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Dustin Putman

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Clash of the Titans  (2010)
Directed by Louis Leterrier.
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Tine Stapelfeldt, Mads Mikkelsen, Pete Postlethwaite, Nicholas Hoult, Luke Evans, Izabella Miko, Liam Cunningham, Hans Matheson, Ashraf Barhom, Mouloud Achour, Ian Whyte, Vincent Regan, Polly Walker, Katherine Loeppky, Luke Treadaway, Elizabeth McGovern, Alexander Siddig, Danny Huston.
2010 – 106 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality).
Reviewed in 3-D by Dustin Putman, March 31, 2010.

Special Note: First, a few comments about the way in which "Clash of the Titans" is being showcased for theatrical distribution. Envisioned and filmed in regular two dimensions, the film has gone through a hasty 3-D conversion process in the span of a few weeks just so Warner Bros. Pictures can ride on the coattails of a new, increasingly tedious fad and earn extra bucks off a big-budget turkey they otherwise have no faith in (and for good reason). If a film is to come along that might just create a backlash against 3-D, it could very well be this one. Simply put, the 3-D is utterly and incomparably worthless. Depth-of-field is almost nonexistent to the point where it often looks identical to 2-D, only with the annoyance of having to wear sunglasses indoors. The brightness of the picture has additionally been washed out for a movie that already hinges on the murky side with its predominately yellow and brown hues. Watching it in 3-D strips the brightness level by twenty-five percent and, in some of the darker scenes, mimics the look of a dingy VHS transfer from the 1980s. With most theaters charging an increased ticket price of roughly fifteen dollars for 3-D releases, viewers who see "Clash of the Titans" in this format will be paying for an inferior product that serves zero purpose, enhances nothing, and actually ruins some potentially sumptuous cinematography. Warner Bros.' resolve to release the film in this shabby state and abuse the trust of their audience is not only sickeningly greedy, but also downright inexcusable. All involved who had a hand in this irresponsible business decision should be ashamed of themselves.
Please see follow-up note at the end of this review.

Watching 1981's "Clash of the Titans" in 2010, the once-popular fantasy-adventure comes off as cheesy and antiquated, marred by a hazy late-'70s/early-'80s aesthetic sheen. The special effects, from Ray Harryhausen's famed stop-motion efforts to some pitiful matte paintings, miniatures and blue screen work, are so outdated they're almost charming. The highlight remains the confrontation with Medusa, her demonic face, snaky hair, stony stare, and portentous rattler still enough to elicit mild chills in the viewer. Still, the film is not great by any stretch and one could imagine there being, with better technology and a stronger screenplay, much room for improvement. Now, having endured the lifeless, stinking corpse that is the "Clash of the Titans" remake, such hopes for a better movie have turned out to be a mere pipe dream. The original is suddenly looking mighty desirable in comparison to what director Louis Leterrier (2008's "The Incredible Hulk") and studio Warner Bros. Pictures have rancidly cooked up for unsuspecting audiences.

The plot—if it's possible—makes even less sense than it did twenty-nine years ago. The son of mortal mother Danae (Tine Stapelfeldt) and God Zeus (Liam Neeson), Perseus (Sam Worthington) grows up only to witness the death of his family at sea. When Zeus' brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), King of the Underworld, convinces him to unleash an evil unto the earth as a means of reclaiming their power over the land and the people, Zeus goes along with it. With ten days remaining until the eclipse of the sun marks the release of sea creature the Kracken, Perseus sets out on a perilous journey to find a way to defeat it. With a group of warriors—and the alluringly beautiful Io (Gemma Arterton)—by his side, Perseus vows to fight like a man rather than a god as he faces giant scorpions, blind witches, and half-woman/half-reptile Medusa.

As Perseus packs for his voyage at the start of the second act, he pulls out Bubo, the robotic magical owl who played a major role as comic relief in the earlier "Clash of the Titans." "What should I do with this?" he asks, to which someone's curt response is, "Just leave it." An in-joke for those familiar with its predecessor, the new and unimproved "Clash of the Titans" is so barren of joy, life and humor that Bubo would have been a welcome presence next to Perseus. Instead, the only humor is of the unintentional kind—"Oh, you're burning!" Io states the obvious when she spots Perseus' skin on his elbow disintegrating to the bone—and the only entertainment value to be had is to mock the picture's shocking amateurishness. Screenwriters Travis Beacham and Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi (2005's "Aeon Flux") aren't ones to shy away from incomprehensible happenings in the story—they basically pull random rules out of their backsides for the duration—but they do show a disinterest in writing the human and god characters with more than one distinct trait each. Most don't even get that luxury, the warriors who escort Perseus never becoming more than people who can be told apart by their physical appearance.

"I'm tired already," Perseus declares early on. You don't say. The pacing of "Clash of the Titans" is so lugubrious that audiences will be feeling an even higher level of exhaustion (or is it just boredom?) than the lead hero does. The crux of the plot takes an awfully long time to be set up, yet leaves more than a few questions and story holes in its wake. The scenes set between the gods on Mt. Olympus are like a "Saturday Night Live" skit making fun of Greek mythology. The action set-pieces are anticlimactic non-events, with the scorpion attack frenetically shot and edited with a bare minimum of cohesion as director Louis Leterrier aims to mimic Michael Bay's hideous "Transformers" work, and the battle with Medusa causing one to long for Uma Thurman's terrific turn as that very villainess in 2010's "Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief." As for the climactic rise of the Kracken, Leterrier shows such a lack of knowledge on how to build and sustain momentum and create excitement that all the sequence can do is just sit there and flop around like a lethargic seal.

Like a visit to an amusement park where all the roller-coasters are closed under renovation, "Clash of the Titans" promises a large scope and lots of thrills, yet ends up delivering upon none of it. The characters are wholly forgettable and no reason is given for why the viewer should care about them. The action is about as rousing as a wheelchair race between two half-comatose octogenarians. The CG effects, if technically a step up from the 1981 version, nonetheless feel half-finished and unrendered, aspiring no sense of awe. The performances are barely workmanlike. Sam Worthington (2009's "Avatar"), quite an eye-catcher in 2009's "Terminator Salvation," drowsily goes through the motions as Perseus. Gemma Arterton (2008's "Quantum of Solace"), as Io, is more notable for her blank expression than any discernible acting prowess. And poor Ralph Fiennes (2008's "The Reader"), as Hades, has the misfortune of resembling John Travolta in 2000's sci-fi mega-bomb "Battlefield Earth." Audiences won't learn anything watching this crummy, distaff vision of "Clash of the Titans," and they definitely won't get any mindless enjoyment from it, either. The verdict, then: save your money, skip it altogether, and sign up for a Latin or mythology class if such topics are of any interest. They might surprise you.

2012 Update: Irrefutable evidence that 3-D can be deeply detrimental to a film: 2010's "Clash of the Titans," which I awarded after seeing it in its ugly, haphazard, headache-inducing 3-D theatrical presentation, is a comparative revelation on Blu-ray. Demo-disc worthy and at times breathtakingly gorgeous, the film is a visual triumph, its once dopey-looking effects now coming to life. Even the climactic Kraken is threatening now! The HUGE uptick in detail and vibrancy does not, of course, help the clunky script, but in its purest form—in 2-D high-definition—it is nowhere near the disaster it was in theaters. Burn, 3-D, burn.
2012 Rating:

© 2010 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman