March 25, 2010


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Clash of the Titans (PG-13)
Sam Worthington isn’t blue or possessing of a tail but he’s still all about Taking The Fight To Them in Clash of the Titans, an action movie of cheese so processed it doesn’t melt, it degrades.

The Them in this case is the Greek Gods — Zeus, et al. And other than Zeus (Liam Neeson), the only one who gets to stand out from the crowd is Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Their problem is that they aren’t getting enough love and respect from the humans — a whiney complaint for beings with immortality and superpowers, but this isn’t a very macho group of gods. Apparently, their power (which means who knows what, because nobody’s lightning bolt seems to fizzle) is weakened because they aren’t being properly prayed to. Which, if you think about it, was more or less what Disney said about fairies when Tinker Bell took ill.

Because of this neediness, the gods start attacking humans — specifically Hades slaps around a few soldiers who cut down a giant statue of Zeus. The collateral damage of this showing the people what’s what is that Hades kills the adoptive family of Perseus (Worthington), whom Hades instantly recognizes as Zeus’s son by a human woman. Making Perseus a demigod and uniquely capable of fighting the gods, which he eventually starts doing to prevent all of Argos from being destroyed by an octopus-lobster called The Kraken. The Kraken will attack during the final act of the movie, a hoarse-voiced, crow-like Hades tells an audience of Argos muckety-mucks, if they don’t sacrifice Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos). (Perhaps he says something like “72 hours” rather than “the final act of the movie” but why waste time with details? This is not a movie that is super concerned with your keeping track of subtleties.)

Now, Princess Andromeda is your standard-issue drippy, goody-goody princess who is all “take me so the people don’t suffer.” And the crowds of Argos are all “yes, take her so we don’t suffer.” There’s almost no reason for Perseus to take his journey (other than some vague idea of avenging himself on The Gods) just like there is no reason to attempt to sacrifice Andromeda in the final act when the Kraken has already shown up and started laying waste to Argos. But again, details…

Perseus’ road trip through some of the middling Greek legends — Medusa, some witches — features some occasional attempts at building buddy-comedy moments or wise-cracking sidekick characters. But soon it gives up on that and focuses on handing out some spectacularly lame special effects. And I do mean spectacularly, as in a spectacle that brings in a circus of nonsense and ridiculousness capped off with fireworks of grand failure. Not a thing in this movie looks even remotely real, not even the kind of Holodeck-real that we saw in Avatar. I have no proof that the special effects are mostly children’s plastic monsters and hand-drawn cartoons, but the visuals suggest something like that. In some place you can see all this B-movie-ness in 3-D. The thought almost makes me want to recommend Alice in Wonderland.

But ultimately, Clash of the Titans is not disappointing because of its badness, it’s disappointing that its badness doesn’t go quite far enough. A Ben Kingsley level of diving into camp would have helped make the glum Zeus a more entertaining character and Fiennes as Hades is just all wrong — more like the king of the underworld is a sullen, overlooked middle manager.

I went into Clash of the Titans hoping for grand and wonderful disaster and got only moments of high camp floating in a sea of slightly-less-than-satisfactory. C

Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality. Directed by Louis Leterrier and written by Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi (from the 1981 screenplay by Beverly Cross), Clash of the Titans is an hour and 50 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Warner Bros.