Review – Clash of the Titans

Originally Posted at 04/03/10

I had two friends at the press screening for Clash of the Titans who conducted a genius experiment: one watched the film normally, the other drowned out the soundtrack using an iPod loaded with his favorite metal playlist. The result? Clash of the Titans works, but only as a mindless, pretty succession of images for Iron Maiden to wail over. It’s a moving slideshow of wicked album art. As a movie, Titans is a passionless, pointless exercise in lazy, lowest-common-denominator spoon feeding. Arm yourself with headphones, should you dare, and avoid the 3D glasses if at all possible.

Sam Worthington is Perseus, the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson.) When mankind finally gets sick of being dicked around by capricious gods wearing what looks like chromed out Michelin Man body-armor, they rise up. Zeus gets offended and agrees to let his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes, looking more like Hawk from Buck Rogers) tweak humanity’s nipples via Kraken attack, to remind them that Zeus is badass, so keep them prayers rollin in. Mankind puts its faith in Perseus instead, and accompanied by nondescript meatpuppets wearing concept art from 300, he sets out to kill Hades’ pet before it can destroy his city.

This sounds like a competent plot. Unfortunately, there is nothing added to it. Characters are delineated by their names (if we ever get them) and almost nothing else. Conversations play like rough drafts that never got rewritten, as if the writers watched Soderbergh’s “Schizopolis” but didn’t get the joke. The movie’s attempts at comedy are mostly just set-ups with halfhearted shrugs as punchlines. Even the fanservice is lazy: It’s as if the director said “We need to do the Bubo thing. Sam, pick up this robot owl out of this prop chest. Okay, wave it around. Okay, drop it back in the box. Great, cut, print!”

Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Incredible Hulk) was hired because he’s supposed to know how to do action. But in Titans, scenes just sort of happen, with no buildup or sense of progression. When fights do break out, they’re shot incoherently. The CGI that replaces Harryhausen’s charming stop-motion is adequate, which is more than can be said for the 3D effect applied in post-production, most of which is so shoddy I bet most viewers will trade the glasses-off blurriness for the glasses-on flickering and shimmering.

It’s a charmless, dour film, a poor aesthetic choice considering how inherently goofy the source material is. The original was pandering pap, but it knew it and camped it up accordingly. Laurence Olivier sold the shit he was shoveling. Burgess Meredith gnawed at the sets like a jaundiced goat. Neeson just looks vaguely grumpy, Fiennes is doing a bad David Warner impersonation, and Worthington emotes like a dented bowling ball. Perseus could have a pulse, and Zeus could be the roaring, angry lion that Neeson is very good at unleashing, but nobody behind the scenes could have possibly wanted such a thing, otherwise they wouldn’t have hired Worthington to “act” in it, or Leterrier to shoot it.

It’s a movie made for an audience that Hollywood money-crunchers have been trying to cultivate for a very long time; an audience who doesn’t see the value in discerning taste, egged on by filmmakers such as Kevin Smith, who admitted he makes films that aspire to nothing more than simple retardation, and if you watch them expecting more, you’re doing it wrong. This audience considers the concepts of “Fun” and “Quality” to be mutually exclusive. This audience has no use for depth, and has degraded the act of analysis to the point where simple observation is celebrated as competent storytelling. It treats the cognitive act of a single synapse firing as if you figured out the end of “The Usual Suspects” within the first 3 minutes.

I don’t think wanting your entertainment to actually try fulfilling its potential is asking too much. “Jackass: The Movie” is profoundly dumb, but its smart about its stupidity, and tries to be the best lunatic shitshow it can be. Zucker/Abrahms/Zucker took goofy idiocy in Airplane and The Naked Gun and stacked gags on top of each other like gifted architects building comedy skyscrapers. Titans keeps setting up moments that could become something more than blandly described plot-points, and then shrugs and decides not to. Nobody involved is trying to do anything, except Worthington, who looks like he’s trying to pinch off a very big turd. To release the Kraken, if you will. I think he succeeded, if the quality of the film is any indication.

The Clash of the Titans remake is less a movie than it is a testament to the pursuit of aggressive mediocrity. For as shitty as the original was — and lets not be blinded by nostalgia and a plump fanboy boner for Ray Harryhausen, it was a shitty movie — at least you got the sense the people in that fictional world cared about living in it, and the people behind the scenes were trying for something resembling vibrancy. They failed more often than not, but at least they tried. This is film by (comatose) committee, made with all the passion of a clockwatching temp, splattering half-ass effects against a smeared 3D sheen, applied as skillfully as a tweeker with a roll of saran wrap.

Published in: on 12/31/2010 at 1:22 am  Comments Off on Review – Clash of the Titans  
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