Movie review: ‘Clash of the Titans’
It’s doubtful that records are kept about this sort of thing, but consider the possibility that “Clash of the Titans” is the first film to actually be made worse by being in 3-D.
Not that this remake of the creaky 1981 original, best remembered for a slumming Laurence Olivier and Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation monsters, was ever going to be something to write home about. At least not for anyone older than 10.
For one thing, as directed by action junkie Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2,” “Unleashed”) and written by Travis Beacham and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi, this “Clash” has dialogue so plodding that a halfway decent line like “you have insulted powers beyond your comprehension” sounds like something out of Noel Coward.
Obviously, no one comes to a movie like this for repartee, but even the action scenes, with ancient Greek hero Perseus (“Avatar’s Sam Worthington) facing off against an entire menagerie of mythical monsters, come off as lethargic and clunky.
Possibly because this film was converted to 3-D late in the game, the third dimension, especially in those action scenes, is more of a distraction than an enhancement. While some creatures, especially Pegasus the flying horse, flourish, 3-D clutters the film’s innumerable battles, making them harder to follow rather than exciting.
“Clash of the Titans” is also burdened by a numskull plot notion. The idea is that though those ancient Greeks lived in a world where the gods were quite real and unimaginably powerful, these idiots decide to declare war on them, which is the short-sighted equivalent of teasing your younger brother even though he has the power to snap his fingers and turn you to stone.
Though it’s not clear why they agreed to participate, having top actors play the gods -- Liam Neeson is Zeus! Ralph Fiennes is Hades! -- doesn’t help things. Neeson looks lost in the godly costumes, and Fiennes, perhaps hoping no one will notice it’s him, speaks largely in sinister whispers.
While the gods are going through their paces and bemoaning the absence of human worship, Perseus, a demigod like his namesake Percy Jackson in the equally pedestrian “The Lightning Thief,” is making his way in the world and discovering that he is the son of Zeus.
Perseus spends years with the adoptive fisherfolk parents Spyros and Marmara (the odd couple pairing of Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern) who found him floating in the sea. Spyros is one of those fed-up-with-the-gods folks who is fond of ominously saying, “One day, someone is going to have to take a stand.” Guess who.
Back in the Greek city of Athos, the anti-gods movement is moving full steam ahead. Then Hades comes to town and puts a good scare into the populace, telling them that unless they sacrifice their beloved princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), he will unleash the dread Kraken -- not the most fearsome name for a monster but there you have it -- and Athos will be destroyed.
Because he is the only demigod in town and because he is irked beyond measure at the Olympians for their part in his parents’ death, Perseus agrees to look for a way to kill the Kraken. He takes a crack team of warriors and adventurers with him, including the canny veteran soldier Draco, nicely played by Mads Mikkelsen.
Guided by the ageless but attractive Io (Gemma Arterton) and dogged by the horrific Calibos (Jason Flemyng), Perseus and his pals take on an entire Noah’s ark of inhuman adversaries, including enormous scorpions on steroids called scorpiochs and the deadly Medusa, which turns out to be more or less a snake in a bikini top. Even the beloved mechanical owl from the 1981 version makes a cameo.
As played by Worthington, who’s making a career of sullen heroes, Perseus insists he wants to defeat the Kraken as a man, not a god, which is a bit of wishful thinking that we all know can’t be sustained forever. Neither, as it turns out, can our interest in this middling effort. When the most thrilling thing about a film turns out to be its title, even unleashing the Kraken won’t be payoff enough.