I got into a bit of a row with Big McLargehuge a couple of weeks back regarding the original Clash of the Titans. Big still considers it a classic while I…well…don’t. It’s not a bad movie, but, once you get beyond the admittedly cool Harryhausen stop motion stuff – an example of a true master at the top of his game – the rest of the movie falls a bit flat. Sure, I loved it as a kid, but, revisiting it nearly thirty years later, it just doesn’t hold up. The slapstick humor (oh, how I hate thee, Bubo the Owl), the terribly miscast Burgess Meredith, the oaken Harry Hamlin; it’s a film that was always a little flawed but, like many of my favorites from childhood, those flaws have been magnified by time, making them all but unwatchable for me now. Big and I got into this heated debate after he picked up a copy of the Blu-ray release of 2010’s Clash of the Titans, where he all but put a pox on the filmmakers for having the hubris to try and recreate what, in his mind, is a film that is just as vital as it was three decades ago. He then went on to address the critical drubbing the film took upon its release, but I was quick to remind him that much of the negative buzz was due to the slapdash post-process 3-D and not a reflection of the film, itself. After a bit more verbal sparring, in which I ruthlessly attacked everything he held dear and life while he lay on the floor whimpering whilst in fetal position, we agreed to disagree. It hit me after he left that night that I’d spent the better part of an hour defending the merits of a remake I’d not yet seen, so, when it came time to watch this reimagining of Clash of the Titans, I prayed to the gods that I didn’t do all of that arguing for nothing.
The film opens with the lonely fisherman Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite ) happening upon a floating casket whilst navigating through a treacherous storm. Spyros brings the casket aboard and opens it to reveal the body of Danae and her still-living infant son, Perseus, whom Spyros adopts and raises as his own. We flash forward ten years, and Perseus (Sam Worthington) is now a young man, following in his adoptive father’s footsteps, and working side by side with his family as a fisherman. While en route to pay tribute to the mammoth statue of Zeus, the family witnesses a squad of soldiers from the city of Argos toppling the statue, thus raising the ire of Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Hades decimates much of the force before destroying the small fishing boat, killing Perseus’ family, and leaving him stranded at sea. He’s picked up by the surviving Argos soldiers and brought back to the city. While they’ve taken heavy losses, the King and Queen of Argos revel in their blow against the gods, and, during their excitement, Queen Cassiopeia goes so far as to compare her daughter, Andromeda’s (Alexa Davalos), beauty to Aphrodite, herself, while King Kepheus denounces the Gods entirely. Once again, this draws the ire of Hades, who crashes the party, wipes out more of Argos’ forces, and kills Cassiopeia for her indiscretions. He also gives the King of Argos an ultimatum; sacrifice his daughter to the mammoth seabeast that is the Kraken, or watch Argos crumble beneath its massive tentacles!
As Hades makes his exit, he notices Perseus and reveals him to be the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson). This, of course, puts undue pressure on the mild-mannered fisherman, as now everyone expects this “demigod” to do his godlike best to defeat the Kraken, spare Andromeda, and save Argos! At first, Perseus wants nothing to do with any of this. He simply wants revenge against Hades for killing his family, but, when the mysterious demigoddess lo (played by the tent-pitching Gemma Arterton) convinces Perseus that the only way to defeat Hades is to first defeat the Kraken, Perseus takes on the challenge, and, accompanied by a squad of Argos’ best men, led by the battle hardened Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), Perseus begins an epic quest to seek out the means with which to destroy the legendary beast.
Directed by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter/The Incredible Hulk), the new Clash of the Titans is very much the epitome of modern blockbuster filmmaking. It’s got an A-list cast, eye-popping special effects, dizzying action sequences, and lots of good natured humor (some of it directed at its predecessor). It’s also almost completely devoid of anything resembling a heart or a soul. Everything here, from Sam Worthington’s expressionless mug (if there’s any actor who makes one pine for the comparatively animated Hamlin…) to the very soil these characters tread, could have well been generated with pixels and I wouldn’t have known the difference. As the two warring gods, Fiennes and Neeson have their moments, while supporting players like Mikkelsen do their best with weakly realized roles, but, for the most part, the other actors (and the plot of the film, itself) seem hopelessly overshadowed by the sheer abundance of CGI and massive action setpieces, and serve as little more than so much organic set dressing. The pacing is just so relentless, however, that the actors never really get a chance to do much more than react to the chaos around them, and I never once found myself fully invested in any of the characters, thus lessening the impact as each met with their respective fates. Were Leterrier able to have struck a balance between the human element and the whiz-bang visuals, maybe Clash of the Titans would feel more like a movie and less like a series of truly awesome special effects sequences strung together by incidental bits of dialogue.
Warner Brothers delivers Clash of the Titans to Blu-ray in a lovely 2.40:1 transfer that packs a tremendous amount of depth and detail into an image that many felt was completely undermined by the ill-advised post-process 3-D during the film’s theatrical run. I’d heard horror stories about how “ugly” the film was, and how hard it was on the eyes, but there’s not a hint of that here as the image is crisp, colorful, and downright impressive. There are a few standout scenes where I imagined that proper 3-D would look marvelous, but, even here, without the gimmicks and glasses, these sequences border on three dimensional. The action is bolstered by a robust DTS HD 5.1 audio track that sounds as though the Gods of Olympus are rumbling right in your living room, with aggressive bass, crisp and clean highs, and a host of well mixed surround effects that make the experience as aurally immersive as it is visually arresting.
The assortment of extra goodies packed into the disc include Warner’s excellent Maximum Movie Mode, which offers viewers a fantastic PiP commentary track that also includes behind-the-scenes snippets and making-of footage. Also included are a host of deleted and extended scenes, as well as a rather downbeat alternate ending, ten short featurettes, and the ironically-titled-seeing-as-how-I’m-not-completely-sold-on-his-ability short, Sam Worthington: An Action Hero for the Ages.
In the tradition of style-over-substance blockbuster filmmaking, the new Clash of the Titans is as easily digestible as the mountain of popcorn you’re meant to munch on while watching it, but, unfortunately, just as forgettable. It’s entertaining, and will certainly win over those who value eye-candy over solid storytelling, but, as much as I hate to admit it, Big McLargehuge was right that Louis Leterrier couldn’t make a better film than 1981’s Clash of the Titans. He was just right for all of the wrong reasons.