A Titanic Disappointment

Yes, this is about the recent remake of Clash of the Titans. If you want to spare yourself the eyerolling, “huh?!”s and facepalms, all you need to do is read the title of this post, shake your head, and walk on. Treat yourself to How to Train Your Dragon instead, because for a children’s movie, it has more depth, excitement and EPIC ACTION than Clash. (Just to be clear: I’m not saying this derisively; How to Train Your Dragon really is a good movie.)

If you insist on wading through these spoilers, read on.

Clash begins with a rather impressive background narrative (using nebulae as a visual aid; I thought that was a cool touch) about the original and actual Clash of the Titans, explaining how the three brother gods (Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) overthrew their parents, the Titans. At this point, mythology buffs will already be rolling their eyes: the narration mentions the Kraken, which is NOT from Greek mythology. Let’s get that clear.

Anyway, the Kraken is mentioned as a monstrous spawn of Hades that is so powerful that it wasted the Titans.

Cut to a casket floating up from the depths of the ocean. A fisherman caught in a storm spots it and hauls it out of the water. He finds a dead woman inside, and a crying baby. The baby is named Perseus.

Time skip. The baby has grown up to about 12 years old. Enter some preteen existential angst and the adoptive fisherman father saying that he loves the kid, and that’s what matters.

Time skip. The boy is now an adult, a fisherman. There’s some discourse about the gods being unfair, capricious and cruel, and humanity being sick of them.

One day, while on the fishing boat with his family, they spot some soldiers from the city-state of Argos tearing down a statue of Zeus. As the statue crashes into the sea, winged demons leap up out of the ocean and slaughter the soldiers. The demons combine into the gloomy form of Hades, who then crashes into the sea, smashing the fishing boat and drowning Perseus’s family.

The gods hold council, and Hades convinces his brother Zeus to let him loose upon the mortal realm to turn the hearts of men back to the gods.

Cut to the city state of Argos, where Perseus and the surviving soldiers arrive. The haughty King Kepheus and his wife Cassiopeia boast about the rise of the mortal realm above the gods, who need humanity’s prayers in order to survive. Perseus is brought into the celebration of the “victory” of men, and Andromeda offers him a drink. Cassiopeia boasts about Andromeda’s beauty, saying that it’s all the divinity they need. Hades then crashes the party, incinerates the soldiers, and punishes Cassiopeia, rotting her face. He then declares that unless the kingdom sacrifices Andromeda, the Kraken will come to massacre everyone. Hades then takes a look at Perseus and reveals that he’s a demigod.

Hermes informs Zeus that he still has a child in Argos, and that sanctuary should be offered to Perseus as one of them. Zeus then thinks about his predicament.

Meanwhile, Perseus is tortured by the king’s soldiers, demanding to know why he was sent there. Perseus denies being a demigod and says that he’s no warrior. The king then says that if Perseus was destined to slay the Kraken, then he should embark on a quest to do so. Perseus denies being a warrior, and is thrown into prison. A beautiful woman visits him and introduces herself as Io, a woman cursed with immortality, who is supposed to be Perseus’s “guardian angel.” She explains the truth about Perseus’s birth: that he was the child of Zeus by Danae, queen of Acrisius, a man who tried to defy Zeus. Zeus came to Danae disguised as Acrisius and impregnated her, and when Acrisius discovered this, he had Danae and her child thrown into the sea. Io convinces Perseus to destroy the Kraken—doing so weakens Hades, who can then be struck mortally. (Take note of this).

Perseus then goes forth with a skeptical band of soldiers. They seek the Gray Witches, who alone can tell them how to destroy the Kraken. As they journey, Perseus discovers that he’s a better warrior than his lack of training lets on (!!!) and begins getting gifts from his father: a magical sword, which he refuses to use, and the Pegasus (who leaves him).

Hades then recruits the disfigured, still living Acrisius, convincing him to go destroy Perseus, promising that he can destroy Zeus if Acrisius kills Perseus.

Acrisius attacks the party, slaughtering a bunch of them. Perseus and his party give chase, following the wounded Acrisius’s blood into the wasteland. The blood spawns giant scorpions, which the soldiers battle. The scorpions are stopped by the chanting of Jinn, strange desert creatures who are neither god nor human.

The Jinn promise to help the Argives, and journey with them through the wasteland to the Garden of Stygia where the Gray Witches live.

The Gray Witches, who only have one eye between the three of them, taunt the party and demand sacrifice. Perseus impatiently grabs their eye and threatens to throw it away, forcing them to reveal the Kraken’s nature: it is pretty much invulnerable, and they need something that can destroy all mortal flesh–the Medusa’s gaze.

Zeus visits his son, offering him sanctuary, which Perseus declines. Zeus then tosses Perseus a gold coin for his fare when they cross the River Styx into the Underworld.

Perseus and the party venture into the underworld, and manage to find the Medusa. The Jinn (being inhuman) is immune to the Medusa’s gaze, and self-destructs on the Medusa, stunning her. With the sacrifices of Perseus’s soldiers, the hero is able to use his shield as a mirror to strike the Medusa without looking into her eyes and decapitates her.

The hero emerges with the Medusa’s head, only to see Acrisius slay Io. Perseus duels Acrisius to the death, finally using the magical sword he got from Zeus to purify the accursed king. However, the eclipse (Which I can’t even remember in Hades’s ultimatum) begins, and the Pegasus arrives to bring Perseus quickly to Argos.

