>I saw Clash of the Titans today. Simply googling that title further bolstered my already formed thrust for this review. Gentle Giant John Meo (I don’t know if John Meo is a gentle giant. I don’t know anything about John Meo) suggests that it will be a much-hyped bore; he apparently draws this opinion in part from the esteemed Doug Cooper (Don’t know anything about the Dougster either). Earlier today I was speaking with my boss and asked if she planned to see the film; she’s in a similar situation to that of my own lovely lady in that she’s been so long attached to a nerd it’s caused her own recessive nerdity to express itself fully. My boss said she’d heard the movie was cheesy. Really, really cheesy. This is not to say she wasn’t going to see it, but it did impact the likelihood of her seeing it in the theaters. Later, another coworker popped by the office (It used to be her office, but she moved down the hall and it’s certainly not my office, hence “the” office.) and when I mentioned my ever-increasing excitement to see the film she said it had received “mixed reviews.” I’m pretty sure that was a diplomatic way of saying that she’d heard it sucks.
People of the world, heed my words: Clash of the Titans does not suck. I try to refrain from being that guy who says “You’re just watching it wrong,” but (Like anyone who starts a sentence by saying “I try to refrain from x”) if you think Clash sucks, you are watching it wrong. You are watching it with unwarranted, unreasonable, unrealistic, or undeserved expectations. And, honestly, that’s fine. The movie is already made. It already exists, in gorgeous 3-dimensional sexy. If the flick bombs in the theaters it will simply reach DVD, and my collection, that much faster.
Real talk folks: Clash is kind of cheesy, but so is mythology. That is why mythology is awesome. Dudes are jumping onto the backs of giant monsters and stabbing them with enchanted dinnerware; ladies are beguiling men and magic-ing them into bestial forms; completely impractical pieces of metallic fruit drive entire countries to war. The Trojan War? Sex and the City-style cat fight. Do the characters in Sex and the City fight? I don’t know, I’ve never watched the show and really can’t back that comparison up. But mythology=cheese, and sometimes even camp, and that’s a glorious and beautiful thing. It’s a major part of why we even remember this stuff. So in Clash, when Perseus learns that Zeus slipped a magic roofie to his mom and made baby times, that’s what the Greeks say happened. Granted, Perseus’s mother was king Acrisius’s daughter, not his wife, and Big A Little c wasn’t besieging Olympus at the time, and Zeus didn’t appear as a copy of the king and then flash a little butt at the king when he stormed into the chamber after the deed was done; but is that somehow cheesier than Zeus appearing to Danae as a shower of gold? I submit to the reader that it is not. The change of moving Calibos’s identity from suitor-to-Andromeda to pissed-off-king is actually less cheesy, since it removes a tangled and somewhat wearisome romantic subplot.
As for the rest of the plot, the only really glaring change is the addition of those fellows you may have seen in the trailers, standing around in robes and having fewer than five fingers while they point at scorpions. I won’t go into their role in order to avoid spoilers, but I will make the claim that any movie already including giant sea monsters, giant scorpions, and giant snakes with the torsos of women attached where their head would be-with snakes attached to where the woman’s hair would be-really can’t be rendered more ridiculous(ly awesome) with the addition of some scaled desert-dwelling-dudes. There is arguably a larger alteration to the motivation behind the plot, but it remains “gods be capricious and petty, yo.” As for Perseus’s involvement, as much as I proudly wave the flag of a romantic I can definitely buy his character’s current motivation more easily than
This is not to say that the new Clash is simply a tired retread of the classic original. Clash has several new and delightful things going for it. The first is Gemma Arterton. Gemma is fast becoming one of “my” people, and I hope she keeps it up. What this means is that Gemma keeps showing up in awesome films that I want to see, and is hopefully approaching the point where her willingness to be involved in a project helps get it the green light, thus creating more films I want to see. In this she’s like a more (well, equally) attractive Orlando Bloom circa early 2000s; they’ve even both starred in movies with Liam Neeson and magic desert people! Gemma portrays the immortal Io, whose mythology for the film does not involve being turned into a magic cow and chased by a demon fly. Again readers, I ask you, is it possible for the background she does receive-lady who doesn’t get old-to be any cheesier than her mythological backgrounds? Would there be any great cinematic gain to remaining more faithful to the original plot for the character? I submit that, while Gemma could voice a cow beautifully, there is not.
The other major victory for the new Clash is the advancement in our special effects and combat choreography since the 1981 version. I mean no disrespect to Dominaar Harryhausen, who was and is a man of magic. His films shaped my childhood, my imagination, and my entertainment predilections. However, you can love caramel and dark chocolate; as much as I enjoyed the incredible scene where Calibos summons giant scorpions in the first film, the scorpions in the 2010 version are bigger, meaner, faster, and somehow more believable. What ultimately happens to them is ridiculous, and I will make neither excuses nor apologies for it because it is also awesome. The Kraken has been prominently featured in most of the trailers and commercials, so it’s not really necessary to say much about it; I assume you’ve seen it and can draw your own conclusions. Calibos is also awesome; he was always my favorite part of the original, and this version is much more powerful and sinister. The only complaint I raise is that he looks so much like New Mickey Rourke that it’s criminal they didn’t just cast him in the role.
However, I do want to say a few words about Medusa. I’ve seen countless Medusae in my life, particularly as a fan of fantasy films, Dungeons and Dragons, Magic: the Gathering, and video games across all platforms. I battled my first Medusa in a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System; I decapitated scores of the creatures in the various God of War games. Clash of the Titans has the best Medusa I have ever seen. It’s not just that they went for a beautiful face, rather than the equally popular serpent-skinned face. This is important, though, because I’ve always felt that the idea that the Medusa is so hideous she kills with her gaze but still manages to be beautiful is the most chilling part of the creature. However, Clash also does a phenomenal job of conveying Medusa’s size and heft. Her tail is huge, thick, and agile, and the stinger at the end of the rattle is the sort of unnecessary yet totally like the Greek Gods touch I cherish. After all, these are the folks who gave us the Hydra (It’s like a snake, but it keeps growing new heads!), the Chimera (You know what’s scary? Take a big lion and give it a snake for a tail. And then make it breathe fire. And then? Then give it an extra goat’s head for no reason.), and the Sphinx (Let’s take another lion, right? Lions are cool. Then, let’s stick a lady where its head should be, and give her wings, and make her really smart.). There’s absolutely no reason that their giant super-archer petrifying-gaze snake lady wouldn’t have a rattle with a poison stinger on the end.
Clash of the Titans isn’t a movie about character development, emotional growth, or successful family dynamics. If you purchase your ticket expecting these things, you will be disappointed. However, I would challenge you to name the last 3-D blockbuster to focus on those themes. Or the last Greek myth. The movie is an excellent spectacle, an action-filled orgy of strutting about and hitting things with other things. If none of that sounds appealing to you, then there’s really no reason whatsoever for you to see it. If those things do appeal to you, you probably bought a ticket already.