Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Clash Of The Titans (2010)

Crash Of The Titans

- I have heard that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. In the case of Clash Of The Titans, that phrase is all too true. A remake of a 1981 cult hit of the same name, 2010's Clash Of The Titans swashbuckles onto the Hollywood scene and into film history off the cuff of the 3D cinema craze set by 2009's Avatar.

Unfortunately, all that the film will be remembered for is being the colossal mess of a disappointing 3D also-ran that it is. The film is a disaster! Every penny of the massive budget is up on screen for all to see, yet none of it offers any brand of excitement: it is a special effects extravaganza but the effects are neither engaging nor used to its full potential; the film is action packed yet it remains an non-stimulating experience; and each frame might be packed with current stars but only a few manage to leave a positive impact.

Opening with a fisherman finding a baby and a dead woman in a coffin floating on the ocean (don’t worry, the film later explains why the baby and woman are in a coffin on the ocean.... but by then we don’t care), the story is rushed, muddled, swollen, and uninteresting. The film sets the bar low right away, immediately confusing the audience by jumping many years into the future, to a young teenage Perseus, and then jumps AGAIN by the next scene where we see a grown Perseus played by Sam Worthington.

After wandering into a battle between the humans from Argos and the Greek gods, Perseus’ family is killed by Hades (played by Ralph Fiennes, surprisingly in a villain role), ruler of the underworld. Perseus is then roped into Argos’ army where it is discovered that he is a demagogue (a half-breed between man and god), specifically the son of Zeus (who is played by Liam Neeson). The humans are revolting against the gods because they are, paradoxically, angry at the gods’ cruelty while at the same time do not really believe that the gods actually exist....

Yeah, I am not sure how it works out either - but just go with it.

Zeus loves the humans but he, at the same time, needs to show them who is boss - while also requiring their prayers for sustenance. Hades, in a backhanded attempt to gain power for himself, convinces Zeus to let him do whatever he wants to get back the belief of the humans – specifically using the deadly Kraken as a last resort. With little time to spare, Perseus leads a band of warriors across the land to obtain the head of Medusa which is needed for killing this Kraken - and over the sand dunes and through the underworld to a boring adventure we go!

No better word exists for Clash Of The Titans than "messy." The film has shoddy structuring from the first frame to the last with a story that hops around, almost incoherently, between Argos, Mount Olympus, and wherever our band of heroes happen to be all the way through to the abrupt fast forward ending. The fact that the studio forced much of Clash Of The Titans to be cut certainly contributed to why the film feels very messy. However, other films have been victims of similar circumstances (such as John Huston's The Red Badge Of Courage and Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven) and yet have remained quality films. Director Louis Leterrier drew a bad hand with the way that Warner Brothers forced the film to be chopped up worse than Steve Buscemi in Fargo but his own significant directorial blunders prevent him from getting off of the hook completely.

Leterrier obviously let the film down greatly as far as storytelling goes - but he, unfortunately, further ruins the film on a stylistic note. Clash Of The Titans suffers intensely from what Leterrier's previous feature (The Incredible Hulk (2008)) did: poor framing. The camera style is not quite the infamous "shaky cam" of the Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay schools, though it certainly is related, but the picture does get quite incoherent at times, mainly because of the framing. Leterrier's framing style takes the awe-factor out of many an action scene in Clash Of The Titans in a similar but more glaring way that it did for his The Incredible Hulk movie. For many, if not most, of the film's action scenes, the framing of each scene is too narrowly focused; an epic action scene will be occurring right before our eyes and yet we cannot really see what is going on because of Leterrier's claustrophobic framing. The audience is reduced to internally screaming "back the camera up!" and is left wondering what is going on in the rest of the scene.

It seems clear to me that Leterrier shoulders the most amount of blame for the lackluster Clash Of The Titans but it is also easy to see that there are so many other factors in the failure of this film.

One non-Leterrier factor is the terrible screenplay. It apparently took a whole team to write the awful Clash Of The Titans script. Writers Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, and Matt Manfredi put their heads together and came up with the cliché-ridden story and giggle-through dialogue seen in the film. The three of them together wrote this tripe! If two heads are better than one - and logic would assume that three heads are even better - one wonders how bad the film's script would have been if it was written by only one of these writers! But I suppose the writing duo of Aeon Flux cannot be trusted to offer anything else but cheese and ridiculousness.... We only have ourselves to blame for buying tickets to see this thing.

