“Clash of the Titans” A Failure to Merge

By Michael S. Goldberger, film critic

One of the six, rudely jabbering girls who sat in front of me during a recent showing of director Louis Leterrier’s “Clash of the Titans” apparently favored whatever was playing on her little cell phone to the 3-D bombast up on the giant screen. While I agree with her implicit critique of the film, I take umbrage with how she exhibited her displeasure.

It was difficult enough trying to follow this murky gobbledygook, a bleak amalgam of the myth of Perseus and a typical, Hollywood, sword and sandal epic. Gee, the tiny speakers on that phone are powerful. But we trudged on, star-crossed, mere mortal audience that we were, victims of the babbling, six-headed goddess that ruled the dark.

Oh that the 3-D might have transported our meek numbers to the fantasy being perpetrated. But this, too, was distracting. Those glasses and the gimmick for gimmick’s sake are wearing out their welcome. Enough already with everything being shoved before us diorama style and eclipsing the story. Discover the 4th dimension and impress me.

Fact is, this remake of the 1981 semi-cult classic, which featured f/x genius Ray Harryhausen’s last filmic effort, was to be released in plain 2-D. But it was reworked as an afterthought, with the result that not much about it pops out at you. Plus, only special teachers can breathe life into complex Greek myths. Mr. Leterrier is not one of them.

But look, that’s Liam Neeson as Zeus and Pete Postlethwaite as the fisherman who scoops baby Perseus out of the sea. So unless it was just a payday, someone obviously took the film seriously. The two acquit themselves well as Perseus’s fathers: Neeson as his biological dad by the mortal princess Danaë; Postlethwaite as Spyros, who raises him.

The demigod, played just OK by Sam Worthington, is soon torn between two worlds, each demanding his fealty. Ironic is the inherent metaphor: the oldest stories ever told delivered in a cutting edge motif arrogantly claiming preeminence. Too bad the director couldn’t coalesce the two realms. But then he was beset with pleasing several masters.

There are the diehard fans of the original; the three or four curious scholars of myth who might venture into the theater on an academic lark; and the great unwashed, just seeking some entertainment. Perhaps only those aforementioned little chatterers—who it seemed couldn’t care less what was being displayed on the screen—avoided disappointment.

Had they been paying attention, they would soon be apprised of the discord between the gods and man. Zeus bemoans the state of the world below him, noting that the only reason he created humankind in the first place was to bask in their adulation. But his poll numbers are down, a fact snidely brought to his attention by Hades.

The god of the underworld, portrayed with fitting fire and brimstone by Ralph Fiennes, obnoxiously reminds his troubled brother that he, on the other hand, thrives on man’s fears. Hence, why not just destroy the ungrateful louts? He wheedles an entente cordiale with his sibling, but the jealous gatekeeper to Hell really wants to usurp him.

Meanwhile, Mr. Worthington’s Perseus, a shot ‘n’ mead sort who initially doesn’t give much thought to his noble heritage, has only one goal: avenge the death of his adoptive pater. The Argives (folks from Argos), who first imprison the lad as a suspected pawn of the gods, ultimately decide he might be helpful to them.

You see, Hades is hellbent on destroying the city by using the Kraken, a weapon of mass destruction he created. When Perseus, heretofore a fisherman and no warrior, realizes that he and the Argives have a common enemy, he allows himself to be impressed in their service. Still, there is no truth in the myth that he exhorts, “Let’s get Kraken.”

The labyrinthine script, comprised mostly of battling all manner of obstacle in the search for Medusa (who is crucial to Perseus’s mission), segues in more directions than that Gorgon’s hairdo. Along the way, pretty Io aids our hero, with occasional help from Zeus. Politics aside, the big guy sure would like the kid to join the family business on Olympus.

Oddly, despite all the hi-tech tinsel, the result is drab and plodding. As it only loosely follows its mythical origin, a libretto would be in order. But then you’d need a flashlight. And assuming you were aware of your fellow viewers’ existence, that it might annoy them as they tried to view “Clash of the Titans” could conflict with your principles.

“Clash of the Titans,” rated PG-13, is a Warner Bros. Pictures release directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. Running time: 118 minutes

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