This lively, entertaining remake of 1981’s clunky adventure epic Clash of the Titans benefits from the forceful presence of Sam Worthington (Avatar) in the key role and is full of high flying action, nifty monsters, valiant heroes, plotting villains and impressive CGI. Biggest drawback is a greedy last-minute decision by Warner Bros to convert the film, shot and designed for 2D, into a less-than-sterling use of the 3D format, which has the effect of hurling Peter Menzies Jr’s ace cinematography into semi-darkness and the loss of definition is apparent right from the start. But jacked-up 3D prices should initially spark strong numbers worldwide even if the film is better viewed the way it was initially intended. Since the 3D is clearly a rush job and has no real purpose here there may eventually be customer backlash at premium pricing that offers little added value.
Just as he did with The Incredible Hulk, director Louis Leterrier has taken a misfired original and given it new life. Perseus (Worthington), the unknowing bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), finds himself and a band of warriors locked in battle with Zeus’s brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the monstrous God of all things evil. Hades intends to release the imposing Kraken in order to destroy the city of Argos unless they agree to offer up the gorgeous daughter of the king, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), for sacrifice.
In his Herculean efforts to save her, Persueus and his band—including soldier Draco (Mads Mikkelsen) and beautiful guide Io (Gemma Atherton)—confront aggressive giant scorpions, blind witches and the snake-coiffed Medusa, whose mere presence turns men and monsters into cemented icons. All of that is warm-up for the ultimate showdown with the much-feared Kraken.
Leterrier works with state-of-the-art visual effects and top production values to create some fun set pieces here. The director really demonstrates a fondness for this material and makes the most of its B-movie origins. This Clash is the kind of flick you leave saying, “not as bad as it could be” or “better than I thought.” Purists will miss the charm of the legendary Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion creations, as seen in 1981’s Clash, but the original film came at the end of Haryhausen’s remarkable film career and was already pale in comparison to the early wonders of the emerging Lucas/Spielberg era. An oblique reference to this comes early in the film when a character picks up Harryhausen’s pathetic-looking mechanical owl and tosses it aside with the line, “leave it behind.” It’s a wise decision by the director and his gang of screenwriters.
Performances are not going to earn anyone Oscar consideration but Worthington, retaining his Aussie accent, is a strong action hero countered by the beauty of Davalos, and especially Arterton. Mikkelsen (as Draco) and Jason Flemyng (playing king-turned-beast Calibos) are well-cast, while vets Neeson, Fiennes and Pete Postlethwaite add the necessary gravitas that Laurence Olivier supplied the original.
The big question is whether today’s sophisticated geek crowd will deem this age-old tale too corny. Additionally, you have to ask: will Warners’ faux-3D turn crowds off of a film that works just fine without it?
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Pete Postlethwaite, Jason Flemyng, Danny Huston, Alexa Davalos and Polly Walker
Director: Louis Leterrier
Screenwriters: Travis Beacham and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi
Producers: Basil Iwanyk and Kevin De La Noy
Rating: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality
Running time: 118 min.
Release date: April 2, 2010