Clash of the Titans Trashes Greek Myths in Eye-Rolling 3-D

by Anne Thompson
April 3, 2010 7:23 AM
4 Comments
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Thompson on Hollywood
I've already weighed in on why Clash of the Titans is a must-to-avoid in 3-D, and why I detest retrofitted 3-D in general.

But Clash of the Titans is a lousy movie no matter what the medium, and I think Legendary and Warner Bros. knew it when they made their let's-salvage-the-opening-weekend-gross-with-3D decision. This $125-million movie is so shoddily written and executed that it makes me question the directorial ability of Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk). Clash of the Titans recalls the eye-rolling excesses of the fake Hollywood sword-and-sandal era. Think Tony Curtis in The Vikings.

Aussie Sam Worthington, who was strong in both the mediocre Terminator Salvation and wondrous Avatar, looks stiff and miserable and utterly lost here, marooned against green-screen, popping unbelievably out of a giant scorpion monster that looked more credible in Ray Harryhausen stop-motion. But I disagree with Lane Brown's claim that Worthington is a "no-risk franchise star." Audiences want to like Worthington after Avatar, but even a young hunk-on-the-rise can be hurt by failure. He should choose his roles more carefully. While I agree with Cinematical that Worthington is not cut out to be an action star, it's not because he's a bad actor. Good writing and directing go a long way toward making a leading man look good; in this movie, Worthington had no help on either front.

Thompson on Hollywood
Written by Travis Beacham (Seconds) and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi (Aeon Flux), Clash of the Titans despoils Greek Mythology. Why tap into the power and glory of the Greek Pantheon--these gods have survived the centuries for a reason--if you're going to throw them away? (Disney paid more respect to the Greek Myths in the animated Hercules.) Yes, Perseus rode the winged horse Pegasus and carried a special sword and reflective shield (they don't take advantage of his helmet of invisibility) and defeated the Gorgon Medusa (who looks like a Euro-trash runway model) with the help of three witches who share one eye--but he also rescued and married the chained sacrificial Princess Andromeda. (He killed a giant serpent, not a Kraken.) Why tack on a strange and slightly disturbing romance with the hovering, mysterious and maternal goddess Io (Gemma Arterton)? Great Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen somehow manages to be convincing as warrior Draco.

The movie's war between man and gods makes no sense, nor does the inconsistent sparring between Perseus and his father, the mighty Zeus (Liam Neeson, glowing with white light) whose issues with his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes, in long dreadlocks, resembles Lost's Smoke monster) are also unclear. Technical credits, as they say in Variety, are not good: neither cinematographer Peter Menzies, Jr. (The Incredible Hulk) nor Terminator Salvation production designer Martin Laing advance their careers here.

In short, this B-movie is a major hack job. And as nasty reviews did not dissuade audiences-- the movie opened well on Friday--we'll only get more tacky 3-D in future.

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4 Comments

  • jamais | April 6, 2010 5:09 AMReply

    Funnily enough I read Lawrence Kasdan's script yesterday (if anyone is interested you can find it on ScriptShadow blog). I love Kasdan both as a writer and director and was thrilled about his involvement in the project. And then I read the script ;-) It is one of the very early versions of the screenplay but I was really surprised to find out that that many of the elements which are now being criticized WERE already there.

    - Andromeda IS NOT the love interest. She is written as a spoiled little princess and a bit of a tart frankly, who secudes Perseus in the first act.

    - Perseus doesn't know he's a demigod as basically has been brought up to be an atheist by Spyros - his fisherman adoptive father.

    - he goes on the quest because: 1. not believing in gods he also doesn't believe something may be idestructible, 2. he's slept with Andromeda and feels a little sorry for her (but his main motivation is 1)

    - on the way Perseus is really passive, things just happen to him, he only shows a little leadership and initiative at the very end. On the quest he is accompanied by both Spyros and Amoun (his mentor/powerful sorcerer) and of course a group of soldiers, so all the time he has his back covered against all dangers imaginable (NOTE: I haven't seen the film yet, it opens here on Friday, but if in the final product Perseus has a more active role - even if his motivation is as unoriginal as revenge - I'd say that's an improvement). Frankly Kasdan's Perseus is a bit of a whiner. And no, I can't see Sam Worthington play him the way he was written there.

    - the woman who Perseus falls in love with is Vidalia - an earthly goddess who accompanies the warriors. She becomes the mentor, friend, teacher and helps him to grow to be a leader. And yes, there is a fascination between them from the start. This is the character I loved the most in this version of screenplay. She is a rather tragic figure - slowly fading away, because her name has been ereased from the shrine in her temple, and with no name and no followers she is slowly dying. At the same time she is a tool in the hands of Zeus. And she is torn between accepting Perseus puppy love (the only thing left that keeps her bound to this world) and rejecting it so that he doesn't suffer when she's inevitably gone. I guess Io is based on her.

    - Yes, the "training to fight Medusa" scene between Perseus and Vidalia (Io) is in the script.

    - Yes, the giant scorpiochs are in. But in a slightly different role. Still the CONCEPT is there. (so if someone is not happy with "big spiders", talk to Kasdan ;-) )

    - Pegasus appears at the very last minute, no taming scene.

    - The Woodman/Djinn is in the script.

    I could go on like that, I guess. But the point is that even at the very early stage of the script it was obvious that the film WAS NOT going to follow the original. Now, Kadan's version was 117 pages long, so some things had to go, some had to be combined, and I guess more that 50% was replaced with something else - Perseus' backstory and the main vilain for starters. Still when I read reviews complaining about certain elements of the story, well, they were there from the start, so no point in blaming Leterrier or Hay & Manfredi.

    Of course another thing is execution, but I'll be able to judge that when I finally see the film.

    And I entirely agree with you on Sam Worthington, Anne. He has a lot of potential but what what I think works against him is that the strength of his acting lies mostly in subtle body language. Also in his delivery he often underplays his dialogue. And these things get lost and overlooked in big, loud films.

    Of course another thing is this sick "build him up/knock him down" attitude of people who feed on celebrity gossip, and yet another this ugly (but very human) tall poppy syndrome - "A working class guy dared to achieve success?! Let see him fall!"... Well, he got more than a fair share of lashing now, so hopefully they will let him be, and he'll have a chance to just continue with his work.

  • Sergio | April 5, 2010 2:18 AMReply

    From the guys who wrote AEON FLUX? No wonder it sucked!

    But still I've seen A LOT worse movies like Transofrmers 2 for example

  • Joe Valdez | April 4, 2010 5:13 AMReply

    Your piece did a great job of cataloging what went wrong with CLASH OF THE TITANS, Anne. What I'm curious about is how this happened.

    It's not as if Travis Beacham and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi can't write. And didn't Lawrence Kasdan do a polish? Either Jon Peters came in and demanded they write a giant spider into the story, or Louis Leterrier, who is a hack director, just boned his assignment.

    Hard to believe an epic about the Greek gods could be so god awful.

  • Mebedir | April 3, 2010 11:31 AMReply

    yeah, and btw where were the titans. I didn't see a single one, what are the titans clashing over if they arent even in the film?

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