Clash of the Titans or more appropriately – “Clash of the Remake”

May 04, 2010 by Rick Ray

The memorable line from the magical film “Field of Dreams,” "If you build it, he will come," has been distorted by every major studio, producer and director, who have and are still fixated on remaking and revisiting classic works of cinema and tarnishing them, with their not-so-original mantra – “If we just remake it, they will come.”

There are almost three decades in-between Ray Harryhausen’s (producer / creator of visual effects) 1981 original fantasy cult-classic, Clash of the Titans, and the newly released – CGI, (computer-generated-imagery) 3-D version remake of “Clash of the Titans.” Both Warner Bros. and director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk), teamed up for an attempt to breathe new life into this not-so-forgotten mythological, epic adventure.

The hero of the film, Perseus, (Sam Worthington) is on a quest to avenge the death of his family, drowned by Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who in the film is the god of the underworld.

Perseus, raised as a humble fisherman discovers early on that he’s the love child of Danae and Zeus, (Liam Neeson), the king of all gods and overseer of the universe. Blessed with being a demi-god, Perseus learns to trust his special powers and to accept the advantageous gifts that Zeus, makes available to him on his journey. Besides the daunting task of defeating a god (Hades), Perseus finds himself caught in the middle of tensions between mankind and the gods that are about to explode into a full scale war.

Zeus and the gods discuss mankind, looking down at the mortals below from their kingdom in the clouds that rests upon Mount Olympus. Angered and mystified by the human species blasphemies towards the gods, Hades warns the king and queen of the great city of Argos, that unless they sacrifice their daughter Andromeda, (Alexa Davalos), to the colossal beast known as the Kraken, Argos will subsequently be destroyed.

And therein lies the rub–Perseus must defeat the Kraken to save Princess Andromeda, in order to save mankind and while he’s figuring out how to handle all that – he can’t forget about avenging his family by finding a way to kill Hades. The challenges and creatures Perseus faces, along with the god-crafted gifts he receives on his quest, are all “borrowed” from the original film, except for a few alterations:

Bubo, the resourceful, chirping, mechanical owl who helped Perseus out of a few sticky situations in the original film – is missing. I wasn’t the only person in the audience who was very disappointed by the removal of such an eccentric character and important story element in the updated version.

Perseus’s love interest in the original movie is Princess Andromeda, and in the new version it’s Io, (Gemma Arterton), as his guardian angel, who has watched over him his entire life. Io is the only new character that was surprisingly a positive addition. She’s incredible to look at and her on-screen presence commands attention. And when she happens to inform Perseus that, “You are not just part man and part god, you are the best of both,” it just might be the best line in the entire remake of the original film.

Pegasus, the winged horse-god of all horses was changed from white to black in the remake. Honestly, I don’t know why the color change was made, considering in Greek Mythology, Pegasus is a white horse-–anybody have any ideas why this change came about? The cursed and deformed character, Calibos, is barely in the remake. His make-up looks so cheesy that I’m not sure if I prefer the even worse looking 1981 character or not. Hades, (Ralph Fiennes) is not in the original and I think for good reason. His annoying, raspy, dying voice and underworld slouch, contributed nothing noteworthy for the remake. The magical shield and helmet that Zeus bestows to Perseus, to aid him in his legendary adventures are missing as well. These character and plot points played vital rolls in the original classic.

More charming Adventures, less Rock ‘n’ Roll – Fighting, Stabbing everything in Sight

The story pacing in this film is like being tied up on a roller coaster ride submerged in water. Even if you wanted to come up for air (and trust me, you will), it’s moving so fast and you’re strapped in – you can’t! Then there’s the score, which is too fast and heavy. Combine the dark score with non-stop fighting, too many battle scenes, and you’ve got yourself an action, slice em’ up picture.

The story unfolds in the original “Clash of the Titans,” much easier, slower, and you get to know the characters, so you actually care about what happens to them on their dangerous quest. The score is beautiful and fanciful in the original. The music lends itself to the perilous adventure by giving the audience a feeling of hope in Perseus’s pursuit to fulfill his destiny.

These wonderful elements made Ray Harryhausen’s original work of Greek fantasy – timeless.

In the remake, there are too many story lines at play, and younger audiences might find it confusing and distracting to the point where any type of rapport with the film’s narrative or characters is likely lost. By the end of the remake it felt as if audience members were just happy to be done with the two hours and fifteen bucks they’ve just lost. The original was a journey of courage and heart…The remake is an “in your face, slap of the senses,” that doesn’t let up for a second.

Creatures, Casting and SFX are Not-So-Special

The casting in the new version is decent except for one major blunder – Sam Worthington as Perseus. He has the charisma of a log and his emotions are stone-like, as if Medusa had stared into Worthington’s eyes right before they called “action!” between every take. I was secretly hoping Worthington’s Perseus was killed early on, the credits would roll, so I could go home and pop in the original “Clash of the Titans” into my DVD player, to restore my faith in the magic of movies.

Harry Hamlin, who plays Perseus in the original film, is confident while giving us (the audience), a sense of wonder and bravery, as seen through the character’s eyes. Worthington and the shaved head his new Perseus sport, are a poor look, especially when compared to the long haired locks of the original hero, played by the more handsome Hamlin.

