My notes on Clash of the Titans.Strangely, this actually is a remake of Clash of the Titans (1981). Strangely, because few at the time thought much of the original – a final work from the team of producer Charles H. Schneer and animator Ray Harryhausen, which tried to compete with the Lucas-Spielberg-type films that were supplanting the likes of Jason and the Argonauts at the box office (witness the horrible R2D2-like mechanical owl) and came across as a rehash of past glories. Given that the story is eternally valid, it would have seemed simpler to come up with a fresh take on Perseus and Medusa – as Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief did a few months ago – rather than rework a hash of a script which tipped giant scorpions and the Norse Kraken into Greek mythology for no real purpose. Even the title, which 1982 critics felt made it all sound like a Steve Reeves movie, hasn’t got enough resonance to be worth sticking on a film which features clashes a-plenty but barely acknowledges the Titans. That said, this effects-driven spectacle from Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk) is entertaining enough as schlock and offers an impressive parade of monsters: giant scorpions that spring from the spilled blood of Calibos (Jason Flemyng), flapping evil bat demons that coalesce into a hunchbacked Hades (Ralph Fiennes), a snake-bodied supermodel-look Medusa, mummy-faced djinni with glowing blue exploding hearts (one – in a slightly dodgy bit – becomes a suicide bomber), and a truly vast last-reel Kraken. Plus the three witches who share an eye and Pegasus. The owl gets a look-in, and is dismissed with a funny line.
Sam Worthington, who is becoming a fixture in big fantasy films without really developing much of a character, is a muscular Perseus, with demigod superpowers that go against his training as a fisherman with Ma and Pa Kent-like foster parents who get creamed quickly after imparting humane values (Pete Postlethwaite, Elizabeth McGovern – twenty-five years ago, you’d never have seen them coming as a screen couple) who resists the godly gadgets (super-sword, flying horse) pushed on him by deadbeat Dad Zeus (Liam Neeson). Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), a socially conscious princess, is a plot token, which means that Gemma Arterton gets to be the leading lady as Io, an immortal who weirdly gets to fulfill the plot function of the bloody clockwork owl (and Burgess Meredith) by giving Perseus helpful information as he traipses from one set-piece to the next. Like many a Harryhausen hero, Perseus has a gang of loyal followers – Mads Mikkelsen, Liam Cunningham, Hans Matheson – who get good set-up scenes, but tend to be killed off out of hand so the hero can be all the more heroic facing up to perils. The squabbles of the Gods are less impressive than the ones in Percy Jackson, and a few of the divinities (Danny Huston) must have DVD extra scenes coming since they have nothing to do in this version of the film. It may be that the best thing about it is the full-on orchestral score by Ramin Djawadi, that fills in all the matinee excitement, wonder and romance the film might otherwise be too busy to include. It’s often said that it makes more sense to remake bad or mediocre films than good ones, because there’s room for improvement – the original Clash has great leads (Harry Hamlin manages to be manly and girly in a proper Greek way which is beyond what Worthington can do, and I’d still willingly see an entire city destroyed than let Judi Bowker get eaten by a monster) and one wonderful scene (the Medusa encounter) but is otherwise makeshift (it even, unthinkably, has some duff effects), and this is generally a better-paced, more entertaining popcorn picture. It’s no deeper, of course – but it doesn’t really want to be.