Friday, April 2, 2010

3D glasses on for ho-hum ‘Clash of the Titans’

By Steve Crum

Is this remake of Clash of the Titans really necessary? Nope, by Kraken. Sure it boasts 3D tech, along with a fresh cast and digitally moving creatures, whereas effects guru Ray Harryhausen’s 1981 effects were accomplished via the jerky, stop motion method. Yet this nearly three decades newer Clash disappoints in pacing, special effects and 3D. The special effects, with the exception of a pretty cool looking Pegasus, are obviously computerized to the extent most combat sequences are in close-up with the dreaded handheld camera look, which always seems a budgetary ploy to hide cheapness. The result is rapid, blurred movements that imply action more than deliver.

Director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) and writers Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfred have mostly duplicated director Desmond Cross and writer Beverley Cross’ ’81 film. The retro result is a throwback plot with new faces and digitally Botoxed monsters.

Once again, Perseus (Sam Worthington, who rode the flying Direhorse in Avatar and gallops astride a soaring Pegasus here) is cast out to sea soon after birth because he was fathered by the Greek god Zeus (Liam Neeson). Rescued and raised as a mortal by a kind fisherman, Perseus eventually discovers his heritage, and that he must lead a crusade to overtake the evil god Hades (Ralph Fiennes) who plans to turn earth into hell. There are scenes of Zeus, Hades and fellow gods and goddesses in mythical heaven manipulating Perseus and others on earth as if they are chess pieces.

Perseus and his small army, which includes Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), must overcome challenge after challenge before eventually severing the head of Medusa to avoid unleashing the feared Kraken monster from earth’s bowels. If only the dialogue was a good as this description. SEE the attack of giant scorpions! SEE killer birds of prey! SEE Perseus’ magic sword! See CGI effects galore! Shades of Ulysses, Sinbad and Hercules.

Also SEE the homage, as if the entire movie isn’t a homage, to Ray Harryhausen when his famed mechanical owl is briefly shown before Perseus embarks on his quest. The owl, a fixture of the 1981 movie, is never seen again, yet it reminds us of the original’s semi-classic stature, a quality the 2010 version lacks.

Finally, the 3D is wasted. Not one sequence includes anything remotely leaping out of the screen. (Avatar is now the benchmark of 3D, being jammed with in-your-face dimension.) Sure there is the basic illusion of depth throughout Clash, even during the many talky scenes. But it is pretty static overall.

Therefore, a couple of considerations need to be made at this point regarding the 3D resurgence, as theaters worldwide are being equipped for 3D, and HD-TVs enter the 3D game. First, Avatar set the bar high for 3D with dazzling effects. A movie like Clash of the Titans, with mediocre 3D, signals a major quality control problem for the future of the process. Alice in Wonderland similarly suffered with only a couple of effective 3D bits. It could be said that Avatar revolutionized 3D much like Star Wars did for special effects. Pre-Star Wars fantasy and sci-fi flicks look quaint and pedestrian in comparison.

Secondly, if a 3D movie does not meet higher entertainment standards to justify its own inflated admission price, what is the future of 3D as industry? The 3D fad of the 1950s could be repeating its sad and similar arc by, say, 2011-12. It was a short lived gimmick then; it could be the same now. The big difference is that the investment nowadays is on a greater scale, involving theater chains and the future of home entertainment.

My suggestion after the fact would have been to re-release 1981’s Clash of the Titans, reprocessed in 3D, and forget about any remake. Forget this remake, for sure.
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On an A to F grade scale: D+
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Peruse Perseus promptly in the Clash of the Titans trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q6CJenNMsb4

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