Monday, February 13, 2012

Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (2010 remake)

I originally posted a number of movie reviews on a forum site, but I've decided to gradually move them all to my blog. 
Reviewed 3-13-2011
This was a movie I considered seeing in a theater and ultimately decided to save my money. Instead I watched the Rifftrax version during a friend's birthday party.

Clash of the Titans was a movie I wanted to like more than I did. But this movie just didn't come together. My perception of it is probably biased by the Riffing, but it had some very obvious flaws that I think I would have noticed without the help of Mike, Bill and Kevin.

The biggest flaw is that the hero doesn't do anything for half the movie. I am not impressed with Sam Worthington, and evidently the filmmakers weren't either, because Crazy Cultist Guy had more lines than Perseus did. It was hard to take it seriously when the warriors from Argos suddenly elected Perseus their leader and began treating him like a hero, because at that point in the plot he really hadn't done anything.

The advent of digital effects seems to have carried moviemaking back to the Cecil B. DeMille days. Everything has to be bigger and splashier and sparklier, and have lots of big name actors in the cast. The palace at Argos really looks like something DeMille's set designer would have created. It's too bad someone couldn't have designed a Hellenistic palace with at least a nod to historical accuracy. And some armor that doesn't look like a parody of Roman armor mixed with a bad imitation of the props from Lord of the Rings.

The movie rushes along to the Big Action Scenes without taking any time for the characters. We didn't get to learn anything about what kind of personality Perseus had (sullen, apparently, judging by his perpetual expression), or even the names of the Praetorian Guards (Excuse me!? Praetorian guards were Roman!!!). They do yell their names at each other just before Medusa kills most of them, but by then it's too late to care. And what was the purpose of the Comedy Relief Duo? Did they have more scenes on the cutting room floor? The Rifftrax guys dubbed them Curlius and Larricles, which I found pretty amusing, but the two characters didn't even get to do something as stupid as the Stooges. Their appearance in the film was completely pointless.

The Djinn was visually interesting and I liked him, but he didn't belong in this movie, nor did the Babylonian ruins the warriors suddenly stumbled into when they encountered Calibus, or the crazy cultist who looked like Hindu Brahmin priest. Greek mythology is full of wonderful creatures the filmmakers could have used. Maybe they were hesitant to do centaurs and satyrs because they thought those creatures are too closely associated with the Narnia movies. But there are plenty of other creatures they could have chosen from. The colossal scorpions looked really cool, very D&D-esque, but they moved badly and took up too much screen time. The warriors could have walked to Stygia faster than the scorpions carried them.

I was disappointed that the film provided no reason for Pegasus to bond with Perseus, and how did Perseus know how to ride, anyway? He was a fisherman! At least the filmmakers took the time to have someone teach him a little swordsmanship, but no one taught him to ride. He also found Pegasus and the magic sword too early and too close together in my opinion.  It removed any sense of challenge from the discovery of these two divine gifts.

The Stygian witches looked like they had been lifted from a Guillermo del Toro movie. But despite the appealing visuals, the entire sequence in the Underworld was very disappointing. The filmmakers took 'underworld' literally and made it all subterranean, which is acceptable, but they seem to have forgotten that the Greek Underworld was the land of the dead. Not a single dead soul made an appearance, and Charon didn't nothing but look creepy. It was really boring until they fought Medusa. Medusa's appearance was impressive , though I don't know why the designers felt compelled to put both a rattle and a sting on the end of her tail - which she then didn't make use of.  Why would a creature who can petrify her vicitims merely with her gaze need to poison them with a sting, and why would she want to warn her prey by rattling?

Similarly, why did the Kraken need to have so many teeth? Biology aside, a turtle that big complete with tentacles the size of the Alaska pipeline would be plenty scary without needing a mouthful of fangs. And why, oh why must every monster start its first appearance by roaring at everything? It's become such a cliche.

There were also a couple of scenes where it was very obvious that shortcuts were taken. After the scorpion battle the warriors walk down a slope of what looks like stacked stone. Then they meet the djinn and travel back down the same slope again, even though they should have been at the bottom of it by that point. Later, when Perseus is talking to the Stygian witches, Io warns him against asking too many questions of them. A minute or two later she does it again, and it's clearly the same footage. One wonders why they felt it necessary to pad this scene by reusing footage, when they could have padded the movie elsewhere with scenes of more character development and made it a slightly better film.

Speaking of Io, apparently the curse of agelessness was accompanied by the blessing of perfect cleanliness, as one of my fellow viewers pointed out. I might have suggested that was a special feature of being touched by the divine, like Zeus's sparkly armor, but Perseus is constantly dirty, as is Hades. Ralph Fiennes (Hades) and Liam Neeson (Zeus), by the way, were wasted in this movie. All the other gods are wasted, too; you don't even get to know who's who, they're just a bunch of people in shiny outfits standing in the background while Neeson and Fiennes walk through their roles. I can imagine the director telling Fiennes to say his lines just like Voldemort, which was a disservice to a fine actor who could have brought so much more to the role, and transformed a fascinating mythological character into just another hissing megalomaniacal villain.

This was just a very disappointing movie. I'm glad I saw with the Rifftrax version. The Riffers were in fine form and kept me and the dozen other people I was watching it with laughing consistently throughout. I don't think it's worth watching without the Rifftrax. It has some evocative visuals, especially from the perspective of a D&D game, but that's about all it offers. Despite all the sound and fury, it lacks the gravitas I'd like to see in a movie based on one of the classic hero tales.

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