Inexplicably less godly and less epic than Percy Jackson and the Olympians, this new clash between titans mostly makes you want to go back and watch the original again.
Perseus (Sam Worthington) is a man who lives his life in constant tragedy. Found with the body of his dead mother, he is adopted and raised by a kindly fisherman and his family until an act of defiance against the gods causes them to be lost as well. In the city of Argos (which seems to be either the biggest city in the world or the only one), the royal family and their people openly defy the gods. When the foolish queen dares to elevate her daughter, Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), and herself up as the “new” gods, Hades (Ralph Fiennes trying hard not to channel Lord Voldemort) appears and curses the town in name of Zeus (Liam Neeson): sacrifice Andromeda on the day of an upcoming eclipse or the city will be destroyed. After learning he is the son of Zeus, Perseus sets out to defy the gods by finding another way to save the city. With only another demigod named Io (Gemma Arterton) and a handful of warriors to help him, will Perseus defeat his father to rid mankind of the gods once and for all, or will Zeus have no choice but to unleash… the Kraken?
If you’ve ever watched Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong, one thing is evident: whatever the original film did, Jackson and his team seemed determined to do it better. One t-rex? Better make it three. Bat down a plane while hanging onto a building? Better jump up and swat it down this time. The new Clash of the Titans begins in this way, then abbreviates the original plot to get us into thick of battle with as little motivation as possible, tacking on some “man against the gods” idea without really presenting any evidence as to why. By the time the film ends, it becomes clear that the filmmakers are thinking more about the continuing adventures of Perseus (depending on box office receipts) than offering anything resembling a need to remake the original film.
Examples are everywhere. From the practically forced and out of place line mirroring the original film’s curse of Andromeda to the complete lack of any real motivation for Perseus to save the city other than his daddy issues, the story and character development are one misfire stacked upon another. One scene shows the benevolence of Andromeda sneaking royal bread to the poor, yet none of those she’s helped are among the crowd when the Kraken comes knocking over the city gates and blood is shouted for. So many of the reasons and built-in purposes of the original film are absent here; if not for the original film, there would be no reason at all for the production’s choice of feature mythological beasts. One exception is the appearance of the Djinn, which even goes so far as to have an actually in-story reason to be there. If the filmmakers where intent on abandoning the plot, why not more original creations?
It will become clear to viewers, also, that with the plot so thinly attached to Argos and Andromeda, the intrusion of Gemma Arterton’s Io into the formerly all-male quest to save the city feels only slightly less out of place than two Arab hunters appearing out of sheer political correctness. Arterton is also making an appearance later this summer as the love interest for the Prince of Persia; can we expect her to appear also on next season of “Spartacus: Blood and Sand?” Perhaps the Genie from Disney’s Aladdin said it best: “Phenomenal cosmic power… itty bitty living space.” How can something this epic still feel so small and unimportant? Maybe the filmmakers should have hired the special effects people to write the script, too.
(a two skull recommendation out of four)