Clash of the Titans (2010): Leterrier’s Remake is Inferior to 1981 Original

Despite new technology and high-caliber talent, Louis Leterrier’s 3D “Clash of the Titans” is an inferior remake to the original 1981 in many respects.
Clash of the Titans
Trailer: emanuellevy.com/videos/view.cfm?id=106

It’s worth renting the 1981 version (it just came out on Blue-ray DVD), which is the last feature film from creative genius and special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen. A disciple of stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien (“King Kong”), Harryhausen adapted the techniques O’Brien developed and created his own film genre from the 1950s to the 1980s utilizing his own stop-motion animation process eventually identified as “Dynamation.” (See below)

Big and flat, noisy and silly, this “Clash of the Titans” is hampered by arbitrary, preposterous storytelling that even great actors like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, slick visual style courtesy of ace lenser Peter Menzies, and state of the art CGI effects can’t compensate for the many various shortcomings. 

The main merit of this version, unlike most movies of its kind, is that it’s short (only 104 minutes, including credits), though the film feels long, mostly because of the idiotic, verbose narrative, and the way it is directed–sans wit or humor, amounting to a dreary experience.
 
You could say that the summer season begins this year on April 2, when Warner will release Leterrier’s picture, which essentially is a popcorn flick with a special appeal for young, indiscriminating boys.  Good, mediocre, and bad, movies shot in 3D are doing rather well at the box-office, and “Clash of the Titans,” bound to be dismissed by most critics, should be no exception to the trend.
 
What’s even more disappointing is the fact that in sensibility, intelligence (I mean lack of) and effects bears resemblance to the work of Michael Bay (specifically “The Transformers” franchise) than to the mythological action- adventures, sword-and-sandal and biblical epics of yesteryear.
Was there really need to remake an enjoyable (but not great) film that when it came out, in 1981, represented something new and different? I don’t think there was judging by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi’s mishmash of a screenplay, based on the motion picture “Clash of the Titans,” directed by Desmond Davis and written by Beverley Cross.
To be fair, this sub-genre has always suffered from the danger of silliness and campiness–after all immortal, awesome gods like Zeus have to talk in an ordinary, comprehensible language, which in most of these films, is almost by necessity stupid and anachronistic.
Unfortunately, Leterrier’s rendition is just silly, lacking the entertaining camp factors, with the actors, all misguided by the director, who can’t find the right tone for his material, are playing is “seriously,” in earnest
The plot revolves around the notions of power struggle between the gods and mortal, vulnerable men, and conflicts between the gods of how to run the world.   In the first scene, set at sea, a coffin contains the corpse of a young woman and her barely living baby, Perseus, rescued by a good man (Pete Postlethwaite).
Born of a god but raised as a human, Perseus (played by Sam Worthington of “Avatar” fame) is helpless to save his family from Hades (Ralph Fiennes), the vengeful god of the underworld, who always seems to appear out of nowhere, with a dark flaming announcing his menacing presence.
With not much at stake, Perseus volunteers to lead a dangerous mission to defeat Hades before he can seize power from Zeus (Liam Neeson) and unleash hell on earth.
Most of the tale depicts Perseus’ long, perilous journey, which takes him deep into forbidden worlds. He is not alone, though. Following him is a wild bunch of roughneck fighters that would make Quentin Tarantino (“Inglourious Basterds”) happy. Indeed, Perseus daring band of warriors includes Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), an experienced soldier who encourages the defiant Perseus to make use of his god-given abilities. He claims that battling the unholy demons and fearsome beasts, they will only survive if Perseus can accept his power as a god, defy his fate and create his own destiny.
Second half of narrative consists of big, loud, but not particularly satisfying action set-pieces, driven by CGI effects, and relying on huge, scary multi-lagged creatures, which change size and shape a la “Jurassic Park” and “The Transformers” pictures. Thus, endless perils await Perseus, as he faces snake-haired Medusa, fearsome Kraken, winged Pegasus, two-headed dog Dioskilos, giant scorpions and more.  Wait, there is also a gorgeous, flying black horse that no one has ridden before; guess wh’s the first to do it?
There are only two female characters in the saga. Gemma Arterton plays Io, Perseus’ mysterious spiritual guide, who accompanies throughout his journey, mostly through arbitrary, nonsensical entrances and exits. The young, attractive actress Alexa Davalos is Andromeda, a princess doomed to lose her life if Perseus does not succeed.
Though handsome, photogenic, and basically appealing, Aussie thespian Sam Worthington, which is quickly becoming a Hollywood star (“Terminator 4,” “Avatar”) is just decent, and it’s still hard to tell whether he is a good actor with a wide dramatic range.
Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, two fine actors, look and feel uncomfortable in their roles, largely a result of the banal lines that are given and of their director’s determination to tell this saga in a straightforward straight-laced manner–sans humor or wit.
There was a lot of pleasure in watching Shakespearean actors like Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith in the 1981 picture, because they found the right tone to deliver their lines, a semi-serious, often campy mode.  But this “Clash of the Titans” is a rather boring experience that simply goes through the motions of linking one big action set-piece after another.

