Wasting time and money


I wanted to enjoy Clash of the Titans. The previews highlighted some terrific special effects and Greek mythology is a fertile field of sweeping sagas, epic stories of men challenging the gods, and strange, amazing creatures. Two problems doomed this otherwise entertaining adventure film: the retrofit 3-D effects and the poor performance by Sam Worthington in the title role of Perseus.

Perseus is the offspring of the god Zeus (Liam Neeson) and mortal Danae (Tine Stapelfeldt).

When Danae’s mortal husband Acrisius ( Jason Flemyng) learns that her child was not from him, he traps them in a coffin and hurls it into the ocean. Miraculously, they safely wash ashore and build a family with humble Greek fisherman Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite).

That’s where things diverge from classic Greek mythology and where the film gets confusing. Mortals are tired of having to pay homage to the gods and rebel. They topple a massive statue of Zeus and begin to talk about the freedom to rule themselves. It’s the love of mortals that give Gods their life, and if no one believes in them they’ll die. Meanwhile, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), brother of Zeus and god of the underworld, plots to restore his place on Mount Olympus.

The journey of Perseus hinges on an angry Zeus threatening to unleash the Kraken, a mighty beast that will destroy the entire city of Argos if the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) isn’t sacrificed.

Perseus is in love with Andromeda and vows to save her and Argos from the vengeful Gods. The only way to kill the Kraken is to show it Medusa’s head, but Medusa (Natalia Vodianova) lives in the underworld and if you look at her, you turn to stone. The quest involves finding the entrance to the underworld, convincing the ferryman to take them across the river Styx, killing Medusa and bringing the head back, all in just a few days.

Along the way the film roughly follows some of the scenes of the 1981 Ray Harryhausen special effects classic Clash of the Titans, with Pegasus the winged horse, giant scorpions, Medusa and strange flying creatures, but while the original had a sense of humor about it, the remake has a ponderousness that makes it feel like a quest for the viewer too.

Clash of the Titans had its 3-D effects added after the film was done, at a cost of $10 million. I’m already tired of the gimmicky effect, personally. The 3-D was blurry and distracted from the narrative and special effects, rather than enhancing them. I can only hope that in the next year directors will insist on skipping 3-D entirely to preserve their vision of the film or will work with 3-D from the first frame so that the effects are more enjoyable.

Does Clash of the Titans ultimately sound like a soap opera with lots of vaguely familiar names? It is. The problem with the film is that Perseus is the original heroic mortal and his journey is the archetypal hero’s journey, and Worthington just doesn’t have the range to pull it off.

This left the film without a soul, another “look what we can do with computer graphics” DVD release that is unlikely to be a favorite for more than a viewing or two. Recommended if you’re a special effects junkie, otherwise catch it on HBO or rent the DVD. You’ll be fine.