"Clash of the Titans" is pretty friggin' metal.
Sure, this remake's wall-to-wall CG effects lack the DIY charm of Ray Harryhausen's legendary work on the 1980 original. And Sam Worthington ("Avatar") is no -- in the words of my buddy Nick -- Harry Hamlin Handsome Head. But "Clash" rocks pretty hard, especially in its action sequences.
If only the stuff between the Olympian set pieces (character development, motivation, dramatic tension, etc.) were as compelling.
Perseus (Worthington) is a demigod, the bastard son of Zeus and a human queen, but he doesn't quite know it yet. It takes a tragedy, at the hands of underworld god Hades (the great Ralph Fiennes playing the part as if Voldemort were neutered and stricken with laryngitis), to set him upon his quest. Fate moves our reluctant hero into a position to try to save the city of Argos from the wrath of the gods, which will be in the form of not the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man but as Hades' spawn/pet, the Kraken, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island.
You see, the gods are pretty pissed that mankind has started to think for itself and make its own rules. Soldiers from Argos push the tensions to the brink of war when they tear down a statue of Zeus. Then the queen of Argos (Polly Walker of HBO's "Rome") declares herself and her king the new gods and her daughter Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) more beautiful than Aphrodite. This turns out to be a bad idea.
Whatever. I would have cared more about the story or the characters if Perseus were to fall in love with Andromeda, as in the original. That would have raised the stakes and added a thick layer of pulpy romance so necessary to movies like this.
But the action. Oh man, the action. Director Louis Leterrier ("Transporter 2" "The Incredible Hulk") really delivers here. The guy has a firm grasp of the concept of "awesome." He has an eye for the iconic, heroic image, and he has the good sense to let the camera linger a bit for us to take it all in. Many a shot in "Clash of the Titans" would make for a kickass heavy metal album cover. My favorite image is of Perseus astride Pegasus as the winged steed soars out of a sliver of sun emerging from an eclipse. My dear fiancee chuckled at this. It seemed almost too ridiculous to her. Me? I had my devil horns in the air.
For the most part, the actors are up to the movie's hard-rockin' spirit of camp. If any actor can follow Sir Laurence Olivier's Zeus, it's Liam Neeson, and he delivers a properly over-the-top performance full of thunder and lightning. Pete Postlethwaite ("In the Name of the Father," "The Usual Suspects") shows up, all too briefly, as Pa Kent to Perseus' Superman. And Gemma Atherton is appropriately ethereal as Io, Perseus' beautiful guide and protector.
Worthington, however, falls short of the movie star performance "Clash of the Titans" needs. For the first 20 minutes or so he's about as charismatic as a piece of flotsam. His blankness, which was a necessity in "Avatar," is a detriment here, although he shows signs of vigor when the action kicks in. He's a natural when he's uttering heroic one-liners and dueling with tank-sized scorpions, but otherwise he's no Bubo the Owl.
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****
("Clash of the Titans" runs 110 minutes and is rated PG-13. It is showing in both traditional 2-D and 3-D. I saw the 2-D version since the movie wasn't shot in 3-D, and the effect was only slapped on to piggyback on the success of "Avatar.")
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