It would seem that Louis Leterrier was indeed the best choice in order to remake the 1981 fantasy epic that so famously featured Ray Harryhousen’s famous stop-motion creations squaring of against the immaculately chiseled butt-chin of Harry Hamlin. After, a nuanced glance at his previous effort, the somewhat unfairly ignored The Incredible Hulk, it becomes fairly obvious that Leterrier is a fan of monsters and set pieces as the early MCU flick mirrors the pace of previous Harryhausen movies fairly accurately.
However, where the French director finally found praise for resurrecting an 80’s fantasy franchise in impressive style, it would be for for Clash Of The Titans at all and instead hit the nail on the head with the devastatingly impressive Dark Crystal series on Netflix.
So where exactly does that leave us when it comes to “remembering the Titans”?
Found as a baby floating in the ocean in a coffin containing his dead mother, Perseus hasn’t had that great a life. Lovingly raised by the family of fishermen he is content to live the simple life but the continued restlessness of man against the indifference of the Gods (who dress like a glam rock band and bicker like they’re Kardashians) threaten to start a war that will put mortal against deity. The fuse is inevitably lit when the kingdom of Argos, a people who have publically renounced the Gods, trash one statue too many causing Zeus’ to allow his brother Hades to intercede on his behalf. However, the bitter lord of the underworld isn’t exactly what you’d call trustworthy (what IS it with godly siblings and betrayal?) and schemes to use the upcoming sacrifice of Princess Andromeda as a way to worm himself back into Olympus where he feels he belongs. Meanwhile Perseus, stripped of his adopted family and on a standard revenge mission heads out with a small group of soldiers to find a way to thwart the machinations of the squabbling Gods but standing in their way is not only a gaggle of mythical beasts and creatures that would make lesser men crap their tunics, but also the massive chip on Perseus’ shoulder that’s come from the knowledge that he, in fact, is a demigod.
Can our terminally moody hero get his shit together before the Kraken – a sea-beast the size of Milton Keynes – flattens Argos and inhales the princess like a porcelain-skinned tic-tak?
While Clash Of The Titans version 2.0 trips up on many issues (and we’ll get to them soon enough), there’s no denying that taken on it’s most basic merits the movie succeeds at being a kick-ass monster movie. Giant Scorpions, winged horses and a random race of Arabian tree people (as in their skin is tree bark, not as in they live like Tarzan) all line up to indulge in spirited action scenes that whizz past all set to Ramin Djawadi’s bicep flexing score while a charismatic cast get aggressively whittled down in increasingly horrible ways.
They all do what they can with underwritten roles; Nicolas Holt is shy while Liam Cunningham is wry and Gemma Arterton’s immortal Io spouts exposition while sporting the most to die for eyebrows in ancient Greece (when you can’t die I guess you can take the time to find a salon that threads them just right). Liam Neeson rumbles and growls as Zeus but I’m not entirely sure what Ralph Fiennes is trying to accomplish as Hades; I get that the Underworld is drafty and most likely full of mold but would a God really have a wheezy asthma voice, eczema and dresses like Rigsby from Rising Damp was a pro wrestler? Top of the heap however is the incomparable Mads Mikkelsen as the super tough head of the king’s guard who has no problem squaring up to the thrashing cobra-perm of the legendary Medusa while stoically unleashing manly one liners like: “Let them know men did this” while staring death in the face.
Single-handedly upending everything you’ve just read, however, is lead Sam Worthington who insists on playing Perseus as a one note, off-putting, rage-a-holic whose anger issues get countless people killed and makes him come across as a bit of a prick. Also, despite everyone sporting a vast array on non-Greek sounding European accents, Worthington’s gruff, Aussie twang stands out like a centaur in an egg and spoon race and his basic revenge plot is as bland as his generic, tough-guy buzz-cut.
That all being said, this is still a handsome looking monster mash (the sets are GORGEOUS and all look like classical paintings) but while it’s issues should begin and end with it merely being fairly average, there’s a far more concerning problem lurking beneath the surface.
Strip away the city-sized crustaceans and man-petrifying snake women and you see that Clash Of The Titans has absolutely no idea what kind of story it’s trying to tell.
You see, the film starts with the view that the Gods are all petty pieces of shit with little or no regard for the humans who’s prayers they apparently get their strength from and an obscenely bitter Hades becomes their back-stabbing tool to get the mortals to fall in line. However, by the midway point, Zeus softens a bit (although not enough to call off the giant squid monster) and is finally presented as someone to be rescued – so far so confusing. Things take a more sinister turn when, despite presenting a glance at Greek mythology that’s looser than an unbuckled sandal, the script opts to accurately detail at least one time Zeus felt the need to fly in through an enemy’s window, disguise himself as them and then promptly have sex with their wife – an act which we all know better as rape. This warts and all exposè (which means Perseus is the super powered product of this heinous act) makes a hideous mockery of the movie’s breezy “see you next time” coda in which sees Zeus pulling some weekend dad shit with his son. Greek mythology is notoriously cruel and abusive in it’s portrayal of women (Come on! A comely she-reptile that only kills men?) but this cinematic stumble in storytelling ends up leaving somewhat of a bad taste in the mouth.
It’s a disturbing shame that a decent yet handsomely mounted summer blockbuster contains such unresolved and creepy plot lines that no one saw fit to address and went relatively unnoticed in 2010 – but in this day and age is glaring in it’s crassness. Without this horrible undertone Clash Of The Titans could have nailed an easy – if undemanding – three stars for it’s creature carnage alone, but as it stands it’s simply taking the myth.