely embraced the kitschy material and its goofy mythology and possessed an endearing charm anchored by the fantastic stop-motion special effects of guru Ray Harryhausen, whose meticulous creations evoked more character than the millions recklessly spent on sub-par CGI effects.
Although completely outdated by today’s technological standards, Harryhausen’s Medusa terrified me as a child and naturally prompted multiple viewings of the “Perseus vs. Medusa” scene on VHS. The only aspect of this remake that might stir even half an emotion of dread is listening to the terrible dialogue and clunky screenplay.
The filmmakers decided to “elevate” the material by abandoning the knowing wink to its inherent goofiness, instead opting for serious gravitas. Respected actors Liam Neeson, as the God Zeus who inexplicably wears body armor and is over-lit like Barbara Walters, and Ralph Fiennes, channeling the poor man’s Voldemort as his evil brother Hades, spew embarrassing dialogue playing petty, dueling Gods fighting for the soul of men.
The movie’s pulse and its brains are on auto-pilot. The story follows Zeus’s demi-god son, Perseus [Worthington], who was abandoned in the sea and found and raised by a humble fisherman. As a boy, he questions his existence and you know he is seeking his “purpose” because there are scenes of him staring at the sea and the stars asking, “Why am I here? What’s my purpose?”
All is well until arrogant men decide they don’t need the Gods and instead become radical monotheists by destroying the Gods’ statutes. This is a perfect time for Hades, God of the underworld, to outmaneuver his brother Zeus for power. He decides to unleash havoc and terror on men because their fear makes him more powerful…or something. Anyway, Perseus’s poor surrogate family dies in the wake of Hades’ temper tantrum. This makes Perseus angry. He vows revenge on Hades even though he is but a simple fisherman who miraculously transforms into a skilled warrior and horseman within the course of 20 minutes – due to his dope, half-God status we are later told.
Somehow, the people find out Perseus is a badass and decide that only he can stop the Gods’ wraith, which culminates with the release of the underwater leviathan known as the Kraken. The beast will destroy the people unless the beautiful princess Andromeda is sacrificed to satiate the hungry monster within 10 days. Got it? Great.
The movie gives Perseus a multicultural “Fellowship” of skilled warriors to help him in his Grecian Dirty Dozen mission but refuses to color them with personality or memorable dialogue. The audience is barely able to differentiate between any of them by the time they are eliminated by computer generated creatures. I think I spotted the young boy from the Huge Grant movie “About a Boy” and wondered, “Hey, is that the young boy from “About a Boy”? He got old.” That was the extent of my involvement with these characters.
In order to conveniently explain any missing plot points and provide exposition, the movie introduces a new character named Io, an ageless beauty with vast amounts of knowledge who fortuitously appears to help Perseus whenever the filmmakers demand it. She also inexplicably falls in love with him over the course of one scene . This was most likely done to desperately ensure that female audience members were still emotionally invested in the hero’s journey.
Why not stick with the original’s plot in which Perseus is fated to marry the beautiful princess Andromeda, who is about to be sacrificed to the Kraken? Wouldn’t that be motivation for Perseus to battle Medusa, chop off her head, and race back on his flying Pegasus in the knick of time to fight the Kraken?
Alas, I digress.
And what of the 3-D, you ask? It’s absolutely unnecessary and terribly done. Warner Brothers decided to hastily convert the film in post production to 3-D following the record-breaking onslaught of Avatar.
There is no reason whatsoever for anyone to pay an extra $7.50 for the nonexistent 3-D effects, depth and atmosphere in this movie. The 3-D effects don’t even muster cheap thrills like those seen in a 1950’s shlock-flick. The Scorpion’s stinger doesn’t jab the audience’s eyeballs, and Medusa’s snake hair doesn’t leap out of the screen to bite our heads. There’s a corny scene of a digital coin skipping towards us. If you want to pay $15 for that, then I have a lemon to sell you.
Enjoy the movie with considerably lowered expectations and then rent the original and feel nostalgic about mechanical owls and stop motion special effects.