STARRING: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos

2010, 110 Minutes, Directed by:
Louis Leterrier

In the scene before Perseus (Sam Worthington) and his troops head out on their quest to kill the monstrous Kraken before it destroys the city of Argos, the demigod hero discovers the anachronistic, gold robot owl from the 1981 original. "What's this," he asks one of the soldiers. "Leave it," the warrior responds.

Such is the philosophy of Clash of the Titans. Leaving behind whatever campy or cheesy elements the original movie may have had leaves a straight-faced sword-and-sandal epic, executed with complete seriousness. The remake follows the fundamental flow of the original (Perseus battles many monsters while the gods on Mount Olympus bicker amongst themselves) and updates the now dated but personality-filled special effects with CG ones that are dated the moment they appear on screen.

As for the cheese, the movie desperately needs better sense of humor about itself. Even if the filmmakers were not fans of the cheese presented in the original, there are all kinds of cheese. Surely, there's one that fits their tastes.

After a crash course in Mythology 101, it is soon revealed that Perseus is the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson, wearing the shiniest armor of the shiny-armored gods), head god of all the gods.

Part man, part god, he finds himself in Argos, a city that has royally angered the king of the gods with its blasphemous assertion that men are the new gods (Humanism was born in ancient Greece). Zeus allows his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes, looking like a bum off the street) to unleash his gigantic, destructive pet the kraken upon the city, unless the population agrees to sacrifice its princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos).

Hades killed Perseus' adoptive family, and the threat against this city (that suspects and imprisons him upon his arrival) is the impetus he needs to wage war against the gods.

"The CG special effects are dated the moment they appear on screen . . ."

Joined by a group of soldiers who are useless except for suffering inevitable deaths at the hands, pincers, or eyes of mythological creatures and his stalker/protector Io (Gemma Arterton), Perseus traverses sweeping images of landscapes in his quest for a way to defeat the Kraken, weaken Hades, and avenge his family's deaths. Along the way, he fights with Calibos (Jason Flemyng), who would have been Perseus' step-father if not for the fact that the old man went crazy with the thought of his wife with a god (imagine his rage if Zeus was in the form of a bull, as he's been known to do). He threw wife and baby into the sea, but not before Zeus struck him down with a case of the uglies.

Calibos' blood turns into giant scorpions, which is a power to have - not sure if it's good or not, but it's a power nonetheless. Perseus and his band fight those as well. Witches (who look suspiciously like the eyeless terror in Pan's Labyrinth, complete with an eye in the palm of the hand) tell Perseus how to defeat the Kraken. Medusa, then, appears as well, in the form of an overtly digital snake-woman without any of the creepiness of Ray Harryhausen's creation.

With all these fights, it seems the real battle went on behind-the-scenes, as the special effects team struggled to manufacture at least one convincing monster.

They come closest to succeeding with the Kraken, which appears as promised on the tenth day with the onset of the sunniest solar eclipse in history. Massive and foreboding, the shimmering Kraken, whose tentacles are there but seemingly separate from the rest of it, works the best of the bunch. It's important to point out that a random, Hades-worshipping priest in the scene over-acts enough to draw focus from the monster, which should give one the overall impression of the Kraken's effectiveness as a villainous beast. At least the priest knows how to play a scene in which a giant sea monster appears. If only director Louis Leterrier enabled the rest of his cast to likewise ham it up.

Leterrier attempts some visceral camera work here, complete with plentiful handheld sequences and slow-motion shots. The latter are amusing excess. The former are slightly less so (the shaky-camera effect is just short of headache-inducing in 3-D; clearly the useless gimmick was an afterthought).

Clash of the Titans is missing amusement, whether it be intentional or unintentional. Taking itself far too seriously and without the technical skill to pull it off, the movie is wholly unexceptional.

- Mark Dujsik


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