Friday, April 09, 2010

A rather mild 'clash'

“Clash of the Titans,” at this point a somewhat obscure fantasy adventure from 1981, is the latest film to get the remake treatment. The excuse for the existence of this version seems to be that now the film can be bigger, louder and have flashier special effects. As far as these things go, it is passable entertainment.

Like the original “Clash of the Titans,” this plays loose with Greek mythology with man declaring war against the Gods and recruiting the demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) to aid in their battle. A bitter Zeus (Liam Neeson) prodded by his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) threatens to release the terrible beast the kraken unless a human princess is sacrificed. Perseus has a week to discover a way to beat the kraken and save the girl.

While the first “Clash of the Titans” was hardly a masterpiece it had a degree of charm and the stop-motion animation from effects master Ray Harryhausen contained a certain magic. The computer-generated effects in the new version create very little awe or wonder. This stands out particularly in the Medusa sequence, in which the creature seems more fake and cartoonish than the completely animated version from nearly 20 years earlier.

Other times though the effects are quite good. A battle with a group of giant Scorpions does generate some excitement and in this case the visuals seem complete. The kraken's appearance at the end of film is also impressive.

The original also had a better sense of the Gods interacting, but in the new version the only Gods that appear to matter are Zeus and Hades. Neeson and Fiennes could play these roles in their sleep and you get the distinct impression that their work is simply for the paycheck. Fiennes essentially plays Hades exactly the same way he plays Voldemort from the “Harry Potter” series. Even not on their A-game, Neeson and Fiennes bring a bit of credibility to a pretty silly enterprise.

Worthington, who this time last year was a no-name, became a star last year based on his work in “Terminator Salvation” and “Avatar.” He seems to be the go to guy for sci-fi or fantasy adventure right now. His performance goes a long way toward keeping the audience's interest. He has an earnestness that transcends the material.

Other actors help to keep things interesting as well. Mads Mikkelsen (the villain in “Casino Royale”) brings an interesting intensity as one of Perseus' fellow adventurers. Gemma Arterton as the immortal Lo makes for a nice love interest for Perseus. Arterton and Worthington have a training sequence that is fun and sexy.

Overall, it is mildly entertaining. It offers a few chuckles and some decent thrills, but it doesn't capture that elusive “it” factor that makes it something special and memorable. You definitely won't be shouting its praises from Mount Olympus.

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