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"CLASH OF THE TITANS"
(2010) (Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson) (PG-13)

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QUICK TAKE:
Action/Adventure: A mythological demigod fights as a human as he sets out on a quest to avenge the murder of his family and save a princess and her people from an evil god and his gargantuan beast.
PLOT:
Things aren't going as well as planned up on Mt. Olympus. Having created man to fuel his and the other god's immortality via their prayers, Zeus (LIAM NEESON) isn't pleased that his creations are getting cocky and deciding they don't need their gods anymore. When an honorary statue to Zeus is felled by humans, his brother, Hades (RALPH FIENNES), emerges from the underworld and lays waste to the rebels. He also sinks a nearby fishing vessel, killing the father, Spyros (PETE POSTLETHWAITE), and everyone else in the family save for Perseus (SAM WORTHINGTON), the now young adult adopted son.

Rescued by others, he's taken to the seaside city of Argos where the king and queen are leading their people in the anti-god revolt. It's there that Perseus learns, much to his shock, that he's actually a demigod, son of Zeus and a human queen who was then put to death by her king husband (JASON FLEMYNG). He also discovers that he has a guardian angel of sorts, the ageless Io (GEMMA ARTERTON) who informs him of his mission in life.

That becomes complicated when Hades reappears and informs the royalty and citizens of Argos that he will unleash his fearsome monster creation, the Kraken, on them in ten days if they don't sacrifice Princess Andromeda (ALEXA DAVALOS). The king will have no part of that and thus agrees to send Perseus, accompanied by a contingent of soldiers led by Draco (MADS MIKKELSEN), on a quest that will hopefully result in the demise of both Hades and his gargantuan monster.

Along the way, however, Perseus and his team -- that eventually also adds Sheikh Sulieman (IAN WHYTE), chief of the wooden Djinn people -- must deal with an array of fearsome and dangerous beings, such as the now superhuman, former cuckolded king, Calibos (JASON FLEMYNG); an array of enormous scorpions; the Stygian witches; Medusa and her turn-to-stone inducing gaze; and, of course, Hades and his Kraken.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
There's a scene midway or so through the big budget remake of "Clash of the Titans" that's designed as a bit of homage to the original but also a statement about the "advances" of modern cinema. In it, our conflicted hero Perseus (Sam Worthington hot off the success of "Avatar") is gearing up -- along with a small contingent of barely identified soldiers -- to hit the road, battle a bunch of mythological monsters and finally slay the Kraken (the biggest and baddest beastie of them all).

He's doing so in order to get revenge on his uncle, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who killed Perseus' adoptive father (Pete Postlethwaite) and family early in the film, thus setting the revenge-based plot into motion. Anyway, as they're gearing up with the usual ancient warrior battle accoutrements such as shields, spears, swords and such, they come across a decidedly out of place mechanical owl. Perseus and others wonder what it is - apparently they never saw the original film -- but a companion tells them just to leave it behind.

The scene is telling in that said owl also appeared in the 1981 pic (where it similarly stood out from the rest of Ray Harryhausen's stop-motion animation and was obviously something of a riff on -- or rip-off of -- R2D2) and the command is indicative of the new filmmakers wanting to leave behind such now-dated effects in favor of their more updated, costly and frenetic ones. Much like its dated predecessor, however, this version's also a bust.

Not realizing much of it's pure camp (or if it's cognizant of that, it doesn't have fun with Liam Neeson as Zeus being soft-shot and backlit like a starlet of the 1940s - complete with ultra shiny and sparkling costume -- or Fiennes doing a somewhat cheap impersonation of his own role as Lord Voldemort in the "Harry Potter" flicks) or that its action scenes are so frenetically shot, edited and loaded with digital effects that it's nearly impossible to discern any specific details, the film is a bloated, boring mess.

All of which is too bad since the source material (the myths, not the first film) is some terrific work filled with brave heroes, fearsome and fantastical creatures, adventure, far-off lands and more. The second film of 2010 to tackle the ancient tales -- the other being the far better and more enjoyable "Percy Jackson & The Olympians" (although that one was aimed at a younger audience than this one) -- this rebooting of the original pic simply falls prey to the bigger (and nosier and busier) is better mindset.

As directed by Louis Leterrier (who helmed the second updating of "The Incredible Hulk"), the film is filled with the usual mythological suspects. Those are the various gods, the demigod protagonist, Pegasus, Medusa and more. Then there's the grand finale beast that serves as the exclamation point of said effects and action in the commercials and trailer, not to mention the catchphrase "Release the Kraken!" that's taking on new meaning and life on the Internet.

And there's action a-plenty as our hero does battle with all of them and more. But the effects, while more "realistic" looking than Harryhausen's more painstakingly produced work, aren't always state of the art (they significantly vary at times) and the tacked on 3D effects (added after the film was shot in 2D) and related necessary glasses reduce the luminosity, de-saturate the colors and generally make the picture look muddy.

Yet, as is nearly always the case, it's the story and characters that should entrance the viewer, not the effects. Sadly, and despite the built-in and time-proven potential, Leterrier and screenwriters Travis Beacham and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi fail at this. Granted, the unintentional but nevertheless present camp doesn't help matters, nor does the pompous dialogue, or the film's need to explain who's who and what's what (from both an introductory narrator who establishes the tale and then Gemma Arterton as something of the protag's guardian angel and color commentator).

Then there's Worthington's generally flat performance that won't help his odd predicament that many moviegoers still have no idea who he is, even after "Avatar" and the last "Terminator" film. The most interesting thing about his character is that he sports an Australian accent which isn't present when he's shown as a kid -- either Worthington forgot he could jettison that as he's done in previous outings or perhaps the implication is the fisherman character picked that up while fishing down under.

Notwithstanding those issues, the filmmakers obviously fail to get us emotionally invested in the story and its characters. Without that, the film simply becomes the equivalent of watching an expensive and boisterous video game where the characters go on a quest and encounter and battle various things along the way. Granted, that's the gist of the original tales, but they worked, at least in written and thus "use your imagination" form. Here, it's spoon-fed to us, but sloppily at that, with effects residue ending up all over viewers.

Considering the first film wasn't much better (I haven't seen it since its initial release), perhaps this is a story that just can't be filmed unless it's modified along the lines of "Percy Jackson." Without the benefit of being an innovative filmmaker's swansong (the original was Harryhausen's last work), there's nothing in the remake of "Clash of the Titans" that's worth seeing, especially in the more expensive 3D version. It rates as a 3 out of 10.




Reviewed March 30, 2010 / Posted April 1, 2010


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