Clash of the Titans (2010) – Directed by Louis Leterrier – Starring Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Pete Postlethwaite, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Bubo (for about 5 seconds).
CLASH OF THE TITANS is not a good movie. That’s okay. It is also not a fun movie, and that is not okay.
There is a massive disconnect in this movie between the acting of the people playing the Gods (who all play their roles as if this is a massive lark) and the acting of the humans (who all play their roles as if this is ultra-serious). Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes treat their performances as if they’re making this for the Saturday morning crowd, while Sam Worthington and the rest treat their duties like they think they’re doing a remake of Gladiator. It’s in that disconnect that the movie falls apart for me; I don’t hate TITANS, but I was sort of bored by it all despite its visual prettiness.
As a kid, I dug the original Clash of the Titans with all of its Ray Harryhausen’s awesome stop-motion monsters but I haven’t seen the movie in over twenty years. I don’t own it, and can’t convince myself it’s worth the $7.50 it would take to buy the DVD. I feel like I want you to know that so you can decide how colored my review of the recent Louis Leterrier film is or is not. FWIW, I really liked Leterrier’s Incredible Hulk.
In truth, it’s not the original version that TITANS is going to be compared against, but the more contemporary big budget actioners that TITANS is clearly aping: most notably Peter Jackson’s Fellowship of the Ring and Michael Bay’s Transformers, and it comes up short in both regards.
Like FotR, there’s lots of sweeping shots of gorgeous scenery between close-ups of our dirty heroes as they walk to their goal. Like Transformers, there’s really big monsters who will fight you in the desert. Unlike either of those films, TITANS never really finds its own voice. When Perseus (Sam Worthington) fights Calibos in the forest, it’s clearly derivative of the big fight with the Uruk-Hai at the end of FotR. When Perseus fights the big mean scorpions in the desert, it’s clearly derivative of the big battle against Scorponok in Transformers.
There’s a bit of humor in the film, coming from the soldiers of Argos that accompany Perseus on his quest to kill Medusa so they can use her head to kill the Kraken, but Perseus and Io (Gemma Arterton) are so damned serious about everything that it sucks the fun out of the film every single time he grunts with dissatisfaction and she stares woefully.
Aside: One of the soldiers in this film is played by Nicholas Hoult. Who? The kid in About a Boy. Seriously. I’m old.
Perseus’ whole deal is that his Zeus’ half-human kid-
Stop. Let’s go through this bit of movie logic. Perseus is the son that Zeus refused to save. Zeus was mad because Acrisius was leading a human revolt on Olympus, so Zeus shapeshifted to look like Acrisius and nailed his wife, getting her preggers. Acrisius, despite seeing Zeus and his wife post-mating, waits until she pops out Perseus, then puts them both in a casket, walks them to the edge of a cliff, and tosses it into the ocean. Hermes is all, “Hey Zeus, wanna save your kid?” and Zeus is all, “Nope.”
And yet and the end of the film, Perseus is all tolerant of Zeus because he helped him get rid of Hades. There’s no, “Look, Zeus, I’m not coming to live with you on Olympus because you raped my mom and didn’t lift a finger to save her or me. Thanks for helping with Hades, but you’re still a huge f*cking dick, and I hope you catch chlamydia, you philandering old perv-
“Oh, hey, did you just bring Io back from the dead for me? That’s awesome because her boobs are fantastic, and I’d much rather have someone to drop seed in for the next eternity, rather than, you know, getting my adopted family back that was unfairly killed by that twisted brother of yours, or my actual mom back who only died because you used and abandoned her. But yeah, thanks for helping me get laid. Jesus, do you ever not think with your dick?
“And don’t give me that, ‘Who’s Jesus’ nonsense. You know damn well he’s the carpenter coming to build our new house up here on the cliff overlooking the ocean that isn’t susceptible at all to the angry whims of you or Poseidon.”
These are the things you’re not supposed to think about when watching popcorn entertainment, and I’d be happy to not think of them if the movie was fun, but it isn’t.
