Clash of the Titans is a train wreck; a 180 million dollar plus train wreck, where the train is painted bright red with flames on the side, and filled with thousands of faceless extras, and the sky is wholly computer generated for no good reason, and Sam Worthington is the conductor, and he’s yelling…a lot.
Sam Worthington is Perseus, a demi-God abandoned by his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) and adopted by a plain human fisherman with a heart of gold. From day one Perseus is acknowledged as markedly special, and the “child of destiny” angle is, within the first three minutes, hammered home desperately. “One day, somebody’s gonna have to make a stand. One day, somebody’s gonna have to say, ‘Enough!'” Hmmm, I wonder who that somebody will be? The opening moments of Clash establish Perseus’ history about as fast as any film ever has, then just as abruptly we’re given a 12 Years Later tag and watch as his family is killed in the crossfire of the war between man and the Gods for no reason other than to give our hero some vengeful motivation. Inexplicably he becomes the leader of a ragtag band to save the city of Argos from Hades’ (Ralph Fiennes) Kraken, and their journey begins. The story here is more or less a vehicle to get to the action, and for as little care and attention the filmmakers gave it, I don’t feel particularly inclined to outline anymore. Suffice it to say, there’s a new generation of film driven entirely by money, banking on big names and effects, and with absolutely no regard for the finer things. Clash of the Titans may be it’s king.
It’s not just that this is a bad script with some money thrown at it. It’s that the story and the dialogue are truly bottom of the barrel, and there is simply so much money thrown at them. It’s actually hard not to appreciate the level of commitment here from not only the actors, but the filmmakers. Any number of people must have said, “Wow, this script is pretty god awful. Should we be concerned?” But none of that is expressed in the production or the performances. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes lope around a heavenly Olympus in melodramatic armor and massive beards and as they plug along through perhaps the most vapid prose of their two immense careers, you’re struck by the thought that these guys were in Schindler’s List. Certainly they’re not incapable of returning to that form, but if anybody thought just snagging Ralph Fiennes was enough to make this dialogue sound anything but silly, they were depressingly mistaken. As for Sam Worthington, he brings little more than a handsome mug to the film’s central protagonist. He wears a skirt proudly and wields a rubber sword with a snarl and lines of dialogue meant to appeal to a generation of gamers. In Perseus’ “get pumped” speech prior to taking Medusa’s head, he closes with this: “Trust your senses, and don’t look this bitch in the eye!” Wow. The only thing missing at this point is some really crappy metal.
It’s not that the film’s unwatchable. I found myself enjoying a majority of the action, though Louis Leterrier tends to inject his scenes with slapstick far too often. But the scale is genuinely something to behold. In the film’s final moments, when the monstrous Kraken lumbers up from the sea to reveal it’s gargantuan form, few will be disappointed by the magnitude. And the film has plenty of these moments, with creatures spectacular and grotesque. In fact, about the only thing worth seeing in Clash of the Titans is the exhibition of visual grandstanding.
Clash of the Titans is striking in it’s lack of quality, but perhaps even more unfortunate is the film’s untapped potential. Greek mythology is elegant and vibrant, dark and complex. This film is absolutely none of those things, and is really is a shame. It’s a severe watering down for a popcorn audience. A complete simplification of a fascinating mythology with no restitution made for all the liberties taken. So then, opposed to being simply a weak attempt to modernize some lively tales, Clash of the Titans is a shameless bastardization of some of human history’s most crafted fables. Instead of just being misguided, the film flirts with offensiveness. I suppose this could be a melodramatic interpretation, and to be fair I wasn’t nearly as offended as I’m acting, but I suppose it’s the idea of this film more than the film itself that bothers me. I’d hate to think we’re on a downward spiral of filmmaking where summer movies become half-witted action fests with the obligatory 3D following the title. It suggests that good story and good visuals are mutually exclusive, and as much as I would like to think that’s clearly absurd, there’s something ominous about Clash of the Titans that seems to imply otherwise.