Thursday, May 20, 2010

Clash of the Titans

If the projectionist had spooled a roll of used toilet-paper to the projector, I would've walked away no less enlightened, and slightly less embarrassed (for myself and for the cast) than I felt walking away from the steaming pile of Kraken-turd that is this year's remake of Clash of the Titans.  Don't get me wrong, I knew I was walking into a shit film; it had been out for a couple of weeks and I had read or heard nothing but terrible things.  So, why did I still shell out the nine bucks for this abomination you might ask?  Let me explain.

I grew up watching the OG Clash (1981) I had taped on VHS from TBS' Super Scary Saturday with Grandpa Munster (anybody remember that shit?).  For those of you who had something better to do than watch TBS on Saturday mornings/midnights in the '80's, it's one of those cheesed-out flicks that tied the monster-movie madness of that decade with epic mythology (think Godzilla meets Homer's Odyssey), and was the last film to feature the deft handiwork of visual-effects-monster-master Ray Harryhausen, who was responsible for the campy yet awesome Sinbad movies of the '70's (full of clay-tastic cyclops and centaurs, rocs and eight-armed, sword-wielding serpentine women), as well as another mythological adaptation, Jason and the Argonauts.  So, my only hope was that the filmmakers would respect the source material on some level, and make even a potentially bad film somewhat enjoyable, even if only for the camp factor.

Here's the story:  The king of Argos locks his daughter, Danae, away from the filthy, philandering hands of men in order to avoid the prophecy (damn prophecies) of his death if she has a son.  This only entices Zeus, king of the Gods, and now the only person capable of impregnating her in captivity, which he does.  Learning of the pregnancy, the king seals his daughter and newborn son into a wooden coffin and casts it into the sea, to somehow prolong his fate.  When Zeus finds out, not only does he kill the king, but he tells his brother, god of the seas Poseidon, to unleash the mother-fuckin Kraken (a freakishly large sea-monster or "Titan", from before the time of the gods) upon the city of Argos completely destroying it (overkill?), while Danae and her son float safely to some island in the Aegean, where Perseus grows into the future tanned star of LA Law.

Meanwhile, Calibos, the son of sea-goddess Thetis, is set to marry Princess Andromeda of Joppa.  Being the redneck of Greece, Calibos hunts and kills every living creature in the countryside, including Zeus' prized herd of flying horses save one, Pegasus.  Incurring the wrath of said king of gods, Calibos is transformed into a freakish satyr-like creature and outcast to the swamps of Joppa.  Enraged, Thetis irrationally takes her vengeance out on Andromeda, for if Calibos can't marry her, then nobody can.  She curses the Princess so that if any man wants to marry her, they must answer a riddle, and if they do so incorrectly, they're burned at the stake.  She also meddles in the life of Zeus' son, Perseus, magically transporting him to Joppa, thinking he will fall in love with Andromeda, get the riddle wrong, and burn alive.  Spoiler: He gets the riddle right and marries the princess, making Thetis even angrier and demanding that her still virgin body be sacrificed to the Kraken in thirty days or Joppa will be destroyed.  Then it's Perseus Vs. Calibos/Giant Scorpions/Stygian witches/Medusa/and finally Kraken with help from Daddy in the form of a magical sword/shield/helmet/robotic owl (I shit you not).    Except that this is the plot of '81 Clash.  In '10's Clash, gone is the romance between Perseus and Andromeda, and subsequently the motivation for him to take on this impossibly ridiculous quest to fight a 200-story sea-monster with the head of a snake-haired bitch.  In 2010, Leterrier pits Perseus on a quest for revenge on Zeus and the rest of Mt. Olympus for letting a large statue fall on his boat, killing his adopted-family (sound stupid? trust me it looks stupider).  By taking out the romance, the apparently eunuch director takes out any reason why you should care about whether or not Perseus succeeds.

Much like this year's version, '81's Clash featured an all-star cast of classic screen-greats, including Burgess Meredith (Mick from Rocky), Ursula Andress (Honey Rider from Dr. No), Maggie Smith (McGonagall from Harry Potter and the head nun in Sister Act), and the legendary Sir Laurence Olivier (the original Heathcliff AND Mr. Darcy, and he was in just about every Shakespeare film adaptation), and a promising newcomer as protagonist Perseus, played by tanned TV star Harry Hamlin (ummm, LA Law?).  This time around the marquee boasts veteran names Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Pete Postlethwaite, with Aussie Sam Worthington taking on the lead-role of the demi-god son of Zeus.  It's hard not to like that list of names (Worthington was one of the few things I liked about both Avatar and Terminator Salvation), but that's the last time I will associate the word 'like' with this version of the Titans.

I'm not going to spend too much time (too late) breaking down this bad joke of a remake; I've spent enough brain cells on it already, and that doesn't include the bowls I smoked in the parking lot (a requisite for any movie involving Gorgons and flying horses, but especially in the case of this one).  I could argue that the movie should have never been offered in 3D, since it wasn't filmed in 3D, but I didn't see it in 3D, and honestly it couldn't be worse if it was in 1D pixels.  I could elaborate on how the film-makers botched the myth of Perseus and Andromeda, but the '80's version wasn't true to form either (as far as I know there is no mention of a Kraken in the Greek and Roman myths).  And speaking of the Kraken (the only reason why I stayed to the end), I prefer Harryhausen's silly Play-doh version to the ridiculously large, perpetually moving Leterrier version, hands down.  Which brings me to Leterrier, the primary reason why I hate this movie.  Louis Leterrier, French director of this Clash, and previously the first two Transporter movies and the most recent Incredible Hulk: Fuck you for having absolutely no respect for your audience.  You have no ear for dialogue, and even less for character development.  I could include the screenwriters in this blame, because the script (the source code for the dialogue) was indeed awful, but the movie is Leterrier's brainchild; he pushed for this remake, he's ultimately responsible for it, and he better stay the fuck away from my precious Marvel Universe forever more!  For shame.

I feel like I've misled you in that I feel most of this review is more an homage to '81's Clash and less a poo-poo of this year's impostor.  So let's treat this as a double review, and I hope that if you see only one Clash, now you know which one to see.

2010 Clash of the Titans:  1 out of 5
1981 Clash of the Titans:  4 out of 5
 (by the way, these ratings pertain to the stars I issue on Netflix, where I get the vast majority of my movies, and Netflix won't let me rate a movie lower than 1, which I would do so in this case.)

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