You can have a bit of humor from the grizzled old war vets who see the whole world through the prism of battles fought, but you’ve got a nutjob sidewalk prophet back in Argos wanting to string up the King’s daughter Andromeda to appease the gods, because …
It’s kinda painful.
Hades (played by Ralph Fiennes in such a way that it looks like he’s parodying himself playing Voldemort) shows up in Argos, right? And he’s all bad ass slapping down the King and Queen for snubbing their noses at the gods, and then he’s surprised at the demi-god Perseus hanging out without any shoes, and he tells the crowd that he’s going to unleash the Kraken and destroy all of them unless they sacrifice Andromeda (the Progressively Liberal Princess) to the Kraken, the city will be destroyed.
In ten days.
Ten. The hell? How does this even make sense? Because in ten days Hades will be extra powerful? You’re a god. Take ’em right now. It’s literally like he figured out that it will take ten days for someone to go chop off Medusa’s head and bring it back just in time to stop the Kraken.
The best thing about this movie is the CGI monsters, which are rather fantastic. The Stygian witches, Pegasus (the Peguses? Pegasi? Pegasusses?), the big scorpions, Medusa, and the Kraken all look flipping fantastic, even if Leterrier makes the Michael Bay mistake and keeps us too close and moves the camera and editing too fast to ever get a really good, extended look at them.
Memo to filmmakers: WE WANT TO SEE THE MONSTERS. An extended close-up of Megan Fox’s ass or Sam Worthington’s face is all well and good, but we’re HERE TO SEE THE MONSTERS. How do they keep screwing this up? Have you not seen Peter Jackson’s King Kong? Do you think Ray Harryhausen didn’t know his Kraken looked a sliver shy of being photo-realistic? Show us this crap or go make Daisy Miller.
Here’s a pretty air-tight rule: If you’ve got something that is 1. not human, and 2. that is going to be turned into a toy (or was based on a toy), we want to see it. We want to see it a lot. We want to see all of it on screen at the same time and for more than two seconds. Stop being donkeysacs about this.
There’s nothing in this movie that will surprise you and there’s nothing in this movie that will move you. Perseus is a fisherman who’s never used a sword, so of course we have to get the training scene where the lifelong soldier embarrasses him only to have Perseus show amazing ability to pick up what he’s supposed to do and turn the tables on the guy who makes his living doing this. Gah. Every single time Perseus gives a speech you feel worse about dying for him. When the two comic relief soldiers-for-hire and weapon-makers check out, you can’t really blame them. “My dad said someday someone will have to say enough,” Perseus grumbles. “That day is today.” Good speech.
Delivered right before every single member of the traveling party dies.
But hey, you know, it’s not the worst watch in movie history. If you compare it to LotR, Gladiator, 300, and Transformers, it’s going to come up short, but if you compare it to the other films (Pathfinder, 10,000 BC, Gobots) that are clearly trying to pull an ape-and-cash on those films, it’s pretty awesome. It’s on the same level as something like Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven (2005), uneven but worth a watch.
Just do it on as big a TV as possible.
Now, four things to end with:
1. There is no Gobots live-action movie. I lied because I couldn’t think of a big robot movie other than Transformers.
2. There are no actual Titans in this movie. From the Encyclopedia Mythica:
In Greek mythology, the Titans are a race of godlike giants who were considered to be the personifications of the forces of nature. They are the twelve children (six sons and six daughters) of Gaia and Uranus. Each son married, or had children of, one of his sisters. They are: Cronus and Rhea, Iapetus and Themis, Oceanus and Tethys, Hyperion and Theia, Crius and Mnemosyne, and Coeus and Phoebe.
Maybe it’s silly to ask why such an awesome title has nothing to do with the actual movie behind it.
3. The movie made almost half a billion dollars world wide. Half a billion. They’re already planning two sequels.
4. The trailer, which is much better than the film:
CLASH OF THE TITANS Review Index
CLASH OF THE TITANS (1981): End of the Line for Ray Harryhausen
CLASH OF THE TITANS (2010): No titans Were Harmed in the Making of This Film
WRATH OF THE TITANS (2012): Being Half Human Makes You Stronger Than a God