CLASH OF THE TITANS Review: Bland and campy remake

Remaking the 1980s has never been blander. CLASH OF THE TITANS does not offer much for fans of the original aside from the famous line: Release the Kraken!

The story is fairly familiar to us. As chronicled before in the stop-motion minor classic of the same name in 1982, the film follows the story of Perseus (Sam Worthington), who is a demigod—the son of Zeus himself. After the gods on Olympus are angered by man’s rejection of them, Zeus (Liam Neeson) permits his brother from the underworld, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) to teach them a lesson. But Hades, long suffering down below, has other plans, and those plans involve taking down his brother and taking over Olympus. Only Perseus can save humanity (represented by the city of Argos) and help put Hades back where he belongs. And that means that the mission is afoot! With the remaining warriors of Argos, Perseus undertakes a great journey by walking, yes, walking!

Hampered by comparisons to the original and a hammy story that just fails to stir emotions, CLASH OF THE TITANS feels rushed and strangely at odds with both the use of special effects and its conflicting story tone. The effects range from excellent, in the case of the famed fight in the desert with enormous scorpions, to confusing as the great Kraken is unleashed. The visual scope builds on the shaky camera trend, and is distracting at times, particularly during periods of heightened action. It is difficult to tell who is fighting whom at times. And the monsters are quickly lost in the shuffle.

But the odd tone struck as far as character and story adds another layer of confusion. Perseus is a demigod, and the son of the top guy, but he insists that he’s a man. And he’s quickly made a pariah in the human city of Argos. The king of Argos recognizes that Perseus may be their only hope for survival. Still, he’s not trusted. And as Perseus flip flops between human and demigod, a host of humans are killed. This conflict ought to work, but instead it may be a constant frustration for the viewer. And to be fair, frustrating story-lines can work to keep the viewer wondering how things will turn out. But here, where the ultimate pay off is predetermined (we know the story), the conflict of what side, human or god, Perseus will embrace proves to be just frustrating.

The film’s major problem though is the writing itself. And while Sam Worthington might be a mighty fine actor, having him deliver so many rousing heroic speeches waters them all down. There are many speeches where probably one would do. Remember that Kenneth Branagh film HENRY V or Mel Gibson’s BRAVEHEART even. Speeches by a hero can a source of great inspiration for the audience. But when that familiar technique is repeated over and over as it is in CLASH, the value diminishes. Viewers will likely be left a little empty.

CLASH OF THE TITANS is another splashy potential blockbuster that attempts to make use of 3D. Surprisingly, I found myself peaking around my 3D glasses wondering where that visual or projection effect was being used. It did not seem that the movie needed to be in 3D at all. And let’s face it, CLASH is not AVATAR. The world created in CLASH seems to be more like painted backgrounds rather than one with depth and texture. Ultimately, given AVATAR and even ALICE IN WONDERLAND, CLASH looks a little cheap in comparison.

Finally, CLASH is a victim of some unfortunate casting. After seeing Sam Worthington in TERMINATOR SALVATION and, of course, in AVATAR, he’s been so over-exposed so quickly that it may be impossible for viewers to divorce themselves from Worthington’s prior characters. While this may help the film at opening weekend box office, it hampers the credibility of the narrative because we are so reminded that Worthington is an actor playing yet another heroic role and less a character in the movie. Worthington is convincing enough, but he’s just too familiar right now for us to melt into his performance. And this baggage carries over to the performances by mega-talents Liam Neeson, as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes, as Hades, who both deliver their thankless lines well but can’t shake the stagy and stiff quality of the material.

With ham-handed dialogue, questionable effects, and a story with an ending that’s never in doubt, CLASH OF THE TITANS is Spring’s blandest offering yet.

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