By Malice Intended of Planet Ill

In the mythical world of ancient Greece, a rebellion of biblical proportions is afoot. Weary of being subject to the whims of the vengeful and vain gods who reign from atop mount Olympus, mankind declares war on them. In retaliation, Zeus (Liam Neeson) gives Hades (Ralph Fiennes) permission to use his powers to humble man. Hades demands a human sacrifice from the people of Argos. Failure to comply will result in the city being flattened by a massive sea monster known as “The Kraken.”

Mankind’s salvation lies in the hands of Perseus (Sam Worthington), a demigod raised among mankind and unaware of his true lineage. When his earthly caretaker is struck down by Hades, Perseus swears vengeance and accompanies a group of Argive warriors on a quest to find a way to defeat the Kraken. The journey turns into trial by fire as Perseus and the Argives face one unholy beast after another.

Clash of the Titans is a remake of the 1981 film, which is best known as the last movie to feature the work of stop motion maestro Ray Harryhausen. This update treads on philosophical ground that the original mostly avoided. It raises questions that it has the audacity to ask but not the courage or imagination to answer. It has the look of a more ambitious production, but not the heart.

Chief among the film’s mistakes is the re-imagining of Perseus as a scruffy everyman. In the original, Harry Hamlin played Perseus as cunning and resourceful. He accepted his place in the grand scheme of things and proceeded accordingly. Sam Worthington plays him as a working class hero that rejects his immortal heritage out of youthful ignorance. His devotion to mankind seems a byproduct of his overall clueless nature. He presses forward with a headstrong attitude that makes him seem the personification of brawn over brains.

The CGI is beautifully rendered but rings hollow. Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion creations in the original have a sense of character and inspiration that is sorely lacking in their CGI descendents. In a way they are too perfect, glowing with the sheen of a renaissance painting. They are meticulously rendered, but lifeless.

Also frustrating is how the film toys with notions it has no real interest in. Are gods, who parasitically feed off human emotion and acknowledgment, worthy of worship? What of the interesting paradox of human beings who acknowledge the existence of gods, yet won’t hesitate to defy them if they feel neglected? These are intriguing notions that are beyond the film’s comprehension. Things would have been much better had the film not raised these questions at all.

The original had a narrative thrust and sense of purpose that this update does not. It lumbers from one set piece to another without a sense of focus. Things merely happen. Myths should be sure handed and told with clarity. A proper balance is never struck between reverence and fun. As a result, the dramatic elements don’t have as much weight as they should and things are never as thrilling as they could be. The modern blockbuster style self-awareness of the dialogue seems out of place.

The creature designs are hit and miss. The Kraken is suitably massive and fearsome, embodying an appropriate “force of nature” mystique. Medusa is a bit of a letdown. Her face still shows a bit the striking beauty that she supposedly possessed before being wrongly cursed. The 3D effect is non existent. If ever a case could be made against the current 3D craze, Clash of the Titans would be exhibit A. The 3D conversion process does nothing to enhance the action or immerse the viewer in the film’s world. Viewers should opt for a showing of the 2D version.

Clash of the Titans is the biggest missed opportunity in quite a while. The original was a great example of retro Saturday matinee cheese. That quality endeared it to a generation of kids who gleefully watched it countless times on HBO. This remake is content to simply update the production values and flirt with concepts it doesn’t have any intention of exploring. The latter is perhaps the worst crime a film of this scale can commit against its audience. 2.25 out of 5

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