Monday, April 5, 2010

Clash of the Titans Redux

Last night I went to see the new Clash of the Titans. I figured that I would probably go and see it no matter what, seeing as how I'm such a huge fan of Greek Mythology. I admit that I was a bit disappointed when I heard that they were remaking the 1981 film. That's not so much because I'm a purist when it comes to the original. Sure, I fondly remember my dad taking my sister and me to see it after school on the last day of first grade. I've also seen it many times since, and I have shown it to my freshmen classes many times, either in parts or in its entirety.

No, the reason why I was disappointed was that they had decided to remake the movie rather than simply retell the Perseus myth. After becoming so well familiar with the original story, I found myself wishing that somebody would take another crack at it. I guess Clash of the Titans has more cache than Perseus though. For those who don't know, the movie made many changes to the original story. Now, I don't mind the little details like how Perseus rides Pegasus rather than have him wearing the winged sandals of Hermes. Think about it - what makes for a cooler visual? That stuff doesn't bother me. It even doesn't bother me that he fights The Kraken - a monster from Norse Mythology. After all, a monster is a monster for the most part, right? The sea monster from the original myth really doesn't have much of anything about him that stands out from what I remember, so why not the Kraken? And who cares if it looks nothing like what it's supposed to look like?

That said, there was enough from the myth that got put into the movie - namely Medusa, the Grey Women, and Perseus being placed in a chest with his mom when he was just a baby. As for the changes, much of it was just taken from other myths, and it held true to a lot of broad mythological themes - like how the gods manipulate people and how people struggle through the difficulties that are presented to them.

So, what did I think? I absolutely loved it. I left the theater feeling happy. Honestly, it's even further removed from the myth than the original version, but none of that bothered me. I also don't understand why it's taking such a thrashing from the critics. Sure, it's a big, goofy, cheesy, ridiculous movie, but I don't think that it's aspiring to be much more than that. I definitely think it succeeds in doing what it sets out to do, and I reckon that it'll probably do well even after the opening week, and it will continue to do well on home video. The main character is pretty one-dimensional, but aren't most mythical heroes that way? Also, it's pretty much just one action scene after another, but again, isn't that what you get in a lot of myths as well?

I understand why critics aren't raving about it, but the negative reviews seem to be a bit overboard. (To be fair though, there seems to be a few who appreciate it on the level that I do, Roger Ebert and AO Scott to name a couple of them.) I wonder if much of it has to do with the fact that supposedly it really doesn't look very good in 3-D. Personally, I made a point of seeing it in 2-D, and that was before reading Ebert's recommendation. I knew that it wasn't originally filmed in 3-D, and they only transferred it in order to be able to jump on the bandwagon and charge more per ticket. I also think that maybe some people are remembering the original with rose-colored glasses. Let's face it - the original is a bit of a silly movie as well.

Still, even though it's a total B-movie, I don't think that it's completely without its merits. I really liked the visual design of the film. Some of the stuff that really stood out were the Jinn (a Middle Eastern concept - but hey, the Kraken ain't Greek either). They looked awesome, and I liked the way they were able to control the giant scorpions. Did it make any sense that they were able to do that? Not really. One reviewer complained that it was a "Deus ex Machina." That seems like a strange complaint when you're dealing with Mythology though, doesn't it? Still, I liked the way they looked, and I just accepted them as the mysterious helpers who showed out of nowhere and had no discernible reason for helping the heroes. Another cool visual was the boat of Charon, which was pulled by a couple of swimming zombies. Lastly, I have to say that the Kraken was definitely a good use of CGI. The thing was massive, and the screen could barely contain it in its entirety. I never once thought to myself while watching it that it was an effect. Oh, and I gotta say that as far as a black Pegasus is concerned - why the heck not? (I will say though that I actually liked the old Medusa better. She's better when she's uglier and moves more slowly and deliberately. Why would a chick who could turn you to stone just with a glance be in such a damned hurry?)

I'll even go so far as to say that Perseus in this film is a slightly more interesting character than he was in the original. This one has an inner conflict, as he wants to completely reject his godhood and embrace his humanity. However, when faced with a task of this magnitude, he has to compromise from time to time. Now, don't go expecting some kind of Last Temptation of Christ meditation on the nature of manhood mixed with divinity, but at least it gives him a character arc.

Am I recommending this film? I guess it depends on who you are. If you love Mythology, but you're not a purist, then you might want to check it out. If you like B-movies done right, then this just might be your thing. If you like a guy fighting monsters, monsters and more monsters, and you just want to be entertained, then you just might like it. If you can appreciate good special effects, then you can probably dig it.

What can I say? Just keep in mind that just like with superhero movies, I tend to have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to the material. Keep that in mind if you're going to factor in my review as to whether you should see this or not. Personally, I can't wait for the Blu-Ray.

Release the muthaf#ckin' Kraken already!

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