Also, as many stars as there are in the film, the casting is one of the worst aspects of the film. Hollywood stars are plenty in number but memorable performances are few and far between. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are pretty good as Zeus and Hades, respectively, but, while it is cool to see Neeson and Fiennes back together for the first time since Schinlder’s List, with their characters not having much to do they are a bit of a disappointment as well. One would think that an epic showdown between Zeus and Hades would happen in some fashion - but they only talk a couple of times. Other characters are just down-right awful: Jason Flemyng hits a WAY too over-the-top note for his bad guy role, Liam Cunningham is stuck playing the comedy relief member of the group Solon but is just not funny at all, and Luke Treadaway is unforgettably terrible in his role as Prokopion the Greek religious fanatic.

The only likable characters in the film are the supporting roles: Nicholas Hoult manages to stay endearing throughout as Eusebios, Hans Matheson shines off plenty of personality as Ixas, and Gemma Arterton emits a strong enough presence as Io. Casino Royale baddie and Danish national treasure Mads Mikkelsen is the only actor who exhibits anything resembling real energy, relatability, and depth-filled characterization in the film. Mikkelsen gives the film's lone great performance as Draco; the only character I cared about in the film and the only aspect of the film that I can fully praise.

The biggest problem with the cast is its star: Sam Worthington. Boy oh boy, Worthington is proving to be one of the blankest stars of our day; a really worthless hero whose two expressions (the squinting "I'm ready for action" serious look and the goofy "I'm boyish and playful" half grin) have outstayed their welcome. Worthington - excuse me, Worthlesston - has had a string of terrible action hero roles and Clash Of The Titans hits a new low for him. Worthington was inconsistently hit-or-miss throughout Terminator Salvation, was lame and emotionless in Avatar, and now in Clash Of The Titans we see the full extent of how terrible of an actor he really is. Sure, it does not help that Worthlesston’s dialogue consists of complaining, questioning, and rousing speeches but good actors have a knack for turning in good performances with from bad scripts by working in subtle characterization and exercising great presence (i.e. Mikkelsen in this film!) – Worthlesston is unable to do this.

And what is with Worthington riding flying things in movies that nobody is supposed to be able to ride? In Clash Of The Titans, the Pegasus (the famous flying horse) is, unsurprisingly, crammed into the story as something no man has ever been able to ride. Now what was it....? I vaguely remember something..... Oh yeah: Worthlesston rode the supposedly unridable thing at the last moment in AVATAR too! What will Worthington ride in the final act of next year's bloated box office disappointment?

Finally, we have come to the Kraken (which, I feel compelled to point out, is not even a part of the Greek mythos but the Norse mythos - and is actually supposed to be a giant squid). Let's face it, seeing the giant Kraken rise out of the sea with an earth-shattering roar in the trailer is what put asses in the seats for Clash Of The Titans around the world. Yeah, the movie looked like crap in general but everyone paid money to see it for one reason, and one reason only: the Kraken.

"REALEASE THE KRAKEN!" Come on! It’s, like, the film’s catchphrase....

Anyway, I am aware of the pressing question that is on the minds of everyone who has not seen the film: Is the amazing CGI Kraken worth it? Is the Kraken seen in Clash Of The Titans such a special effects milestone a-la Jackson’s King Kong that one just has to see it? Nope. The Kraken makes a cameo. *crickets chirp* So, yeah, the Kraken is released.... you know, for a few minutes.... and the audience is left wondering why they paid good money (or overpaid good money if they watched the film in 3-D) to see Clash Of The Titans when the Kraken is hardly in the thing! Talk about false advertising....

After all of the action film destruction and death, the most significant casualty of this big bloody action film will probably be director Louis Leterrier. A promising director prior to this film (with such action film pluses Transporter, Unleashed, and especially The Incredible Hulk), it might be tough for him to recover from Clash Of The Titans, a disappointing and incoherent hodgepodge of the who's who of the Greek mythos.

CBC Rating: 5/10

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