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The Fashionably Late Review: Clash of the Titans

January 16, 2011

(Ed. note: The Fashionably Late Review is a critique of a film released in the last two years —potentially with spoilers, so it can be appropriately reviewed in its entirety. So be warned. If you really wanted to see the following film, you’d have seen it by now.)

If there’s any film which for which the Fashionably Late Review was made, it’s Clash of the Titans. What, you expected me to pay money to see this in the theater for you? There’s only so much you can ask of your friends, Bub.

So here’s the thing: the problem with remaking things which we loved as children is that we fail to take into account that the fact we loved these things as children owed mightily to the fact that our eight year-old selves thought almost everything was awesome. Take last summer’s The A-Team, for instance. The 80’s remake was derided by fanboys everywhere (though our own Paul the Geek saw it for the fun it really was). But in actuality The A-Team, as a television show, probably wouldn’t last one season on a major network these days.  The same theory can be applied to Get Smart, Death Race, Speed Racer, Nightmare on Elm Street, even Marmaduke (which no one ever thought was all that great in the first place). These things were hokey and ridiculous to begin with, and the prospect of bringing a hokey and ridiculous property back to life doesn’t change the fact that the premise was hokey and ridiculous — and you can’t change the premise.

That said, I’m not sure why anyone thought 2010’s remake of Clash of the Titans was going to be something amazing; I hate to break it to you, fan-face, but the original 1981 version wasn’t that great either. But maybe we’d forgotten, through the halcyon haze of looking back into our youths, that the original starred Harry Hamlin, who at the time was only known for being handsome, alongside a mechanical owl and a scenery-chewing Sir Laurence Olivier draped in a tablecloth. Yes, special effects have come a long way, but the story’s the story — it’s not going to get any better or any worse.

In fact, if you’d like to review Clash of the Titans from a special-effects standpoint, it’s vastly superior to the original in every way. Of course, 1981’s Clash was the last film featuring the work of effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, and no one’s going to denigrate his work (nor should they, for he laid an immense foundation for future films). But everything in 2010’s Clash is bigger and louder and cooler and dumber, from giant scorpions to winged demons to the giant Kraken which appears in the film’s finale. Visually, it’s a lot of fun to watch. Harryhausen himself would likely be amazed at what he’s wrought.

But if you were seriously hoping Clash of the Titans was going to be some sort of award-winning tour de force, you never stood a chance. If you ever fathomed, for instance, that Sam Worthington’s Perseus would be anything more than a hunky hero (he even wears less armor than his fellow soldiers) or that Liam Neeson’s Zeus, all tarted up with a spirit-gum beard and gratuitous rouge, would exhibit any more nuanced emotion than his ultra-overserious role calls for, you’re missing the whole point anyway. Demi-god Perseus fights his way through a series of tribulations, including slaying a heavily CGI’ed Medusa, to save a princess from sacrifice to underworld God Hades (the usually reliable Ralph Fiennes, snarling and hissing his way through the worst acting job in the entire film) at the hands of a monstrous sea creature.  Remains of the Day this ain’t. But again, if you were expecting any more than what’s on display here, go ahead and rave about how awful it is. You’d be right, but you also look like an idiot for caring.

Look, Clash of the Titans isn’t a good film. It’s the kind of thing you watch once, when you have bronchitis and are stuck in bed (precisely where I am today), and which passes the time adequately. It’s not the kind of movie you’ll ever re-watch or buy on DVD, or recommend to your friends, or ever likely even really think about again — but let’s be honest, do you really spend a lot of time thinking about the original Clash of the Titans either? And we all apparently  loved that so much that this one was just a horrible travesty. My advice is to just sit back, watch some guys fight some giant scorpions and fly around on winged horses, chug a bottle of Robitussin and relax. Wasting your time with something like this may kill a small part of your soul, but not enough you’re ever going to notice in the long run.

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