Clash of the Titans: Remade With Affection

clashGrowing up, I saw Clash of the Titans several times, like most children my age.  Weirdly enough, I distinctly remember watching it over a few days in sixth-grade Earth-Space Science class (but why? Other movies from that year included Space Camp, and Jurassic Park, which required a permission slip).  However, when someone unfamiliar with the movie asked me about it, I had a jumble of images and couldn’t really relate the plot:

“Well, Perseus has to go cut Medusa’s head off.  And the Kraken… that’s the big Titan monster, that line, ‘release the Kraken,’ that’s a big deal in the movie… There’s a mechanical gold owl… and the gods on Olympus play with models of their city and clay people.  But, um, lots of stop-motion!”

Thus, you could say that I was relatively unbiased when I headed into the theater the other day to see the new version (and after I saw it, I watched the old version on Netflix, to compare).

My immediate impression:  It’s not the movie of the year – but don’t let that stop you from seeing it at some point.  Unlike most big-budget action-adventure movies, this one doesn’t take itself very seriously – and that’s refreshing.

Let’s start with the nitpicking.  I won’t regurgitate the whole plot, but let’s just say it takes the general plot from the original version, with several modifications.  Some of the changes are welcome; stories from Greek mythology could easily have their own soap operas, and the older movie’s plot was a little unnecessarily convoluted at times, with characters that only pop up once or twice.  It’s silly, because the original movie didn’t adhere strictly to Greek myth itself, so why use tons of characters when you can combine a few for the sake of pacing?

The biggest change, the one change that really bothered me, was the inclusion of Hades as the villain.  TV and cinema does this again and again – that the god of the Underworld must therefore be analogous to the Devil, the bad guy.  I’m also undecided on how I feel about the treatment of the Olympic gods in general – should they be weighty and awesome, or petty and spiteful?  The new movie attempts to find a middle ground, which isn’t really memorable, but not offensive, either.

The latest version of Clash of the Titans is clearly fond of the original film – small references and actual chunks of original dialogue are sprinkled throughout the film, as well as a good dose of humor.  This is something I think I liked best about the movie; it’s as though everyone involved said, “This movie may not be Oscar-worthy, but it’s going to be fun.”  It’s as though the slight cheesiness of the whole plot was fully embraced by one and all, held in good humor, not with contempt.

It is also, of course, a big-budget film.  That means the monsters are bigger and scarier (watch the new Scorpions, then the old, for a bit of humor), and the visible death toll is higher.  Popular action filming techniques are used, most notably the slight abuse of slow-motion that 300 made popular.  Unlike 300, however, this didn’t annoy me as much, maybe because of the general tone of the film.  I found 300 to be overly stylized.  And while we’re mentioning it, this movie is actually not brimming with testosterone like 300 (which I had expected).  Sure, it’s a movie about a group of people trying to save their world, and you catch some flashes of muscle here and there, but the camera doesn’t, um, worship the bodies.

Big fans of the original movie will probably find much to complain about.  But I have to say, having watched the original without much bias and nostalgia… the old one dragged.  It’s not just because  it’s “old,” or because our attention spans have been worn down to nubbins; it’s simply… Star Wars, it ain’t.

And the new one isn’t really, either.  But it’s a good bit of entertainment and fun.  So if you’re not the sort to get unreasonably angry about the butchering of Greek myth, and you’re looking for an entertaining few hours that bring up your best memories of the original film, see Clash of the Titans.

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