By Jonathan Kiefer
There’s footage on YouTube of stop-motion animation maestro Ray
Harryhausen, in 2006, first hearing about a possible Clash of the Titans
remake. “Oh, I hope not,” he says.
We all know where Harryhausen is coming from. His contributions to the 1981 film, although impressive for being more memorable than a performance by Laurence Olivier as the king of the gods, also had a way of making Clash of the Titans seem inherently pitiable. How sad it was to think of that dated, lumbering clunker of a mythological fantasy just fading away in the long shadow of Star Wars. Well, the last thing it needs now is a bland, moronic, computer-enhanced warming-over by the 21st-century Hollywood remake machine. That just adds insult to injury.
Sam Worthington plays the hero Perseus on a quest to protect an uppity human race from being collateral damage in a sibling rivalry between big-bearded gods Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Not that Perseus, who was raised as a humble fisherman, really needs to trouble himself; the humans seem plenty willing to sacrifice a princess (Alexa Davalos) instead, if that will get the gods off their backs.
It’s just that Perseus does have his own axe—or magic sword or whatever—to grind, on account of Hades having killed his adoptive father (Pete Postlethwaite) and Zeus being his actual father. The rest is business as usual: swords, sandals, scorpions.
Mythology has been prone to retellings and retellings of retellings for millennia. That’s fine; that’s how it works. But it generally doesn’t bore us and insult our intelligence. Here, the sense of destiny playing out is more a sense of lazy and mercenary screenwriting from Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Beacham’s next project is The Black Hole, another reboot of a movie best left to rest in peace, and Hay and Manfredi’s credits include Aeon Flux, which probably shouldn’t even have been booted up a first time. So it’s hard to know if these writers actually have any talent.
One good purpose of 3-D—and perhaps its only purpose in this particular film—is to keep critics from properly seeing their notebooks. If darkness impedes the jotting down of complaints, those glasses make it nearly impossible. Looking back on my Clash of the Titans notes now, I see that I’ve written something along the lines of: “Smffddh resh fgb Perseus Thp fddhup, Zeus!”
Luckily for me, this scrawl actually describes the movie quite well: It has familiar names, smudgy action and some punctuation. I do recall that scenes on Mount Olympus are photographed as if somebody’s solution to all those flares in the lens was to give it another coating of Vaseline. But at least we get to hear Neeson shout, “Release the Kraken!”
It might have been better if he’d shouted, “Apologize to the Harryhausen!”