Twenty nine years ago, a somewhat corny cult classic Greek mythology film named Clash Of The Titans debuted. With limited resources to make the best possible effects, being that this was in 1981, the creative minds behind the film did well to create one of the many memorable fantasy films of the decade. Special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen had made the film’s iconic creatures, like the Kraken featured in its climax, and not surprisingly, someone in Hollywood realized the movie could make a pretty impressive adventure epic three decades later. With a unique take on the tale, a big budget for special effects, and a strong cast, the 2010 remake of Clash Of The Titans turned out to be a rather inspired idea.
It’s obvious that most remakes are done to either launch or relaunch a franchise, or just cash in on an otherwise dated concept, and most remakes don’t fair very well in comparison to their originals. But here, it seems special care was taken in the casting and direction to keep a faithful tone in relation to the original and offer a solid ensemble of actors to carry it over the finish line. Avatar and Terminator: Salvation star Sam Worthington stars here as Perseus, our demigod hero who sets out to stop a fearsome beast known as the Kraken from destroying a city called Argos. The entire story is based around Greek mythology, setting the world in a time and place where Greek gods ruled the Earth. It’s entertaining fiction if you can view it as such, but it’s easy to draw some similarities to the Christian faith when you hear Zeus and Hades arguing about the value of man or hear the half-man/half-god Perseus referred to as the people’s savior. It’s fine on a completely fantastical level, as long as you can view it with the mindset that it’s entirely fairytale storytelling. The film also doesn’t really take itself too seriously, so that tends to help in that respect.
The 1981 Clash and the 2010 Clash differ especially when it comes to one major plot difference. Sam Worthington has said publicly that he pushed to have the character Perseus want to carry out his mission as a human, not as a demigod. While the 1981 Perseus fully embraced his “destiny,” and chose to use a sword, helmet, and shield given to him by “the gods,” our 2010 Perseus refuses to take any help from above, wanting to forsake his origin due to their behavior. While the Greek gods possess god-like powers and abilities, they’re far from flawless, and clashing egos often spark some of the most hideous events. Zeus unleashes his evil brother Hades on Argos to try to win back their devotion, while Hades has every intention to overthrow his brother’s throne. You can understand why Perseus might want to separate himself from them. However, because of this, a great emphasis is placed on the mortality of man and trying to accomplish the impossible on our own. It’s a bit against the Christian faith belief of relying on Christ for strength, but given the Greek mythology setting, it feels more passable in Clash as fiction. I did miss seeing Perseus wield the special shield and helmet, but this plot change gave the movie a unique originality to separate it from its predecessor. Another significant change came in the romantic aspect. Instead of Perseus feeling drawn to Andromeda and setting out on his great quest to save her, he’s on this trip solely for revenge this time. And a new character named Io (well-performed by Quantum of Solace’s Gemma Arterton) steps in as sort of a lifelong protector to Perseus.
With Worthington having last been seen in the box office record-breaker Avatar, I’m sure it’ll be difficult for some to see him as anyone but Jake Sully in that film (he even sports a similar hair style). However, Worthington does a good job bringing a balance of emotions to Perseus, although most of it is motivated by anger and revenge for the loss of his family. Still, he lacks a bit of the charm a lead like his needs to really carry a blockbuster like this one. Much of the look and feel of the film reminded me somewhat of 1999’s The Mummy remake, which also relied on corny, campy humor to ease the horror elements of the plot. However, The Mummy was substantially more humorous and goofy at times, while this Clash Of The Titans even dismisses the corny metallic owl from the original in an attempt to play the story much more straight. Aside from that, Worthington is a success in the lead, and is surrounded by very likable supporting characters, including Casino Royale villain Mads Mikkelsen as Draco, who brings enough of that intensity to the role that he’s so good at, while stepping into the boots of a good-guy for a change. Perseus’ entourage on his quest is a strong one, and they not only help make the adventure more fun to watch, but they give you reason to care about who makes it out of Medusa’s lair… and who does not.
As a full-on action epic, director Louis Leterrier, who is probably most known for his 2008 reimagining of the Hulk franchise, loads Clash up with a great deal of action and violence. There is a wealth of creepy and completely ugly creatures and monsters included within Clash Of The Titans to keep it rather intense. From the virtually faceless Stygian Witches to the snake-headed, fang-bearing Medusa, to the giant scorpions or the hideously disfigured Acrisius, there’s plenty of creepy characters here (much like the 1981 original). On top of that, the actual violence gets a bit graphic at times. Acrisius himself is mostly scarred and grotesque, and when we first see him in action, he’s literally tearing a person in half! It’s shown mercifully quick, with a splash of blood tipping you off to what just happened, but it’s that kind of shocking violence you’re liable to find in Leterrier’s Clash. We see Acrisius’s hand get lopped off and soon morph into a scorpion, while we see a bloody, relatively gross wound on a person’s arm several times. Lastly, a man burns his arm purposefully in a fire and we briefly see that, while an assortment of other violence includes characters being stabbed, run through with a sword, turned to stone and shattering, etc. This is NOT a children’s film and those who dislike creature features and intense action should surely pass on Clash. When it comes to language, Perseus says “h*ll” and “b*tch” (referring to Medusa) in one scene, while he’s referred to as a “b*stard son of a god” by a soldier in another. Other than that, there’s no blasphemy or any other stronger language.
While this Clash Of The Titans remake is boasting being presented in 3D, we opted for an earlier 2D showing of the film. The movie was not shot in 3D, therefore it had to be artificially converted to 3D in post-production (which actually delayed the release of the movie a week or two), so this isn’t a feature that seems to really need it. And I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything by seeing it in 2D. The special effects range from decent to fantastic, with the most impressive renderings being the large scorpions and, of course, the Kraken. The Pegasus flying horses are also so incredibly done you’ll believe they could actually exist. Also, it’s obvious Leterrier chose to film a lot of the sequences on physical sets, not just adding in digital backgrounds, and it added a lot to grounding the action in a sort of fantastical reality. Instead of the recent Alice In Wonderland where it seemed everything after Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole was extremely synthetic, Leterrier managed to film some incredible landscapes for epic sweeping shots and commission the building of some wonderful set pieces. In the end, it felt epic without seeming too forced, and it brought a lot to the film. Where things faultered a bit, however, was in the entirely-CGI presentation of Medusa. Sure she was completely stop-motion in the 1981 version, but she looked much too synthetic here. A few shots were decent, but overall, she reminded me of a next-gen disappointment of the Scorpion King from The Mummy Returns. Not quite as bad, mind you, but she was far too obviously CG. In the recent Percy Jackson and the Olympians film, I thought the execution of actress Uma Thurman with a digital head of snakes for hair was next to brilliantly done. Something like that might have been a better approach here.
All in all, fans of the original may or may not appreciate the liberties taken to make this remake something all its own, but it does pay decent homage to its predecessor despite the major differences. The acting is strong, the effects are well done, and there’s plenty of over-the-top action and adventure for anyone who can appreciate such genre films. If you’re looking for something more serious and deeper than just an entertaining popcorn film, the 2010 take on Clash Of The Titans won’t be your cup of tea. For the rest of the adventure seekers, you’d do pretty well to check out this Clash Of The Titans… just heed the warnings about violence and surely don’t take the kids to this one.