The supporting cast is made up of decent, honorable actors, too, but to little effects. Mads Mikkelsen plays Draco, a tough man who takes up his sword to join Perseus’ quest. Jason Flemyng is Acrisius, a tragic hybrid, a one-time king turned hideous beast. For a change not cast as a villain, Danny Huston assumes the role of Poseidon, god of the seas.
End Note: Clash of the Titans (1981) 
The last feature film from creative genius and special effects wizard, Ray Harryhausen, “Clash of the Titans” is the original adaptation of the myth of Perseus and his struggles to save the Princess Andromeda. Harry Hamlin plays the brave Perseus, mortal son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier), who sets out to fulfill his destiny by rescuing his beloved Andromeda from the wrath of the goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith).
 
Though special effects today have been dramatically transformed by CGI, the highly-imaginative and incredibly detailed work by Ray Harryhausen in his legendary films continues to hold audiences spellbound today.  A disciple of stop-motion pioneer Willis O’Brien (King Kong), Harryhausen adapted the techniques O’Brien developed and created his own film genre from the 1950s to the 1980s utilizing his own stop-motion animation process eventually identified as “Dynamation,” which makes small, well-articulated models come to life by photographing them one frame at a time and then moving them slightly between exposures. 

Besides Clash of the Titans, some of his memorable special/visual effects films include “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (1953), “It Came from Beneath the Sea” (1955), “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” (1958), “Jason and the Argonauts” (1963), “One Million Years, B.C.” (1966), “The Valley of Gwangi” (1969), and “The Golden Voyage of Sinbad” (1974).

 

Cast

Perseus – Sam Worthington
Zeus – Liam Neeson
Hades – Ralph Fiennes
Calibos/King Acrisius – Jason Flemyng
Io – Gemma Arterton
Andromeda – Alexa DavalosDanae – Tine Stapelfeldt
Draco – Mads Mikkelsen

Credits

Warner release presented in association with Legendary Pictures of a Thunder Road Film/Zanuck Co. production.

Produced by Basil Iwanyk, Kevin De La Noy.

Executive producers, Richard D. Zanuck, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, William Fay. Directed by Louis Letterier.

Screenplay, Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, based on the motion picture directed by Desmond Davis and written by Beverley Cross.
Camera (Technicolor, Panavision widescreen), Peter Menzies Jr.

Editors, Martin Walsh, Vincent Tabaillon.

Music, Ramin Djawadi; production designer, Martin Laing; supervising art directors, Troy Sizemore, Gary Freeman.

Costume designer, Lindy Hemming.

Sound, Ivan Sharrock; supervising sound editor, James Mather; visual effects supervisor, Nick Davis; prosthetics supervisor, Conor O’Sullivan; special effects and animatronics supervisor, Neil Corbould; stunt coordinator, Paul Jennings.

Associate producers, Karl McMillan, Brenda Berrisford; assistant director, Terry Needham; second unit director/camera, Martin Kenzie.

 

Casting, Lucinda Syson, Elaine Grainger.  
MPAA Rating: PG-13.
Running time: 106 Minutes..