Clash of the Titans – Theatrical

My wife, daughter and I went to see Clash of the Titans on Friday at Cinebarre. My daughter loves mythology and I love monsters. My wife came along because she loves us. Oh and she also love the milkshakes which Cinebarre serves at your table – I had chocolate, my wife had cookies & cream, and I am not sure which one my daughter had (mint chocolate chip?).

The original Clash of the Titans is currently available on instant Netflix. The remake is only available in theaters so is the remake worth your hard-earned money? In a word,

NO!

PASS: Clash of the Titans (2010) – Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality.

“If he is to save the life of the beautiful Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), the valiant Perseus (Sam Worthington) — born to a god but raised as a man — must lead a team of intrepid warriors on a quest to battle a host of powerful, beastly enemies. This sweeping fantasy epic, a remake of the 1981 hit, also stars Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes as Hades, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Gemma Arterton as Io.”

Where oh where did this go wrong? The original is no classic but is beloved as the last film animated by Ray Harryhausen. The actors in the original are quite wooden but the creatures are absolutely wonderful.

The studios hired hot French action director Louis Leterrier to remake the 1981 film. Previously Leterrier took a good property that had misfired (The Hulk) and remade it into something really cool and worthy of the property (The Incredible Hulk).

The original script, written by Beverley Cross, took many liberties with mythology. The new script, hammered out by 100 blind-folded monkeys on typewriters – wait I mean three separate writers, just chucks mythology and sense out of the window.

Writer Travis Beacham previously wrote Seconds and Dog Days of Summer. Writers Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay previously wrote Aeon Flux and the Tuxedo. I am really not sure who to blame but the writing is dreadful.

I was pretty much cringing through the first half-hour of the film.

When they first show the gods, my wife whispered to me, “Oh my its the gods of the round table”. The gods are shown in full shiny Arthurian-lite battle armor. Not only do they borrow from Arthurian mythos but later in the film, we have Djinn. Never mind that they are not Djinn in any traditional sense of the word.

Someone obviously liked Ralph Fiennes in Harry Potter. Here he plays Hades but they told him not to bother acting. Just play him exactly as if you were Voldemort. That was the sum of his acting direction.

Liam Neeson, normally a wonderful actor, sleepwalks his way through his performance (paycheck please!) but is still of course fun to watch.

I have now seen two (this and Terminator Salvation) of the three tentpole movies that have starred Sam Worthington. I am trying to reserve judgment until I see Avatar but I believe Sam is the new Keanu Reeves. He has no emotional range here at all.

Mads Mikkelson is quite good as Draco and stands out from the rest of the cookie-cutter characters. Sadly he still has to work within the script.

The writing direction for Hades is to take those parts that would normally belong to Poseidon (you know god of the seas, oceans, etc.) and assign them to Hades. So the lord of the Underworld releases the Kraken from the depths of the sea. Hrrrm.

I understand the god/mythology/religion/analogies but they basically portray Hades as Satan throughout the film. All other god roles besides Zeus and Hades are reduced to essentially window dressing.

Apparently Andromeda (Alexa Davos) was not a sufficient love interest for Perseus so we also have Io (Gemma Arterton). In normal Greek mythology Zeus ends up taking Io as a lover and turns her into a heifer to hide her from Hera. She has no part at all in the Perseus story but hey why stop now.

In addition to rewriting mythology, the story makes no sense. Perseus does not live in Argos, is not romantically involved with Andromeda, and apparently does not know anyone in Argos. In spite of this he leads a group of warriors to certain death so that one woman will not have to be sacrificed to save the city.

The action is fun after the first half hour. The Scorpiok fight is quite exciting. These and a few of the performances are the only things that drag this up to the pass level.

The Medusa, which should be the showpiece of the film, looks very plastic-y compared to the rest of the effects. It almost looks as if it the final rendering pass was skipped.

By all accounts AVOID the 3-D version. This film was not made with 3-D in mind – 3D was added in post-production and by all accounts, it is terrible (though I went to the 2D version and do not have firsthand knowledge of the 3D).

People Watch: The other gods have extremely little screen time and if lucky get to utter a single line. Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir on Star Trek DS9) plays Hermes. Danny Huston (Colonel Stryker in Wolverine) plays Poseidon. Izabella Miko (Coyote Ugly) plays Athena.

Fantasy Films – Top Ten List

As this is the end of the year, it seems the time for Top 10 lists. I’ll be doing Top 10 lists of films currently available on instant Netflix. I’ve disqualified all the films that show as expiring on or before 1/1/10. Today is my list of Top 10 fantasy films on instant Netflix (in no particular order though I’ll start with traditional fantasy).

Clash of the Titans

WATCH: Clash of the Titans (1981) – Rated PG.

Okay I admit this list is going to be dominated by Ray Harryhausen. The Clash of the Titans remake is slated to be released early next year and looks to be a lot of fun. Right now though you can watch the original for free. It’s worth it just for the Medusa.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

WATCH: The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – Rated G

Harryhausen’s first color feature is an absolute masterpiece. This is my 2nd favorite Harryhausen movie behind only Jason and the Argonauts. The villain is nefarious, the damsel is alluring and in distress, and the hero is not as wooden as the next two Sinbads.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

WATCH: The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) – Rated G.

