Clash of the Titans Review
A showdown between two of the most powerful Gods in Greek mythology is the centrepiece of this remake of 1981’s Clash of the Titans. Zeus (Liam Neeson) is the King of the Gods, ruling from his throne high above the world of mortal man. Zeus' brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) rules the Underworld, a somewhat unpleasant assignment he was tricked in to taking on by Zeus. Hades is determined to usurp Zeus and take revenge for his brother’s deception. Unbeknown to him, Zeus has fathered a half-human son – the demi-god Perseus (Sam Worthington). When his human parents are killed by Hades in an attack on the city of Argos, Perseus agrees to lead a quest to defeat Hades and his agent of destruction, the mighty Kraken.
If the above plot synopsis sounded a little confusing to you, you would not be alone. It’s a shame to report that the 2010 version of Clash is something of a mess. There have been numerous reports on the web about the fraught post-production that the film underwent, with late re-shoots and story alterations made during the editing process. Then of course it was converted to 3D, the infamous result of which is by all accounts dreadful (and the reason why I saw the 2D version). This sort of tortured route to release usually means a film has serious problems, and so it proves here.
The inescapable fact of the matter is the film is just rather dull. Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) delivers plenty of spectacle: the set-pieces that you can see in the trailer (the giant scorpions, the attack on Medusa, and the Kraken’s assault on Argos) offer some token excitement. The special effects are mostly up to scratch. But there is precious little else to engage with or enjoy.
So what went wrong? Well, the script is a big problem, for starters. Not a single character is interesting or appealing, with the possible exception of Io (Gemma Arterton) who looks lovely but does little except spout the odd bit of exposition. Perseus is much the same as Sam Worthington’s other major roles to date (in Terminator Salvation and Avatar), and he will have to try and stretch himself soon if he wants to prove he isn’t just a flash in the pan. Liam Neeson brings an appropriately omnipotent arrogance to Zeus, but Ralph Fiennes merely reprises his Voldemort role from the Potter franchise. The other characters are dealt with so fleetingly there isn’t time to remember who they are, let alone sympathise with them.
And then there’s the story itself. The attack on Argos by the Kraken is the big showstopper that Perseus and his comrades are trying to prevent. But Perseus has no interest in Argos; he simply wants to avenge himself on Hades. Yet the audience is taken back to the endangered city repeatedly as the population start to panic, and fanatics try to sacrifice the princess to satiate the Kraken. Unfortunately, we the audience couldn’t care less – the people are all seen to be greedy, pompous and vain early on, and our ‘heroes’ are all one-dimensional blank slates. So good riddance, I say – bring on the Kraken.
As with any remake, comparisons are invited with memories of the original. It has been a long time since I saw the original Ray Harryhausen production, and I’m sure it has its flaws too. But I would be surprised if it was as lifeless as its progeny. The only real nod back to the earlier film comes in the form of Bubo the mechanical owl, who appears briefly early on as a toy that Perseus is advised to leave behind. It’s so utterly pointless and out of place, you wonder why they bothered. It certainly won’t be enough to placate fans of the original.
It’s not all bad though. The assault on Medusa’s lair generates a few thrills (though she herself is one of the poorer CGI effects), and the Kraken’s entrance towards the end livens proceedings up a bit. And Neeson’s delivery of “Release the Kraken!” can never fail to raise a smile. It is a line so perfectly delivered, it’s a shame it isn’t in a better, or more fun, movie. Like the film itself, it promises much yet delivers little.