The Kraken arrives at Argos and begins smashing it.  Andromeda willingly gives herself up to the beast. Zeus begins to weaken as his worshipers start dying while Hades stands against his brother with a fresh vigor—he is powered by the fear of humanity, after all.

Perseus arrives and tries to get close to the Kraken (which takes a few minutes to reveal its full size), while Hades dissolves into demons and snatches the head of Medusa from Perseus. (King Kepheus gets stabbed in the confusion, btw) Flying through the streets of Argos, Perseus manages to snatch the head back and blasts the Kraken with the Medusa’s gaze just as it is about to eat Andromeda.

The massive beast slowly petrifies and crumbles under its own weight. Hades reforms, and declares his immortality (Read the Evil Overlord handbook, Hades.😛 ) and promptly gets hit by a flying, lightning-charged magic sword in the chest and banished back to his domain.  Andromeda falls into the water, and Perseus rescues her.

Andromeda and Perseus wash up on shore, and while Andromeda offers the crown to Perseus, but he says she could do it much better than he could.

Perseus visits the crumbled statue of Zeus, and Zeus comes to speak to him. Perseus again turns down Zeus’s offer of godhood. Zeus tells him to be a better ruler of men than the gods are, and then leaves him. Io suddenly reappears, and Perseus takes her for a joyride on Pegasus.

If you’ve been wondering why I was able to put the entire plot here, with almost all of the important details, despite the movie running for about 2 hours, it’s simple: There wasn’t much of a plot to begin with. The action scenes took up a huge portion of the movie, weren’t all that great, and had lame one-liner dialogue—which brings me to the main offending aspect of the movie.

The inclusion of the Kraken, a [i]Scandinavian[/i] monster, in a Greek mythology story? Annoying, but forgivable.

The creative liberty taken with the Greek myths? Forgivable, but barely. (Zeus came to Danae as a shower of gold, and Acrisius kept her imprisoned because he was afraid of her child; Io is from a completely unrelated story; The Pegasus sprang out of the Medusa’s blood)

The anachronistic full plate armor that the gods were wearing? Pretty cool, actually. Forgivable.

The lack of decent dialogue in a movie that already lacks plot? Unforgivable and infuriating.

The council of the gods was one of the cooler scenes in my opinion, but there’s a really glaring problem: The gods, with all their fancy outfits, just stand there. The only lines of dialogue spoken by gods other than Zeus and Hades were something like this: Hermes tells Zeus he has a kid. Apollo reacts to Hades’s plan, then Zeus shuts him up. Poseidon has one line. One line. The other gods? Nothing at all. They just. Stand. There. They don’t even get any closeup shots—they just stand in the background. Why even cast them? Sigh.

Then there’s the odd romantic tension between Io and Perseus. Okay, she’s a beautiful woman. Who’s been stalking him all his life. Who gives him a bunch of good advice. Then all of a sudden they’re a couple?

There’s odd romantic tension between Andromeda and Perseus too—why does Andromeda approach him during the party, of all people? She has a heart for the poor, sure, but come on, there must be more to it than mere charity. In the end, it’s unresolved—why bother adding the angle?

Hades’s smoke and brimstone motif was rather cool—in the scene where he’s introduced, he limps, is ashen gray, and has a ghostly whispering voice that echoes throughout the chamber on Mount Olympus. However, when he gets stronger, he simply becomes just another flying guy. He stands erect, sure, but the creepiness of his voice is gone.

Also, the Jinn. What? He can heal the horrible damage inflicted by Acrisius’s envenomed bite, is immune to the Medusa’s gaze, and he can self-destruct?! Where on earth did that come from?

The fight with the Kraken was lame. They overstated the Kraken’s invulnerability so much so that Perseus didn’t even bother attacking it or flying toward its head. The entire Kraken sequence was devoted to the monster getting up out of the water so it could take a bite out of its Princess McNugget, and Perseus trying to get the Medusa head back. The Medusa battle was much more exciting, especially when the Medusa started lunging and darting through the pillars. The Kraken “battle,” unfortunately, was  just a long, drawn-out sequence made comical by the “I need to get my MacGuffin back” chase scene.

Why did Io say that Hades could be struck with a mortal blow after the death of the Kraken if Hades says “im in god moed lol” and simply gets banished back to the underworld? After all, Perseus did imitate the Archangel Tyrael from Diablo II when he destroyed the Worldstone. The “lightning bolt + sword + throw sword” really really reminds me of this scene. I don’t think it was intentional, but the resemblance is uncanny. And if anyone thinks that Hades’s line there was actually cool, I’d like to introduce you to a divine smiting. <_<

The movie had a few style points:

1. Zeus’s chamber of figurines representing human souls and his holographic map of the world were pretty awesome.

2. The Mount Olympus scenes looked pretty cool.

3. The Kraken’s design—part squid, part crustacean, part turtle.

4. The opening narration.

Aaaaand…that’s it. I didn’t even manage to list five things. Wait.

5. Hades’s creepy whisper.

Ok, there we go. Five things. But really, while some of the CGI (the Kraken sequence) was good, some of it was awful (the magic sword scenes—the graphics weren’t much better than those you’d see in the old Kevin Sorbo Hercules TV series).

The action was subpar, the plot was thin and predictable, and there were no redeeming lines of dialogue. The movie was a waste of big name talent, of CGI, and of epic potential.

Let this be a lesson to all future film makers: Just because your source material is a legend does not mean your film is going to be epic.

~ by J. R. R. Flores on April 7, 2010.

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