While Tom Baker (Doctor Who) is a hoot as the villain and the Kali fight is a wonderful highlight, I did not like this one as much as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (it is still excellent though).

Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

WATCH: Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) – Rated G

Harryhausen’s final Sinbad film stars Patrick Wayne (son of John), Taryn Power (daughter of Tyrone), Patrick Troughton, and the lovely Jane Seymour. The wondrous Harryhausen creations include skeleton creatures, a baboon, a troglodyte, a tiger and more.

Conan the Barbarian

WATCH: Conan the Barbarian (1982) – Rated R

This is one of the roles Arnold was born to play (or perhaps sculpted would be a better term). Conan is grand and bloody as befits Robert E. Howard’s source material. The film is flawed but it is so darned manly.

Excalibur

WATCH: Excalibur (1981) – Rated R.

Excalibur features incredible scene-stealing performances from Nicol Williamson as Merlin and Helen Mirren as Morgana. It also features mounted armored combat in rich lush forests. John Boorman’s compositions are wonderful and there are early roles from Patrick Stewart, Gabriel Byrne, and Liam Neeson.

The Princess Bride

WATCH: The Princess Bride (1987) – Rated PG for adult language and violence.

The Princess Bride is quite simply one of the best, most heartfelt movies ever made. The next time your loved one asks for something, simply reply “As you wish”.

Krull

WATCH: Krull (1983) – Rated PG for violence.

This film is all over the place. It is definitely a fantasy but the enemy are space aliens. It aims for an adult audience but there is a child protagonist and lots of cute animals for the kids. The leads are a little wooden but Freddie Jones, Francesca Annis, and Bernard Bresslaw are wonderful in secondary roles. Look for Liam Neeson in another early role.

Ghost

WATCH: Ghost (1990) – Rated PG-13.

Alrighty, plot-wise this is supernatural and not fantasy but thematically this is definitely a fantasy. It is also a romance and to maintain my standing as a man, I’m not having a Top Ten Romance list. Unlike The Princess Bride, do not try telling your loved one “ditto” after watching this film. Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg are all magnificent in this movie

Groundhog Day

WATCH: Groundhog Day (1993) – Rated PG.

Here is another film that is thematically fantasy romance while being a comedy plot-wise. Bill Murray is hysterical but also oddly vulnerable as a cynical weatherman. Andie McDowell is wonderful as his producer and Chris Elliott is quite funny as the cameraman.

Ray Harryhausen

THE visual effects maestro when I was growing up, his wizardry is still gorgeous today. Today’s CGI can range from laughably bad (almost any movie on the Sci-Fi – oops Syfy channel) to absolutely gorgeous (Sin City). Yes computers can do in hours what took him weeks to accomplish but his artistry is still unsurpassed. He was inspired by Willis O’Brien’s King Kong and worked with him on Mighty Joe Young. Sadly as Ray Harryhausen is neither an actor (cameos aside) nor a director, Netflix search engine isn’t helpful. Netflix has three of his films currently available on instant play.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

1.  The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) – “The dauntless Sinbad (Kerwin Mathews) heads to the island of Colossa, where only the egg of a giant bird can restore a pea-sized princess (Kathryn Grant) to normal size. The evil magician Sokurah (Torin Thatcher) accompanies him — with ulterior motives to retrieve a lamp and genie (Richard Eyer) he once lost. But before the group can return home, they must conquer a landscape of fantastic beasts, including a Cyclops that hungers for human flesh”

Harryhausen’s first color feature is an absolute masterpiece. This is my 2nd favorite Harryhausen movie behind only Jason and the Argonauts. The villain is nefarious, the damsel is alluring and in distress, and the hero is not as wooden as the next two Sinbads.

The Golden Voyage of Sinbad

 

2. The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974) – “John Phillip Law stars as the legendary sailor who finds a talisman and sets sail with his crew for an uncharted island. With a beautiful slave girl in tow, Sinbad takes on evil sorcerer Koura (Tom Baker), who wants Sinbad’s golden talisman to complete a spell. Once on the island, Sinbad and crew must battle a six-armed figure of Kali (courtesy of special-effects master Ray Harryhausen), an enraged Cyclops centaur and a winged griffin”

While Tom Baker (Doctor Who) is a hoot as the villain and the Kali fight is a wonderful highlight, I did not like this one as much as The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (it is still excellent though).

Clash of the Titans

3. Clash of the Titans (1981) – “This epic mythological adventure stars Harry Hamlin as Perseus, son of Zeus (Laurence Olivier), who embarks on a series of perilous quests in the hopes of rescuing Princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker) and winning the keys to the kingdom of Joppa. With winged horse Pegasus as his steed, Perseus must answer vexing riddles, capture the head of Medusa and slay a ravenous sea monster. Burgess Meredith and Ursula Andress co-star in this classic tale”

The wonderful cast also includes Maggie Smith, Claire Bloom, Sian Phillips, and Flora Robson but they seem strangely wooden compared to Harryhausen’s creations. Ironically Flora Robson played Livia in Charles Laughton’s unfinished I, Claudius (1937) while Sian Phillips played Livia in the BBC miniseries. While there are many wonderful creations on display here, Ray’s Medusa is an absolute marvel.