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Review

Harry clashes with CLASH OF THE TITANS

It just doesn’t work. I’ve talked with a whole lot of friends about my rejection of the CLASH OF THE TITANS remake, mainly because it is such an incredibly heartbreaking failure for me. After my set visit last year, I had drank the remake Kool-Aid. Everything I saw made me feel the movie would be spectacular – although there were aspects that I questioned – due to their “newness” to the story, but overall my conversations with the various folks making the film… Well, I was really pulling for this. In many ways this was my number 1 anticipated film of the year. Why? Because GREEK MYTHOLOGY is amongst my favorite subjects. I remember back in Elementary School, thanks largely to Ray Harryhausen being the coolest filmmaker of my youth, every chance I had to finish my work and go to the library to devour “Long Time Ago” stories with fantastical creatures, powers, etc… These were the first superheroes. Is it a total waste? Absolutely not, in fact I’ll probably take my nephew to see the film sometime this coming week. But I’ll tell you something that I’m definitely doing at that screening… I’m taking him to see the film in 2D. Now, the press screening of CLASH OF THE TITANS took place at the Galaxy Highland 10 – which doesn’t always have the brightest bulbs – but even if the “darkness” of the image was dealt with – the 3D just couldn’t hold a candle to either ALICE IN WONDERLAND – AVATAR – CORALINE and even that FINAL DESTINATION that was in 3D. A bunch of the upfront criticism of this film is going to go towards it’s post-process 3D… but that isn’t the problem with the movie – it is the screenplay. CLASH OF THE TITANS, the remake, has had a pretty storied history with the script. Lawrence Kasdan did a pretty huge bugnuts draft that was at least successful in being a complete reinvention of the concept, even if it just didn’t work. The final credit falls to Travis Beacham, Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi… but one can’t blame any of them necessarily – simply because it is a huge studio film – so there’s a lot of different cooks throwing ingredients into the mix for this mess. The problem is pretty simple. You never ever care about Andromeda. This isn’t Alexa Davalos’ fault. She didn’t have a part in the film. But if you don’t care & love Andromeda – you can’t care about rescuing her. If you don’t care about rescuing her…. Then you don’t care about the quest. And if you don’t care about the quest, you don’t care about anything in the entire running time of the film – which basically means… you’ll be bored. BORED? With giant Scorpions, Bark People, Winged Horses, Bubo, Calibos, Stygian Witches, Medusa, a badass Hades, toppling giant statues and a ferocious Kraken? Well… with a dead on arrival score by Ramin Djawadi, which is the worst derivative Hans Zimmer-esque drivel I’ve heard in a long long time. It never makes one’s soul soar. Never inspires love. Never evoking passion, awe or wonder. It does not one thing for the film. Then there’s the lack of quality CHARACTER animation with the creatures. By making Medusa’s face beautiful & pale… she looks like bad, character-less CG. Sure, Ray Harryhausen’s Medusa moved about as quickly as Karloff’s MUMMY, but she LOOKED creepy. With one one-thousandth of the animation controls – Harryhausen’s MEDUSA was tragic, deadly and awesome far beyond the modern Medusa in Leterrier’s version. The setting is incredible. A stunning set, but Medusa moves with no weight, no intelligence. The Harpies? You never once see a clear look at them. The Scorpion attack? It is just a mess. Stygian Witches? Kinda cool, but not nearly as creepy as in the original. Bubo? He’s reduced to a single sight gag, due to a modern belief that Bubo was stupid. Well, Bubo was stupid, but as a narrative device, Bubo was a brilliant economical device in giving information to Perseus – which helped him on his quest. Without taking away from other character’s development time. And – well, he was fun. FUN. Remember FUN? Now, before I get into the main problems with the film – I do want you to know there are some things that work wonderfully for me. I love Mt Olympus and the Gods that live there. I love the look of it. I like the manner in which the Gods act. I do miss Hera’s involvement, but Fiennes’ HADES is the single best thing about the movie. He and Liam Neeson came to work. Their portrayals nearly made me like this movie… and I do like them quite a bit. I’m also a fan of the Argos soldiers that go with Perseus on the quest. I do like them, each of them far more than I did Perseus or Andromeda. I also loved Gemma Arterton. I just hated her character. Io is absolutely unneeded in this story. There’s more sexual tension, more charisma between her and Sam. But that passion, that charisma, that sexual desire… that shouldn’t be between Perseus and