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Movie Review: Clash of the Titans (2010)

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It's been a while since I've brushed the dust off the works of Homer or Hesiod, but I don't recall so many exclamation marks in the text. According to Clash of the Titans, though, everyone of the era punctuated every word with a number of the marks, even when they whispered.

A sampling:

Spyros: “One day!! Somebody’s got to make a stand!!! One day!! Somebody’s got to say ‘Enough!!!!”

Zeus: “This is the end!!!!”
Perseus: “This is just the START!!!!!”

Hades: “I have watched from the underworld… it is time for the mortals to pay!!!!”

Harry Hamlin: “Why hast thou forsaken me with nary a cameo in this film?!!!!!!!!!!”

So perhaps the last one was not included, but it’s as though the makers of Titans are subscribing to the 300 regulations of line delivery, insisting every conversation escalate into a battle cry and every word be heard three towns over.

This may have been effective if there was even a hint at dramatic build-up in any scene. But director Louis Leterrier does not want to waste time with “feelings” or “development.” No, in his update of the 1981 camp sword-and-sandal flick he’s happier suiting up and plunging us directly into combat after combat after combat.

It’s a tiring, mirthless slog that is helped none by lead Sam (Avatar) Worthington, who takes these Homeric high jinx so damn seriously. Look, dude, you are in a film with giant scorpions, a lady with snakes for dreadlocks and Liam Neeson looking like a super shiny member of the KISS Army. Take notes from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and have some fun with it.

This update pulls the basic elements of the first film together – Perseus (Worthington) realizes he’s half-man, half-god and decides to confront daddy, Zeus (Neeson), about his years as an absentee father. Along his journey he meets a nest of oversized scorpions, the Stygian Witches, the mutated Calibus, Medusa, Pegasus, and, of course, the Kraken (which is actually of Norse mythology, but that’s hardly a nit to pick in this film).

Leterrier’s idea of updating the adventure was not only to merely reshuffle the chronology of Perseus’ meeting with these beasties along the way, but also to make the film darker. I do not mean that in a thematic sense (although there is but one light moment in the film’s entirety) but visually. This film stages its sequences with such underlit sets and jagged editing that much of the battle sequences are indecipherable as who the victors are. One thing is for sure, it sure ain’t the audience.

While it’s somewhat fun to see old pros like Neeson and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades) hiss, spit and shout at one another, their scenes together are far too brief and allow them very little exchange. Even the film's oft-quoted line: "Release the Kraken!!! (I honestly cannot recall how loud he was, so I might be missing an exclamation mark or two), is done without a pregnant pause and shouted much like an angry parent yelling for this child to let the dog out.

And while on the subject of children, perhaps a better cinematic Grecian formula is Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which dealt with the same subject matter (finding out dad’s a god, mom’s a human). Granted, the humor was stretched, but there was a sense of adventure and wonder that Clash of the Titans so desperately lacks.

Perhaps the entire opinion of Titans could change with an added dimension, as I witnessed it (deliberately) in 2-D. The film was originally shot in this format, then sent to be retinkered a few months ago to be marketed in 3-D. From what I have heard, adding that extra “D” is merely like adding another exclamation mark on the end of a line that already has five.

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