Clash of the Titans (United Kingdom/United States, 2010)

March 30, 2010
A movie review by James Berardinelli
Clash of the Titans Poster

Seen in standard digital 3D.

To employ a cliché, there's good news and bad news for Clash of the Titans fans. The good news is that the 2010 remake is an improvement upon the 1981 original. The bad news is that the degree of improvement is minor and much of what's enhanced about this interpretation of Greek mythology is undone by some of the worst 3D rendering since circular polarization replaced the old red lens/blue lens approach. Anyone interested in seeing Clash of the Titans is recommended to seek out the 2D experience - not only is it less expensive but it will permit enjoyment of the story without distractions that include, but are not limited to, motion blur during action sequences, perpetual dimness, and headaches/nausea. The 3D looks bad; for the most part, it's 2D in different planes - an effect which makes everything appear unconvincing and is as compelling an argument as one can find for why this sort of "quickie" conversion should not be foisted upon audiences.

Clash of the Titans can best be described as a re-imagination of the 1981 movie which was, in turn, a re-telling of the legend of Perseus. The 2010 version focuses on the half-god/half-mortal hero (played by Sam Worthington) but also explores the politics of Mount Olympus, with Hades (Ralph Fiennes) plotting against his brother, Zeus (Liam Neeson). The gods have become annoyed that men are failing to show them proper respect. As a form of punishment, Hades has issued an ultimatum to the citizens of Argos: sacrifice their princess, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), or he'll unleash the full fury of the monstrous Kraken upon the land. Perseus, who bears a grudge against Hades related to the death of his adopted father (Pete Posthethwaite), assembles a group of men and one woman. He has ten days to discover the means by which the Kraken can be defeated before Andromeda's life is forfeit.

Many of the memorable elements of the original have been carried forward to this re-make, including a fight against supersized scorpions, the battle to claim Medusa's head, a romance between Perseus and a female companion (in this case it's Io, played by Gemma Arterton, instead of Andromeda), and the manner in which the climactic struggle is resolved. The creature Calibos is present but he is no longer a centaur. The mechanical owl Bubo, sometimes referred to as the Jar-Jar Binks of the original Clash of the Titans, makes a cameo appearance. Pegasus is here, although he has undergone a color change. Improved special effects, less cheesy dialogue, and a reduction in inappropriate humor allow the 2010 Clash of the Titans to be taken more seriously than the 1981 version, but improbabilities in the story occasionally make it difficult to swallow what's being spoon-fed. Even a fantasy adventure needs to apply some level of internal logic, and that's not always the case here. (Hades' master plan, for example - which is new to this incarnation - does not bear up to even cursory examination.)

The monsters are represented effectively in CGI - they lack the signature appearance of the painstaking Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation that characterized the first one, but they are state-of-the-art and as believable as one might expect for giant sea monsters and serpentine women with snakes for hair. The 1981 Clash of the Titans was a mix of the good and the bad when it came to special effects. This one is less open to criticism on that level. And, although Olympus doesn't dazzle with its spectacle, the Underworld is impressively realized. The scenes in which the characters approach Medusa's lair aboard Charon's ferry are among Clash of the Titans' most evocative.

When it comes to the characters, that's where the movie's Achilles heel becomes apparent: there aren't any, or at least none that attain even a semblance of three-dimensionality. Okay, no one goes to something called Clash of the Titans with the expectation of meaningful drama or deep introspection, but would it be too much to ask that the lead character have a personality? Sam Worthington has become the go-to actor for big budget spectacles - this is his third in less than a year (following Terminator: Salvation and Avatar) - and he continues to show as much range as the special effects with which he is surrounded. To say there is no chemistry between Worthington and Gemma Arterton (Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace) is to state the obvious, because director Louis Leterrier obviously doesn't care about the film's love story. (It's so underdeveloped that one wonders why he doesn't dispense with it altogether.) An expectation that the presence of acting giants like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes might elevate the quality of performances proves to be unfounded. Like Lawrence Olivier in the original, they play down to the material rather than having it rise to their level.

Clash of the Titans is perhaps the first major 3D movie to be aimed squarely at teenage boys. It's hard to imagine this movie capturing a wider audience, although there will undoubtedly be viewers who attend the production for its nostalgia value. The film offers a no-frills approach to fantasy/adventure, providing monsters, mayhem, and violence aplenty with just enough restraint not to overstep the bounds of the PG-13 rating. Those who see Clash of the Titans in 2D might argue that it harkens back to some of the classic B-movie fantastical adventures that were popular during the middle decades of the 20th century. Those who see it in 3D may be so exasperated by the visual clutter that they won't be as kindly disposed. Clash of the Titans is a flawed but mildly entertaining regurgitation of Greek mythological elements, but it's also an example of how poorly executed 3D can hamstring a would-be spectacle.

Clash of the Titans (United Kingdom/United States, 2010)

Run Time: 1:43
U.S. Release Date: 2010-04-02
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Sexual Content)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1