“Hey guys, I have an original idea—” BANG!
That’s the sound of the last guy with a plan for doing something creative in Hollywood getting shot. Poor guy. He was immediately replaced by 43 accountants, all of whom said it’s best to remake movies, because people will buy tickets to any movie whose name is something they’ve seen before.
OK, OK, I’m teasing Hollywood here. Surely not all remakes are bad. I started a think tank in the newsroom when I got back from the new “Clash of the Titans” (in 3D!) and not one of us could come up with a remake that matched or surpassed the original, but there’s gotta be at least one out there, somewhere. Mind you, it’s not “Clash of the Titans,” although it comes closer than anything else I can think of.
As brainless creative decisions go, this one was actually not bad. The original “Clash of the Titans” in 1981 was an entertaining, if kind of slow-moving, film. Its stop-motion special effects were a bit twee, but it was also cool in the sense that someone went to such great trouble to do it on such a grand scale, especially in the face of the new digital technologies then being invented. It appealed to the monster-loving kid in all of us. And, whatever its flaws, you couldn’t help being charmed by the sheer old-fashioned professionalism of it, scene-chewing British stage actors and all.
This new “Clash” nods toward the original by including some grand British actors, although it doesn’t give them as much script or motivation to work with. It’s all simplified, completely chucking the complicated Thetis plot of the original in favor of a plot where Hades kills Perseus’ father and wants to usurp his brother Zeus as the top god on Mount Olympus. This speeds up the action, maybe too well, because the filmmakers compensate by overextending some of the fight scenes.
The acting isn’t bad, although it’s hardly riveting. Liam Neeson is solid enough as Zeus, but, boy, he’s no Laurence Olivier. Ralph Fiennes should have had an easier way of it here, because I don’t even recall if there was a Hades in the 1981 movie. Unfortunately, his portrayal of the king of the underworld veers very close to his rendition of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies, the main difference being that here, he has a nose. Sam Worthington is grim and determined as Perseus, while Gemma Arterton pretty much just does an impression of Liv Tyler’s elf Arwen in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy to portray Perseus’ love interest Io.
The biggest problem here is not so much the 3D issue — which really isn’t a big enough deal to matter that much — as the computer graphic illustrations (CGI). They’re too pristine, too perfect, too much in focus. By not accounting for the human failings of eye speed and what the eye can actually focus on in a chaotic situation, the CGI obviously sticks out. Indeed, they are so realistic, in the abstract sense, that they seem less real. In real life, things go in and out of focus, and your eyes get distracted and don’t always keep everything in a nicely balanced frame. That’s why the 1981 movie worked. It is photography of real objects, with real flaws, which makes it seem more visceral, more real.
Last, but least, it’s nice to finally have 3D capabilities for movies in Mount Vernon. But don’t expect wonders here. “Clash of the Titans” was filmed as a regular 2D movie, with computer processing adding afterward, which does make things pop up a little more, which is fun, but it isn’t as vivid as something actually filmed in 3D, like “Avatar.”
So, all in all, it’s not horrible. It offers some fun with its action sequences, although its visual effects aren’t spectacular. It’s just mediocre. And for a remake, that’s pretty good.