Clash of the Titans
Modern Effects Lack Original's Charm

Here’s my opinion on remakes:  If there’s no obvious way that a movie can be improved, let it be.  It’s for that reason that I haven’t made any kind of effort to see Gus Van Sant’s remake of Psycho, and why I’m wary of the upcoming Karate Kid remake.  On the other hand, if a movie has a glaring weakness—say, some very out-of-date special effects—then by all means, Hollywood, go to town.  I consider the original Clash of the Titans to be a personal favorite, but I’m the first to admit that many of its effects are just plain awful.  Therefore, I was excited for the CGI-laced remake, even if the end result just left me longing for the original.

Titans is loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus.  Banished as a baby for being the demigod son of Zeus, Perseus is raised by a humble fisherman and is quite content with his simple life.  However, when Hades, the God of the underworld, murders his family, Perseus makes it his mission to seek vengeance.  Soon, Perseus finds himself among the soldiers of Argos who are embarking on a mission to find a method of destroying the Kraken, the last of the titans.  If they fail, then Hades will demand the sacrifice of the beloved princess Andromeda.

The new version cuts out or alters many of its predecessor’s plot points.  Gone is practically the entire first third of the movie.  There’s no jealous Calibus meddling in Andromeda’s romantic affairs and whisking her off to the swamp in a bird-carried cage.  Calibus does show up in the remake, but this time he’s Acrisius, the once jealous husband who banished his Zeus-impregnated wife, Perseus’ mother.

Sam Worthington as Perseus in Clash of the TitansThe chief casualty of this change is that there is no longer a romantic relationship between Perseus and Andromeda.  In fact, they hardly even meet.  In the original, she was the main reason for him undertaking the near-suicidal mission.  She was his motivation.  In the new version, his motivation is the death of his family; but unfortunately, by the end of the movie they’ve been all but forgotten anyway.  Perseus is given a new love interest in the form of the ageless Io, but it is much less effective and includes a ridiculously cheesy “will they or won’t they?” scene.

It’s not the motivation of the protagonist, however, that will be drawing moviegoers to the new Clash of the Titans; nor was it the reason I was excited for the remake.  That would be the new special effects.   Unfortunately, while technically a great improvement over the original, when compared to most modern special effects, they are, at the very least, unimpressive.  Although the stop-motion effects used in the original film—the last film of legendary effects artist Ray Harryhausen—can be described as cheesy, they also had an element of charm to them. They had a personality.  The new effects, in contrast, are bland and character-less.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Medusa scene, which is certainly the landmark effects sequence in the original.  Medusa appears here to be nothing more than a giant snake with the serpent-haired face of a supermodel.  I can see what the filmmakers were trying to do using the face of model Natalia Vodianova, but her pristine face just blends so poorly with the rest of the creature that Medusa is neither alluring nor horrifying, she’s just awkward.  The blending of CGI effects with live-action characters is a big problem for the movie, as the use of green screen is readily apparent in all scenes involving the giant scorpions.  The Kraken looks good, but the audience is never really given an opportunity to fully view and appreciate the monster.

Of course, the movie is in 3D.  Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t designed to be in 3D.  That was a change that the filmmakers made late in the process, pushing back the film’s release date by a month in order to upgrade.  The result actually hurts the film, more than it helps.  Some action scenes that would have been difficult to follow in 2D due to awkward staging are even more dizzying in 3D.  There are also a couple of shots that were so clearly created after the decision to go to 3D that they just seem out of place.

Clash of the Titans is not a bad movie.  I was moderately entertained throughout and never bored.  Although there’s not much more to the role than looking and talking tough, Sam Worthington proves again that he has the appeal to carry a big blockbuster, even when he doesn’t spend half the movie as an alien, or a terminator.  Unfortunately, Titans just isn’t a very good movie.  Fortunately, the advantage to remakes is that if you don’t like them, there’s always the originals.

Clash of the Titans is rated PG-13 for “fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.”  Sword-and-Sandals violence is abound and there are some scary images and creatures, but this movie definitely restrained in hoping to find a wide audience.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Clash of the Titans.