Zeus, portrayed by Liam Neeson, is a performance that the “Gods of Olympus” would be pleased with. Neeson’s character, Zeus, is authoritative and solid, even with his limited amount of screen time. In contemporary cinema, Neeson is one of the better choices available for such a grand role.

The creatures and special effects in this film are another issue. Supreme technology doesn’t always mean that you’re actually enhancing a project, which was previously made with fossil like special effects by today’s standards. The gigantic black scorpions are an upgrade visually from the original film, but they move unnaturally in comparison to Ray Harryhausen’s dated scorpion foes. The new CGI Medusa is esthetically pleasing with a model figure and a soft face. The snakes slithering around her head look phony though, and overall I prefer the original stop-motion created Medusa of old. Hades flies around throughout the film in a black cloud of fire and smoke. He looks ridiculous and even with the advanced CGI – 3D technology, it’s laughable.

Last, but far from least, is the crucial creature in this overall tale, the sea beast – the Kraken. This massive, abominable monster is the one bit of special effects effort that paid off. The Kraken looks terrifying and is twice as large as the beast in the original film. The only problem with this is (as with the oversized black scorpions), that even in a fantasy epic where anything can happen–the Kraken appears and feels like an insurmountable encounter. It’s even mentioned in the film that the gods are afraid of this uncontrollable sea ogre. It thus begs the audience to ask, if the gods can’t overpower this monstrous thing, then how the hell is Perseus going to?

There are multiple creatures that were unnecessarily added to the remake, while memorable critters from the original were left behind. Besides the Kraken, the remakes creatures and special effects do not enhance the storytelling. The bottom line is my vote is for Ray Harryhausen’s now antique stop-motion special effects because there was a labor of love and passion behind it all, which to this day comes across in his film. In this case…past beats out present.

Clash or Pass on the Remake of the Titans?

My advice to anybody who’s curious about whether to see this updated version or not, is to save your money and go rent the original “Clash of the Titans.” The remake’s acting is pathetic with only a few exceptions. The CGI – 3D effects are unimpressive, and at best a distraction from the poor storytelling. It’s even more disappointing to my generation who’ve cherished the original film as one of their first childhood memories of movies.

Studios typically look to fill seats with a certain demographic of nostalgic moviegoers when it comes to remakes. It would be respectful of the studios and the industry to make films for us that are worthy of that nostalgia, and not as if we’re eager ten year olds, running out to see their latest lackluster remake for the first time. As W. E. B. Du Bois once said, “A classic is a book that doesn’t have to be written again.

But when we’re always reminded that the movie business is a business, we wish nonetheless–as movie lovers desire in want, need, knowledge, and appreciation–that remakes are not always in the best interests of anybody to keep recycling just about everything and anything that’s already known ground.

Especially when that ground was already precious to begin with.

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8 Responses to “Clash of the Titans or more appropriately – “Clash of the Remake””

  1. Dick says:

    Thanks for saving me time and money. Your comparisons provide us a thorough look at both the classic and remake of these movies.
    Keep ‘em coming!

    [Reply]

    Rick Ray Reply:

    Classic – thumbs up!

    Remake – thumbs way, way down…Thanks for stopping by T’L again.

    [Reply]

  2. karla says:

    I enjoyed reading your review and I totally agree! I was just thinking the other day how classic movies are way better than most of the movies coming out today. Though we didn’t have the technology back then like the way we do now, those movies are still rocking my socks! People don’t know what movies to make anymore so they are trying to steal the love and memories of the old flicks. Hhmm I think I just basically wrote what you wrote on your review ha ha! I would rather do a blockbuster night with classic movies than waste my time on the remakes.

    [Reply]

    Rick Ray Reply:

    Karla,

    Nice to know and see that some folks still appreciate the originals and classics out there to be found and watched again and again.

    [Reply]

  3. Debbie Kruse says:

    Thanks for the review…..finally, I feel validated! I often wonder at the quantity of remakes we see produced, the perceived quality and show value, and bottom line grasping on to the coat tails of classics, hoping for a shimmer of similar success. While I’m a fan of a few of the cast, your observations ring so true as to the vehicle “Clash” does (or doesn’t) provide. I’m a sucker for a good ‘ol classic, even if it does lack some of the panache and special effects luxuries we have these days. Thanks for such an in depth, insightful, and entertaining review. I’ll keep an eye out for more….

    Deb K

    [Reply]

    Rick Ray Reply:

    Debbie,

    Elegantly put and profoundly said – I agree 100% with where you’re coming from and going with your thoughts and stance on the subject of classics versus poor remakes.

    [Reply]

  4. Rusty says:

    Thanks! Saved me a trip through the doors of the wrong theater auditorium! I’ll go with my second choice viewing experience. On this one, I’ll stick with the original where I enjoyed the story the first time.

    [Reply]

    Rick Ray Reply:

    Russ,

    Yes, the first time around was where the original story and film should have stayed – No remake was needed or necessary.

    [Reply]

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