Io. That’s needed for Perseus and Andromeda. Then there is Sam Worthington’s Perseus. Now, I like Sam. That said, I despise this Perseus as written. That Perseus is on the quest out of revenge, instead of love. It steals the heart and soul from Perseus. Here is a character… born of a God and a Queen. Here, he doesn’t know that. He is never raised knowing that. He’s a fisherman, who loses his family during a confrontation with Hades – which is a bit too Tim Burton’s BATMAN for me. I just don’t like that. I love the idea of Perseus being raised by his mother, an exiled Queen. Being told the legend of his birth. I loved the notion of Zeus’ wife, out of jealousy of Zeus’ indiscretions with Perseus’ mother… and Zeus’ own punishment of her Son on Earth… that she completely disrupts Perseus’ existence. But I’m not asking for strict adherence to the original. Instead – this should be a story about how a young man set out to capture his birthright. The kingdom that was rightfully his was destroyed by the Kraken. So he can not go back, but the Cursed Princess story was cool. Why did Perseus fall for her so quickly? One, she was tormented… seeing her fiancée hideously transformed, her suitors burnt alive and the weight that hung around her kingdom as a result. But more than that… The Princess Andromeda represents Perseus’ birthright. Her hand means he will have a kingdom to rule. She was beautiful, royal and to win her… he would have to do something that would make him a legend in his own time. This is something that a hero does, because there is a lady in need. Now – I know – Putting Andromeda in a giant birdcage that a Vulture flies off into the knight with spectrally… But it was a great device to give Perseus an excuse to tame Pegasus. Now, Pegasus is a gift of the gods. I kinda hate that. Now, Pegasus basically just shows up at the last minute, god-tamed and ready to take Perseus. Very Convenient and undramatic. Now – pretty much everything that Perseus does is due to the midichlorians that Zeus put in him. When he defeats the elder Argos soldier on the quest in a duel. It isn’t because Perseus practiced his whole life in anticipation of the moment when the boy would become a king. Like an ALEXANDER… no. He does it because there’s a GOD in him. Again, I hate that. There is no ambition in Perseus. No sense of pride. No goals in life beyond “Killing Hades” – and that’s just kind of stupid thing. Killing Gods is a pretty lame character motivation. It basically means you have a main character going around talking about killing a God, while everyone rolls their eyes. The audience included. No. Perseus needs love, ambition and destiny. He fights impossible odds to win the hand of a princess, the rule of a great kingdom and a place in the stars. THAT was what was stake in the original. Now the original had wooden characters, but they had motivations. The story may not have been entirely logical, but it was mythical. And at the very least, it was FUN. This isn’t very much fun. In the 1970s – Gene Roddenberry gave a talk where he talked about Network notes on a BIBLE project he was making. The notes were about how the BIBLE as it was written wasn’t politically correct, didn’t make logical sense, it was immoral and unbelievable. The BIBLE wasn’t inclusive of all cultures. It was a fairly hilarious series of notes… but looking at CLASH OF THE TITANS – it seems everyone looked at the original film in much the same way. Instead, they should have looked at it from the stand point of HOW DO WE MAKE THIS WORK BETTER. How do we sell Perseus’ romance with Andromeda. That’s first and foremost. Without that love – the story is a video game. Without their love, it is boys playing with action figures that their sisters don’t care about. With love, girls long to be saved. Yes, I’m aware we live in liberated times where women do not need a prince to save them. Well, don’t make CLASH OF THE TITANS then. The reason to remake the film is to make their love EPIC. To make the consequences dire. When HADES asked for her Blood – she and Perseus and the king’s guards should flee Argos to not be mauled. On the quest – she should desire to go back, to sacrifice herself for her people, her family’s history and the accomplishments of their culture in the gorgeous city of Argos. Look at LAST OF THE MOHICANS, that’s what their love should have been. That’s the weight the movie should have had – and the only digital effects company that should have worked on these characters should have been Phil Tippett’s group or WETA – where full on Character animation is paramount. This isn’t an unwatchable film. One can enjoy what is there. My problems largely lie as adaptation issues – which make the characters less cool, less interesting and less worth visiting. The film is a must see for fans of the genre, but it misses its mark fairly widely. Wish I had better news.

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