Blu-Ray Review: ‘Clash of the Titans’ Remake Lacks Imagination

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CHICAGO – When a movie named “Clash of the Titans” elicits little more than a shrug and a yawn, it’s clear that something went wrong. There’s nothing in this picture that mainstream audiences haven’t seen last year, last month, or in the theater next door. It is assembled entirely out of recycled parts, lurching from one familiar set-piece to the next, as the heroes repeatedly encounter, in the words of one character, “just another beast to kill.”

The 1981 original film was no masterpiece, but it certainly deserves its status as a much-beloved cult classic. It was the last feature in which the legendary Ray Harryhausen served as “special visual effects creator.” His stop-motion effects, with their herky-jerky movement, have a purity and immediacy that simply can’t be equaled by today’s all-too-fluid CGI. The computerized monsters in director Louis Leterrier’s remake of “Clash” are no more believable than Harryhausen’s hand-crafted figures. Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0
Blu-Ray Rating: 2.0/5.0

After showing early promise in everything from “Somersault” to “Terminator Salvation,” Sam Worthington has become the victim of what I’d like to refer to as “blockbuster blandification.” His lead roles in “Avatar” and “Clash” require very little of him emotionally, allowing the actor to settle all-too-comfortably within the persona of colorless action hero. In “Avatar,” he spent a lot of time smiling at things that weren’t funny. In “Clash,” his smile is sorely missed, since his character Perseus spends the whole time brooding over the death of his adoptive family, which includes Pete Postlethwaite (who’s been dying onscreen quite a bit lately). Perseus discovers that he’s the son of the god Zeus, played by Liam Neeson, who looks like a cross between King Triton and Jesus. The film’s efforts to portray Zeus as a conflicted good guy are particularly awkward, considering the fact that he basically raped a married mortal. Yet the obvious villain of the piece is Zeus’s brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who schemes to win back mankind’s fear and devotion with his fearsome creation, the Kraken. Of course, the monster’s not all that it’s kraked up to be…

Sam Worthington stars in Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans.
Sam Worthington stars in Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans.
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

This sort of material is so outlandish and playful that it needs a spirit akin to the “Indiana Jones” series in order to keep it afloat. The 1981 film reveled in its goofiness, and Harryhausen possessed a true passion for the mythology behind the fantasy. Yet Leterrier prides himself on ignoring the original picture, and merely exploits the ancient archetypes for their commercial worth (lots of mindless noise fills the screen, much like in “Transformers”). When Worthington finds a relic from the old film (in the form of a mechanical owl), he is told to “just leave it.” It’s a cute in-joke, but it’s also a sad expression of condescension toward Harryhausen’s work. Leterrier clearly hasn’t realized that the more “realistic” you treat this stuff, the more ridiculous it seems. The story basically amounts to a glorified creature feature, allowing multiple opportunities for the visual effects artists to shine. Yet the remake continuously fails to impress. The reptilian man-killer, Medusa, looks like a cartoon and sounds like valley girl, while the Kraken looks like Godzilla, with a mouth resembling the Sarlacc pit.

The overcrowded cast includes a criminally underutilized ensemble, wasting the talents of Mads Mikkelsen, Nicholas Hoult, Alexander Siddig and Danny Huston, among dozens of others. Only the dry wit of Liam Cunningham manages to steal a few scenes. And Fiennes provides the film with its only interesting performance. He’s doing a sinister variation on Richard Harris’s Dumbledore, and he manages to chill blood with every wheeze. But the silly special effects undo the potency of his understatement, and eventually swallow him (and the rest of the picture) up in a vat of instantly forgettable excess.

Clash of the Titans was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 27th, 2010.
Clash of the Titans was released on Blu-Ray and DVD on July 27th, 2010.
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

“Clash of the Titans” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.4:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, French and Spanish audio tracks, and includes a DVD and digital copy of the film. Even Warner’s video commentary track specially designed for Blu-Ray, known as “Maximum Movie Mode,” is uninspired this time around. It consists solely of extended featurettes and visual effects breakdowns without any voice directly commenting on the film itself. Since there’s no host to guide the viewer, the film itself becomes an afterthought, as the featurettes take center stage. There’s also links to the disc’s 35 minutes of Focus Point featurettes, which include footage of the crew filming on location at Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands in Spain. It’s clear that the filmmakers intended to utilize the natural landscape much like how Peter Jackson did with New Zealand in “Lord of the Rings.” Other diverting tidbits include the original design concepts for the Kraken, the super-sized scorpions and Medusa, whose face was taken from that of a Russian supermodel. Leterrier says that he initially cast Worthington because he was looking for a “fragile” person with a muscular exterior. A separate 7-minute featurette celebrating the actor’s brave stunt work seems to have been cobbled together by Worthington’s publicists.

Yet the disc’s 18 minutes of deleted scenes don’t do the rising star any favors. In some scenes, he comes off as positively amateurish, particularly while emoting through clenched teeth. His toothless overacting is especially glaring in scenes with a veteran like Neeson, who seems to be holding himself in check just so he won’t blow the rookie off the screen. There’s also much more footage of the gods, including an entire scrapped subplot involving Apollo (Luke Evans), and an extended look at Fiennes’s fascinating work. The disc’s alternate ending is admittedly an improvement over the film’s unconvincingly upbeat finale, though it does position the film dangerously close to franchise-launching territory.

‘Clash of the Titans’ is released by Warner Home Video and stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Liam Cunningham, Nicholas Hoult and Pete Postlethwaite. It was written by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi and directed by Louis Leterrier. It was released on July 27th, 2010. It is rated PG-13. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

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