Scott and Dan from the "Geek in the City" podcast were sitting next to me at the screening of Clash of the Titans I caught conducting a brilliant experiment. Scott watched the film normally with the rest of us, while Dan drowned out the soundtrack using an iPod loaded with his favorite metal play-list. Scott saw what the rest of us did: a passionless, pointless exercise in lazy, spoon fed bullshit. However, according to Dan, if you arm yourself with headphones and enough Iron Maiden to make your ears want to fight each other, you get the most epic metal video ever put on film. While I didn't have the foresight to bring my own soundtrack canceling apparatus, in hindsight Clash of the Titans almost makes more sense viewed as a collection of moving metal-album cover-art, made specifically for Iron Maiden to wail over.
Like this, but moving ... and a little bit gayer.
The plot is a pretty straight forward account of Perseus (Sam Worthington), the bastard son of Zeus (Liam Neeson). When mankind finally gets sick of being dicked around by 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) tweak humanity's nipples via a Kraken attack--just as a little reminder to keep those tributes rolling 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.
"Waitaminute, this isn't Sparta..."
It's an OK plot, but there's nothing added to it. Characters are delineated by their names (if we ever get them) and nothing else. Conversations play like rough drafts that never got rewritten. It's like 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 fan service is lazy: It's as if the director said, "We need to do the Bubo thing. Sam, get the robot owl out of the prop chest. OK, wave it around. OK, drop it back in the box. Great, cut, print!"
Sometimes directing looks like waiting for a check to clear
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 Ray Harryhausen's charming stop-motion is adequate, but the 3D effects applied in post-production are so shoddy, I'd actually recommend trading blurriness for the flickering and shimmering you'll get with your glasses on.
"Watch out for that cliche! It's huge!"
It's a charmless, gritty film; a poor, aesthetic choice considering how inherently goofy the source material is. The original was ridiculous, 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 appears to have given enough of a shit to realize that.
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. They celebrate the cognitive act of a single synapse firing like they figured out the end of The Usual Suspects within the first three 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 it's 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 an enormous turd. To release the Kraken, if you will.
More like Splash in the Toilet, amiright?
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 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.
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