Next to the Star Wars saga and the Indiana Jones films, there was no other movie I loved more in the 1980s than Clash of the Titans. After watching Perseus turn the Kraken into stone with Medusa’s severed head, I was obsessed with Greek mythology. I gobbled up any book I could find at the school library. I even dressed up as Perseus on Halloween in 1982. I was 100 percent sure the third-grade ladies would be swooning over me just like thousands of women were lusting after the tan and shaggy-haired Harry Hamlin. I brought my plastic sword to school and my mom made me a toga. Nevertheless, my enthusiasm was shattered when I arrived at school and, after going to the bathroom to change, realized the toga was too short. If I bent over, all my classmates would receive an eyeful of Underoos and eight year-old prunehole. This meant I had to sport my jeans beneath my Perseus ensemble, which meant I looked like a complete idiot. I was no Harry Hamlin. The magic was kaput.
I don’t mean to use adolescent tragedy as segue for rating Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake, but the connection is inevitable. The director, who I thought resurrected The Hulk from an ignominious Ang Lee death with 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, sputters and ultimately fails to bring any sort of pizzazz, depth or enchantment to the age-old tale of the demigod Perseus, the son of Zeus. And that’s unfortunate, because with a little more story and engagement, this bombastic panorama of special effects might have a little more staying power and charm.
Nothing in the 2010 version of Clash of the Titans story-wise is extraordinarily different from the 1981 version, with the crux of the narrative laid squarely on the shoulders of Perseus (Sam Worthington). Like the original, Perseus was plopped into the ocean with his mom after King Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) discovered Zeus (Liam Neeson) had knocked-up his wife. In this outing, Perseus is rescued by a fisherman (Pete Postlethwaite) and raised by the old man as his own son. But, like Superman, Perseus knows he’s different and after Hades (Ralph Fiennes) kills his fishing family, Perseus is on a collision course with the gods. He will have his vengeance.
Perseus winds up in Argos, a kingdom dead set on giving the middle finger to Zeus and his pals. They’re toppling statues of the gods and the king and queen are talking about how their daughter, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), is hotter than Aphrodite. This doesn’t sit to well, obviously, with the gods, who need the love and worship of the humans to make them strong. In their frustration, they send bad boy Hades to Argos, and after turning the beautiful queen into Donatella Versace lookalike, the god of the Underworld tells Argos they are going to reap the nuclear destruction of the Kraken unless they sacrifice Andromeda to the massive beast.
In the original, Perseus dashes off to visit the witches, snag the head of Medusa and return to kill the Kraken all for the love of the beautiful Andromeda, but not in Leterrier’s version. This retelling has Perseus less concerned with love and more intent on kicking some heavenly ass. And while these effects-heavy rest stops are action-filled and a delight to the eyes, there is simply no threads of human interest to make us really care.
Clash of the Titans was a remake that could have been miles above its predecessor in scope and quality, but sadly the only improvement comes in updating Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion animation with seamless CGI. But in hindsight, that’s not an upgrade by way of imagination as it is the natural evolution of special effects.
(Side Note: Despite seeing it in 3-D, I have nothing to say about the quality or lack thereof because I can’t see 3-D. For more juicy goodness on that experience, read Dan’s review).