(No longer in theaters)
Kevin De La Noy, Basil Iwanyk
Apr 2, 2010
Clash of the Titans makes a good case study for what’s wrong with the Hollywood-blockbuster mentality. It isn’t a train wreck—a train wreck would be memorable. What’s wrong is wrong by design.
The 1981 original, with Laurence Olivier snorting at Maggie Smith alongside jerky Ray Harryhausen stop-motion beasties, is terrible—the only thing mythic is its tackiness. But it does have that tragicomic theme central to Greek myth: that the cruel fates of humans can best be explained by gods and goddesses fighting among themselves like randy rich kids with too much power.
The new Clash has been reworked as a (yawn) revenge saga. Zeus’s son, Perseus (Avatar’s Sam Worthington), is out to git Ralph Fiennes’s Hades for killing his adopted human family. He barely restrains himself when the god materializes out of swirling black smoke and, in a plangent Shakespearean belch, informs the insufficiently reverent Perseus that he’s going to unleash his deadliest monster, the Kraken. But Worthington is too old and too stolid to make an affecting juvenile warrior. The CGI monsters, meanwhile, are overcomplicated. Medusa—a supermodel’s head atop a serpent’s body—would be scarier if she were simpler. The Kraken looks like an octopus with the head of a very pissed-off turtle. Somewhere the balrog is laughing its ass off.
In the middle of Clash of the Titans, I took off my 3-D glasses, and even though the image was slightly blurry, the film became more involving. Gone was the look of a pop-up greeting card: Director Louis Leterrier knows how to bring out the primordial beauty of the rocky desert landscapes. The trendy technology, trendy revenge formula, trendy miscast hunk: It all fights against the story. The secret of the Hollywood gods that control our movies’ fates is that they’re dullards.