Clash of the Titans Movie Review
Testosterone meets Greek mythology this weekend in Clash of the Titans, a dumb-downed action epic wannabe that, despite plodding narrative, poor character development and a story that hardly lives up to its title, manages to sustain a mild level of entertainment.
Clash of the Titans is more like a light shoving match between two large men: there's potential for a good fight, but a lack of heavy blows makes it instantly forgettable. The movie, which stars Sam Worthington as demigod Perseus and Liam Neeson as his father Zeus, clearly wants to be an epic, but doesn't try very hard. In the film, Perseus, after his adopted family is killed by Hades (Ralph Fiennes, earning some cash in between the Harry Potter films), vows revenge - and then gets his chance just a few days later when he sets out on an odyssey to save the city of Argos from the wrath of the gods and, more specifically, Hades' unstoppable creature the Kraken.
Screenwriters Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, working off the 1981 Desmond Davis original, apparently felt that political infighting between the Gods wasn't interesting enough - or that us meager mortals couldn't relate to them enough - so the movie is much more of a revenge tale, with the "clash of the titans" taking a back seat to random action scenes. Other than Zeus and Hades, none of the gods or goddesses get much more than a word or two edgewise, and their feud is more of an afterthought than the movie's driving factor.
Despite some decent special effects (I watched the movie in 2D, having purposely stayed clear of the purported awful 3D effects and their higher price tag), Clash of the Titans is nearly conquered by its inadequate screenplay. No one's expecting Schindler's List from the trio, but the film is completely off balance, with a surprisingly boring first half and an entertaining but uninspiring second half.
The first half wouldn't have been so boring had the writers spent some time developing their characters. Perseus, of course, is the most developed of them all, but he takes everything in stride just a little too much. Having grown up as a poor fisherman with no sense of the gods or that he himself is one, he never experiences a sense of awe or shock at the things he's seeing. He goes from fisherman to sword-wielding hero in one, one-minute training session, and that's as much as the movie cares to show his development and conversion from everyman to demigod.
Worthington himself, who apparently has the best agent in the world, is fine, but poor character development really takes its toll on the rest of the cast. Neeson, who has the look of Zeus, fails to bring a god-of-the-gods-commanding presence to the film. He gives Hades the right to terrorize humanity without any thought to the consequences, and without more exploration into the matter, comes off as downright dimwitted. Speaking of Hades, Fiennes delivers an almost goofy performance. Fiennes is much creepier and intimidating as fetal-stage Voldemort in The Goblet of Fire than he is at any point in Clash of the Titans.
None of the other gods are important - unless you count the uninspiring CGI-made Medussa - and the rest of the humans, even the ones given proper screen time, are underdeveloped. The entire motivation for the story is to save the city Argos without sacrificing beautiful princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), but the movie instead dwells on a chemistry-free quasi-romance between Perseus and personality-devoid narrator Io (played by Gemma Arterton, who will next appear as a lead in Prince of Persia). Perseus' fellow soldiers are completely underdeveloped, which means they can be killed one by one while allowing the audience a chance to not give a damn.
Still, despite all this, Clash of the Titans is mildly entertaining, thanks to just enough action scenes to string the shaky plot along. Louis Leterrier, who directed the better Hulk movie a year or two back, has made the film I expected it to be: a forgettable wannabe epic that at least, thankfully, meets expectations as just that. The action scenes are neither memorable nor poorly done, big enough while hardly grand.
Clash of the Titans would have been a lot better with a well-written screenplay and a director who treats the material as awe-inspiring - versus "it is what it is" - but it still offers enough action and excitement to make it a worthy rental.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.