Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Greek Gods Redux: Clash of the Titans

| by Allan Stackhouse |

Clash of the Titans makes two new films I've seen this year about the Greek gods. Both, rated PG-13 or less, provide moderately entertaining viewing experiences. The film came out in April of this year, well into the time when everyone was still raving about Avatar. This overexposure of Sam Worthington, who I actually like, turned me off from both films. But Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson in one film? I can barely remember these two people are in fact TWO different people so watching both in one was a bit of a challenge. Regardless of the challenges and preconceptions I may have had, the film was decent and worth catching.

I'm a fan of Sam Worthington. Ever since the Australian crocodile film Rogue in 2007 and Terminator: Salvation in 2009, I've grown to admire Sam's dramatic prowess. In Clash of the Titans, he plays Perseus, another character who needs to save the future, humankind, alienkind, you know the drill. The similarities in characters must have made the performances easier for him which is quite obviously a bit of typecasting. Typecasting can be looked at as a good thing or a bad thing; it all really depends on your feelings toward the actor. As far as Sam, I enjoy his heroic performances. For Sandra Bullock, I do not enjoy her endless bag of pathetic characters seeking redemption through the procurement of a male suitor. Thus, Sam's casting in this film provided a heroic portrayal of Perseus. Perhaps it was not as ethnically correct as Harry Hamlin with his beach tanned skin and buzzed hair but he still gave a good portrayal and performance nonetheless.

I suppose from the trailer, I was given the impression that the entirety of the film would be shot on a green screen. To my surprise, the majority of the film was shot on elaborate sets and locations such as the Maspalomas dunes, the Canary Islands, and Wales. The majority of the locations weren't particularly impressive or expansive but they served the story in helping to convey some sort of journey. The pillar upon which Andromeda was to be sacrificed was impressive. The exterior and interiors of Argos were all designed very well too yet they were lit so poorly. I was not at all taken by it. Every scene looked like the inside of a Sears.

The fight scenes, thankfully were kept in wide shots, which Louis Letterier thankfully knows how to do. I think he's trying to break out of the fill-in director image and I don't know if he's done it yet with this film (especially since The Incredible Hulk was a let down) but he's done a decent job in this film. The film is somewhat a revenge story. Normally, I like these films to be rated R and extremely violent but the film does what it can. It had some throwbacks to old American action films and I appreciated them. The stereotypical camaraderie speech made me laugh. And you can't have an American action film without one liners. Having waited to screen this film at home, I avoided the 3D conversion which, according to Louis, was made to improve the experience yet still comes off as gimmicky since it clearly sought to ride Avatar's coat tails.

The stakes in this remake were raised with newer technology. CGI may still not be the greatest but at least Louis was smart enough to keep the shots short during the action. I suppose the CGI scorpions were lightyears ahead of whatever form of technology used in the original. In the dessert sequence where the scorpions were attacking Perseus and his group, the scorpions perform a wide variety of actions and angles but the obvious blend of CGI and live action was at least skirted around with shorter cuts. This is instantly appreciated because I cannot stand being taken out of a movie at any point point, especially its action sequences. Bad CGI is a major culprit of that. (See Blade 3 for examples.)

There's a nice bit of odds and ends that give the film some sparks. Nicholas Hoult's natural speaking voice and skin color are preferable to the fake and bake and atrocious American accent in A Single Man. The film also reunites Tony and Effie from the UK series Skins. The cute mechanical owl from the original film makes a nice cameo. As far as the battle of the “Release the Kraken," I'm going to have to give it to Bill Nighy. It was a pretty blah line delivery from Zeus.

Having a slight aversion to things that look terrible, I did not care to watch the original Clash of the Titans. Even without more recent memories of the original, I prefer its newest incarnation. While not a marvel in modern filmmaking, the film is far from terrible. I think these stories deserve the rated R treatment. However, this one might be good for some kids. Maybe a little on the forgettable side but it's at least entertaining. Nothing truly spectacular happens in the film but this is not necessarily a completely bad thing. I don't know how good I would have felt paying to see this but watching it at home was a nice way to spend a couple of hours of my weekend.

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