Remakes must be difficult for filmmakers to do. On one hand, having an installed audience is always nice for any movie. On the other hand, if a filmmaker is going to spend all of the time, energy and money into making a feature, then they’ll obviously want to make something that’s as unique to them as possible. What’s a filmmaker to do? Unfortunately, the answer is typically to create a film that’s a remake in name only. That unhappy reality has also befallen this incarnation of Clash of the Titans and will disappoint virtually everyone on almost all levels.
Greek gods have always meddled in human affairs, killing and cursing at will and sometimes even fathering bastard children known as demigods for their mixed human-god blood. Perseus (Sam Worthington) is one such demigod. He was cast out to sea to die by his enraged stepfather only to be saved by a simple fisherman and his wife. As Perseus grows into a man, the relationship humans have with the gods frays and soldiers from the city Argos sack religious temples and topple statues honoring the deities. Hades (Ralph Feinnes), the god of the underworld, rises up to teach the Argos soldiers a lesson and kills Perseus’ family in the process. Meanwhile, at Mt. Olympus, Hades explains to Zeus (Liam Neeson) that the humans need to be punished and offers to carry out Zeus’ wrath. Hades bargains with the Argos king: Either sacrifice the princess or the Kraken – a colossal creature of terrible destruction created by Hades – will obliterate the city. Eager to avenge his family, Perseus is swept up in the mission to thwart Hades’ plans and embarks on a great adventure with Argos soldiers and the mysterious, but captivating Io (Gemma Arterton). Wise to Perseus’ endeavors, Hades infuses Perseus’ stepfather, Calibos, with godlike power to hunt Perseus down.
Clash of the Titans is a remake that really requires some experience with the original to fully appreciate the latest version. For instance, audiences will probably wonder why Calibos’ blood causes giant scorpions to rise out of the ground. It’s because something similar happened in the 1981 version. Perhaps it didn’t make much sense then, either, but it seems to make even less sense now. Another questionable action is the necessity of the Kraken since the villain in the film – Hades – has considerable power on his own. Couldn’t he destroy Argos himself? Which raises another question: Why was Calibos necessary when Hades could have finished off Perseus easily? Hades is a god after all. The answer for all of the inconsistencies is that they happened in the source film.
While the filmmakers’ halfhearted attempt to keep some general plot points the same is commendable, the updated additions aren’t welcome. For example, the protagonists run into a race of desert people called the Djinn who look like rejected Star Wars alien concepts. There’s absolutely no reason to include these creatures since they don’t help propel the story except as a novelty. If this is the case, there are more popular creatures from Greek mythology to choose from, like the centaur, hydra or minotaur. Also, apparently Pegasus is no longer a single, unique animal, but an entire race of winged horses. Here the film doesn’t just stray from the original, but also from Greek mythology as well. Finally, in a very general, basic storytelling way, The Clash of the Titans simply feels random in key moments, like when the Djinn are able to explode their hearts like grenades or when another character knows to infuse his sword with holy lightning to defeat an enemy. So when Perseus unexpectedly receives a gift from the gods and another character tells him “don’t question it” it’s hard not to think that he’s talking to the audience.
The writing is the most glaring issue in the film. Most of the lines are cliché or pure exposition. Many scenes are strictly functional, like when Perseus is trained in sword fighting. After one quick lesson he goes from never-having-touched-a-sword to slayer-of-giant-scorpions-and-other-creatures. Furthermore, there are heavy anti-religion undertones throughout. The gods are cast in a very bad light and are portrayed as the destroyers of men. Perseus rejects the gods outright, seeking to accomplish his goals without their help. Additionally, the one proponent of religion in the film is a scrawny, screeching zealot. Christians will no doubt be put off by the thinly veiled agenda.
The one good thing going for Clash of the Titans is its visual pizzazz. The computer graphics look stunning. The new Medusa is the perfect blend of beauty and grotesqueness and her updated movements will please fans of the original. Unfortunately, the visuals will only carry the film so far, which isn’t very, considering lines, like, “Let’s kill this bitch.”
On the upside, video sales for the 1981 Clash of the Titans should increase sharply.