By Dirk Sonniksen | April 2, 2010
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer(s): Travis Beacham (screenplay), Phil Hay (screenplay), Matt Manfredi (screenplay), Beverly Cross (1981 screenplay)
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos
The people of Argos have angered Zeus, and there will be hell to pay, literally. While Zeus can be a bit of a pushover, his brother Hades will have none of it, and wants to destroy the city of Argos, and Zeus reluctantly agrees. Enter Perseus, demigod, but who feels like an average Joe and just wants to be a man. Perseus sets off on a journey to find Medusa, and ultimately defeat the dreaded Kraken.
The original 1981 version of Clash of the Titans was a little masterpiece for its time, and while it was campy, overall it’s held up over the decades. With Ray Harryhausen co-producing the film and using stop-motion animation, Clash of the Titans had a singular vision that was evident in the cohesive nature of the creatures used for the film, not to mention a cast that was fit for the job. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the most recent manifestation of the story.
While it was not necessary to follow the same storyline as the previous film (and it doesn’t), it was indeed a necessity to make a film that was at least comparable in quality to the first. Perhaps it was the use of CGI in place of stop-motion that doomed Clash of the Titans, or a cast that, while all able actors, seemed oddly out of place on Mount Olympus. That director Louis Leterrier apparently tried in vain to employ the genius of Harryhausen for this film might perhaps shed some light on why Clash of the Titans failed, that perhaps Harryhausen knew something Leterrier didn’t.
This latest incarnation pits man against gods, or at least that’s what director Louis Leterrier apparently intended. In an attempt to distance itself from its 1981 predecessor, Leterrier chose to focus on the relationship between the gods and man, with the two existing in a kind of symbiotic state. This was implied in the original, but not shoved down your throat as it is in the current adaptation, courtesy of Perseus (Sam Worthington). With Perseus’ redundant exclamations that he is “just a man,” I began to feel like I was being force-fed the new, improved version of Clash of the Titans.
While I am fully aware that doing this film with stop-motion was not really a possibility, the CGI just didn’t work for me. Leterrier had previously worked on The Incredible Hulk with good results, but this particular foray into the CGI world was a bomb. From the giant scorpion-things to Medusa to the Kraken himself, nothing was memorable. One of the biggest issues for me is perhaps best described in the scenes with Medusa. Not only was the character of Medusa boring and mundane, the shots of Medusa were so quick that we never get a really good look at her, and perhaps that was done intentionally. By the time we finally get to the scene where the Kraken breaks the surface of the ocean, I just wanted him to eat the princess. That would have been an interesting approach to a really dull film.
On the casting front, it was difficult to connect to any of the characters. While Sam Worthington was an admirable pick for the role of Perseus, his angst-ridden approach to the demigod fell flat. I vastly preferred Hamlin’s original take on the role as a somewhat bumbling Perseus. While I am a big fan of Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, I could not get over the comical look of Zeus and Hades, who reminded me more of an Allman-Brothers-meets-Kiss kind of duo rather than two very powerful gods. The remaining roster of gods was more or less pushed to the back burner, which left a void in a film already saturated with voids.