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Review: Clash of the Titans

Divine badness reigns
By PETER KEOUGH  |  April 2, 2010
1.0 1.0 Stars

 

Clash of the Titans | Directed by Louis Leterrier | Written by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, and Beverley Cross | with Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, and Alexa Davalos | Warner Bros. | 110 minutes
It takes a lot of movie magic to reduce some 3000 years of mythology to piffle. After watching this farrago produced by state-of-the-art 3-D and CGI, I’m all for the return of the oral tradition.

Okay, that’s a little reactionary. And as far as 3-D goes, this might be the worst your $16 can buy. Murky and gratuitous, it had me at times removing the glasses and watching the nonsense in out-of-focus 2-D.

Even so, the visuals are less murky and gratuitous than the script. Taking mindless liberties with the original (and I’m not just referring to the 1981 version that was the great f/x pioneer Ray Harryhausen’s last, and perhaps worst, movie), this new edition from Louis Leterrier begins with jealous Acrisius (Jason Flemyng) tossing his wife and her newborn son, Perseus (Sam Worthington), into the sea in a big box. She’s dead, but a fisherman saves the kid — who was sired on the sly by Zeus (Liam Neeson) — and raises him as his own until Hades (Ralph Fiennes, making Voldemort look as artful as King Lear) in a pissy fit drowns Perseus’s surrogate family while raising hell against the city of Argos for knocking over a statue of Zeus.

Well, that gets Perseus mad. No wonder his late foster dad kept muttering things about the gods like, “One day someone’s going to have to make a stand and say, ‘Enough!’ ” Perseus would like to be that someone, but — oops! — he’s half god himself. Yet he’s the Joe the Plumber of demigods. He just wants to be a regular guy, and if he’s going to make that stand, he won’t use any divine hocus-pocus — he’ll do it as a man!

Which reminds me that the most interesting characters in the film are women, or at least female, and I don’t just mean Medusa (her own origin is a sob story worthy of Oprah), whose head Perseus needs in order to fossilize the Kraken (from Norse mythology, but why quibble?) so he can save Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) — no slouch herself but too much of a goody-goody with the poor — from her fate as a virgin sacrifice to the gods. No, I mean Io (Gemma Arterton), who in this version is a kind of guardian angel — sort of like Obi-Wan Kenobi with nice breasts — who pops up every now and then to fill in exposition or offer some tips on hand-to-hand combat with a Gorgon or maybe just talk about the kind of stuff that really bothers a demi-god.

You’re probably saying, wait a minute, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Io was a maiden lusted after by Zeus, who, when she spurned his advances, turned her into a white heifer and then courted her in the form of a cloud until his jealous wife, Hera, drove her mad with a gadfly, chasing her into the wilderness, where she was comforted by Prometheus, who . . .

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