The idea of remaking Clash of the Titans had been kicking around Hollywood since at least the 90s, and once we entered the CGI era that would make the creature effects doable there was more and more interest. Finally, in 2010, the remake, directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Now You See Me) arrived in theaters with a heavy thud. Despite a budget of $125 million and the work of a lot of creditable actors, the film is a complete, disastrous mess.
The result of multiple different screenplays mashed together, the film seems bent on fucking up everything that made the original movie great. In the 1981 version you get the operatic, brooding opener with Acrisius putting his daughter and bastard grandson into a coffin and casting them into the storming sea while he curses the gods. It delivers all the exposition you need with a dramatic bit of monologue and a great location shoot.
The new movie, however, never saw anything it couldn’t narrate the fuck out of, and it starts right off with what becomes the major problem of the script: it’s terrible. The fact that the person writing it could not create decent dialogue to save their life did not stop them from writing a whole fuckton of dialogue that will be crammed into your face in many, many boring scenes of people standing around and delivering exposition in rote, declarative sentences. The movie even added the character of Io – played by the lovely Gemma Arterton – expressly for the purpose of narrating things, just in case you missed the point that this is all super-serious and not fun.
The quality of the cast is the real tragedy here, as aside from Liam Neeson as Zeus, you have Ralph Fiennes shamelessly hamming it up as Hades, Luke Evans as Apollo, and Alexander Siddig as Hermes – even though he appears on screen for about 10 seconds. Other familiar faces include Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Jason Flemyng, Liam Cunningham, Nicholas Hoult, Vincent Regan, Polly Walker, Pete Postlethwaite, and Rory McCann, among others. You will spend the whole movie thinking “hey I know who that is.” So many good actors, and so little for them to do. The only one not slumming it is Sam Worthington, who is as bland and dull in the role of Perseus as he is in all his movies. This was the time period where they were casting him in everything, hoping he was the new Russell Crowe, except it turned out his talent is strictly mediocre.
The story deviates so far from the original that it seems less like a new interpretation and more like mockery. Here, Perseus is born to Acrisius’s wife, who Zeus seduces, Uther-style. She is not named, and she dies in the sea-casket, so she never even gets a line. Then Acrisius is struck by lightning and turns into Calibos, with a makeup design that is really boring and uninspired. In this movie, Hades is the main antagonist, part of a plotline about humanity rebelling against the gods, which comes across as really, really stupid and forced. The kraken is not “the last of the titans” as in the original, but a monster Hades created to kill the titans, and despite expensive CGI, it looks nowhere near as cool as Harryhausen’s striking creation.
Andromeda is given nothing to do, has no romance with Perseus, and is demanded as sacrifice for seemingly no reason. Even after Perseus rescues her, he just leaves to go be with the Goddess of Exposition. Perseus is saddled with a cast of side-characters who serve as fodder, plus the inexplicable presence of “Djinn”, who look like tree people and seem to be from some other movie. The design of Medusa is like something out of a video game, rather than the terrifying monster Harryhausen created, and indeed the entire sequence seems like a stage from a video game.
The CGI, overall, is not great, with everything looking muddy and grayish, and yet somehow too shiny, like plastic. The costumes and set dressing are fantastic, and the digitally-painted backgrounds and vistas look top-notch. It’s too bad the effects overall look so underdone and ugly, which is not helped by the rather poor art design, which makes everything look too slick. There is a definite Blizzard kind of aesthetic in the design of the monsters and the gods, so it all kind of reminds me of Diablo.
I don’t object to the idea of making a version of Clash that does things differently, the problem here is that every change they made from the original makes the movie worse, muddies up the story, and makes things more complicated without adding anything except shitty dialogue and sub-par CGI. In the original movie Perseus falls in love with Andromeda, and everything else follows from that motivation. In this version, Perseus has no personal motivation except that he’s mad at Hades, and he seems to slog rather grudgingly through the plot.
Despite being a pile of crap, this movie made enough worldwide to warrant a sequel, and that will be where things get interesting. The idea of men at war with the gods is a good one for both over-the-top action and some genuine existential undertones. Here the whole theme fell flat, but in the unlikely follow-up, Wrath of the Titans, the full awesome potential was realized. I’ll get to that one next time.