Mark's CLASH OF THE TITANS review
Like most people my age "Clash of the Titans" has always been the fond TV friendly memory of Harry Hamlin, campy outfits and Ray Harryhausens stop-motion monsters, but in updating it for 2010 Louis Leterrier and project originator Basil Iwanyk give us the darker, grittier version of Perseus fight against Gods and Monsters. Thats not to say weve ended up with the Greek mythology version of the "Battle of Algiers"; when youre starting point is the 1981 original darkness and grit are relative terms. Even the daftest of Hamlins travelling companions gets an amusingly brief cameo. The story is much the same but with a few new twists and turns, Perseus (Sam Worthington) hatred of the Gods, and by design his own Demi-God status, after seeing his adopted family murdered as theyre caught up in Hades (Ralph Fiennes) revengeful rage on statue-defiling soldiers, and the Gods more pointed malevolence and disdain, but the trio of scriptwriters seem to have had their wings clipped in the transfer from the page to screen, buried under the need for monsters and madness rather than musing. Of course you could argue that pausing for thought has no place in a blockbuster but in an effort to shoe-horn the story into the overlord Warner Bros multiplex-friendly running time the enjoyably kinetic action veers into, and then fully embraces, the frenetic; plot points zinging by like one of Medusas flying arrows. You can almost hear the studio chorus yelling faster, faster as the loose ends dangle in front of the looming credits. Sequences that seemed to have been garroted, such as Perseus arrival in Argos or the later action of Andromeda going to meet her fate with the Kraken stream by at such a pace that my 3D-addled brain barely registered their importance. An extra 15 minutes of plot padding or just mood-setting would have made a world of difference. An entire sub-plot involving the zealots and their leader Prokopion (Luke Treadaway) is finally reduced to a practical pointlessness as the building confrontation between their desire to sacrifice Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) to save Argos, and Andromedas survival, is finally negated by her none too conflicted decision to just accept her fate and become mythological lunch. The entire cast play gamely with the breakneck exposition amidst the all the set-pieces but they have little chance of making much of an impression beyond looking dandy in Lindy Hemmings outfits. The women of the piece, Alexa Davalos and Gemma Arterton (as Perseus guardian Io), shine a little among the monster mashing but like the gang sent with Perseus on his quest theyre merely second-class citizens. The only one who manages to stand out is Mads Mikkelsen as the gruff and experienced Draco. Sam Worthington just adds to my puzzlement at his current position in the Hollywood hierarchy. For the opening 45 minutes there seemed to be the kernel of something more than one dimensional brooding but that was eventually lost in the impressive production and creature design. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes have a little fun as, alternately, Zeus releasing the Kraken, and Hades hissing his lines and destroying all and sundry like a deified sulphuric barbecue. Louis Leterrier in the box-seat seems to consistently suffer from express-train direction, from his exposure to Luc Bessons high-octane and low concept "Transporter" series to the disappointing (and dare I say over-edited) "The Incredible Hulk". Perhaps hes scared to just pause a moment in these stories and let them breathe lest the audience and his paymasters start wondering where all the explosions / mutants / giant scorpions are. Id like to think that its the non-Olympian gods of the studios that keep constraining him while he smiles through, but until he gets a publicly acknowledged free rein Ill just have to go along with putting on an expectant face. Fingers crossed for"The Avengers" anyone? This kind of push me-pull you from Warners must surely account for the late in the day decision to wrap all the carefully framed widescreen photography and slick VFX into bolted-on 3D. Its extraordinary how the success of a single film can send the movie bureaucracy into hysteria, and Im not convinced that the measured and painstaking revolution in film-making James Cameron envisaged was quite this way round. In truth though most of the transfer creates a perfectly serviceable experience, apart from a couple of moments when a character seems to have a second head, and the flying arrival of Pegasus seems to herald a horse with wings and eight legs. The problem of course is that in a film with no production planning for an extra dimension the 3D aspect doesnt really add anything to what were watching, and lifting up my specs now and then I could see what seemed to be the more engaging and immersive experience I was missing. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FXttqg0RWU8 And thats something Im going to experience when I catch "Clash of the Titans" again the old fashioned way, because even with all its faults it was, at the very least, what its leading man wanted; a bit darker and a bit rougher than its predecessor, but just as popcorn. Perhaps the eventual release onto DVD/Blu-ray will show if squeezed into its 1 hour 45 minutes running time there is a more sure-footed and satisfying film waiting to escape. Whatever the case however, and whatever its level of undemanding enjoyment, in twenty years time you might be hard-pressed to find the same re-run induced affection for Perseus 21st century outing. "Clash of the Titans" opens in the U.K. and the U.S. on Friday.