Tarsem Dhandwar Singh – whose billing gets longer with every feature – here enters the ancient epic fray with a sumptuous, gorgeous, consistently amazing picture which is nevertheless daft as a brush. Several brushes. It’s as if the script of Hawk the Slayer were put into production with an unlimited budget, under the condition that not a clunky line (‘Phaedra, have you never been wrong?’) was changed. It’s way more fun than 300 and the Clash of the Titans redo, and has astounding 3D to boot, but is frankly so lunatic that it’s hard to get involved in the struggles of hammy or wooden mortal or immortal tunic-wearing warriors in Greek antiquity. It’s the sort of film where the heroes escape from captivity by daring and then set up camp on a clifftop and light a fire which can be seen for miles around – yes, it’s lovely to look at, but, no, it makes not a lick of sense.
In time immemorial, as narration explains, there was a war on Olympus and the winners got to be Gods – wearing golden armour and hats made out of hollow tubes – while the losers were reclassified as Titans and imprisoned in Mount Tartarus in a cube dwarved by colossal statues. Bearded, scarred baddie King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke, pork) wants to unleash the Titans, which will bring out the Gods for a big battle, and has to conquer the land to have a shot at it. The only man who stands a chance of stopping him is Theseus (Henry Cavill, plank), neglected slave bastard who happens to have been tutored in fighting by an old man (John Hurt) who is Zeus (Luke Evans) in disguise. When Hyperion murders his mother but lets him live in slavery – the sort of doltish behaviour expected of archvillains in need of a heroic nemesis – Theseus escapes, teams up with a thief (Stephen Dorff) and the oracle Phaedra (Frieda Pinto) and quests to save the day, or start a new era, all the while needing to defy a prophecy that he’ll publically hug the villain the way Sammy Davis Jr did Nixon.
There’s a lot of slaughter, some of it supernaturally-inflected, and elements of familiar myths crop up – here, the minotaur (Robert Maillet) is a warrior hulk with a barbed-wire cage metal bullhead mask, but the Gods have super bullet-time powers and can make people explode into bloody blobs at a touch. It has many, many relishable moments – the Titan killed by a giant falling ear, Frieda Pinto’s contoured-for-3D bare bottom, the Upskirt Shot of the Gods last scene – but is a bit lightweight in the performances (Evans and Cavill are blandly good-looking, but that’s about it) and Singh’s eye for a primary-coloured scarf against a stark landscape isn’t quite enough to redeem the CGIey look of many of the vistas.