Sunday, April 4, 2010

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Clash of the Titans isn’t really about the actual clash of the titans, but picks up some mythical Greek years later when Zeus and his Gods found themselves shunned by a human race sick of suffering their greed, entitlement and malfeasance.  Ironic, then, that the film should find itself front and center in the canonized development of 3-D entertainment, the latest “gift” from the self-appointed Gods and Goddesses sitting comfortably atop their mythologized Hollywood hills.  Titans was never intended to be a 3-Dimensional film.  But after the success of Avatar and the like, the Warners brass decided to convert their product to make more money, not just by drawing larger crowds, but by charging those moviegoers an extra $5 a pop for the privilege.

I say to thee now, rise up against these aggrandized lords!  Save your $5!  The movie looks just as good when seen as it is meant to be seen. If you see it at all, that is. 

As big movie blockbusters go, Titans is a minor league film, placed appropriately in the earlier days of spring to avoid being overshadowed by its bigger, better brothers.  A remake of the popular 1981 film of the same name, it tells the tale of Perseus (Sam Worthington), a half-man demi-god who takes the charge in the rebellion against his daddy Zeus and his fellow gods.  Sort of.  Like Luke and Neo before him, Perseus is a “chosen one” born to bring balance to a dangerously unbalanced world.  He doesn’t really care about the gods, or the ambitions of man.  He just wants to kill Hades, the God of the underworld who took his family as collateral damage.  And if he saves the day in the process, well, he’d be okay with that too.

The film is essentially a fellowship-like journey, with warriors and oddballs crossing a dangerous and creature-filled land in search of a secret weapon they can use to defeat The Kraken – the unstoppable monster that Zeus and Hades will unleash against all of mankind…unless man either sacrifices a pretty princess, or finds a better solution in Perseus.

Story-wise, the flick a messy and kinda boring.  Zeus is angry with man, and wants to punish them.  At the same time, he gives Perseus the tools to succeed in his quest, knowing that the result will be in his defiance.  So the great god is wishy-washy at best.

Perseus is fairly nonchalant about his role in all this.  He seems to be going with the flow when he should by desperate to succeed.  This makes for a reactive and uninspiring character.  It’s normal for the “chosen one” to have this reaction at first.  It makes sense – it’s a heck of a lot to throw at a guy.  But you can’t tell me when Luke battles Vader he isn’t desperate to succeed.  And you can’t say Neo isn’t empowered by his savior status, and his desire to live up to it.

Perseus never reaches either of those heights, partly because he isn’t given an enemy to inspire that burn within.  The final battle pits Perseus against the Kraken, who we know from the trailers will be in Godzilla mode for the final act.  It’s lame when a man battles a monster the size of a city – that’s why Godzilla battled Kong and whatever that alien thing was.  The final battles are always best when they’re mano-a-mano, when the hero is given something that, if he finds it within himself, he’s capable of overcoming.  Instead, Perseus is given God and Godzilla, and as a result the climax just doesn’t hit right.

Putting all that “hero’s journey” stuff aside, let’s answer the question you really care about – does the FX action look cool?  Sure, it’s alright.  These are B-level FX for a B-level flic, closer to video game than Peter Jackson.  Director Louis Leterrier worked with better stuff in The Incredible Hulk (2008)…and also made a better movie.

For his part, Worthington is a mostly affable Greek hero.  He isn’t as cool as Mads Mikkelsen’s Draco, or as interesting.  But he isn’t given much to work with.  I was a fan of Worthington in last summer’s Terminator installment when most weren’t.  I thought he was worse in Avatar.  He’s somewhere in between here, and gives his haters plenty to gripe about.

Titans is a cheesy and uninspired flick.  Some might find it worth watching, but probably not on the big screen, and most certainly not in 3-D.

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