Monday, 5 April 2010

Spoilers ahoy! Clash of the Titans review

My sister and I grew up with 1981 version of this film and we greeted the news of its remake with trepidation. The Easter weekend demanded some cinema action though so we paid our money and took our choice (and a pair of 3D glasses) and headed for the ancient kingdom of Argos.

The tale of Perseus and Andromeda is hacked about to produce the film's plot, which nips along at a swift pace. Although it follows the Classical tale broadly, it was a shame that the writers saw fit to change the protagonist's motivation entirely. Instead of his love for Andromeda it is his hatred of the gods which drive him, making the story darker and, frankly, murkier as a consequence. The nymph Io is now the love interest, which does bring the benefit of allowing her to tag along with the adventurers. It is a shame that the only decent performance (by Pete Postlethwaite as Perseus' adopted father) is cut woefully short.

All the staples are present, including some scorpions so big they make the ones in Harryhausen's version look the size of...well, scorpions. Added to the mix are the Djinn - a race of desert dwellers who are (I think) undead and whose bodies have been replaced by wood over the years. They act as a kind of "get out of jail free" card, saving the heroes on two occasions. The film gets major Brownie points for its handling of Bubo (the mechanical owl inserted with all the subtlety of a smack-in-the-face into the 80s version). I won't spoil it here, but the scene is wonderful.

As an ancient Greek reenactor I decided to leave my predilection for authenticity at the door. My decision proved wise as the art direction is more fantastical than factual. This was fine at first but things get a whole lot worse though when the audience is taken up to Olympus to meet the gods. Aside from the terrible acting the set-designer seems overly enthusiastic about the planet Krypton and a spiky citadel is the result. The costume designer reckoned that Arni's turn as Mr Freeze was a great place to start so all the gods wear huge suits of armour straight out of the 80s cartoon Silverhawks. Back in Greece things are better. The black armour the heroes wear is refreshing, Charon and his barque are wonderful, Medusa is present and correct and the landscapes are evocative.

So, all in all the film's not rocket science and you probably aren't going to learn anything about the Classics, but it's a good old romp not a million miles away from the 80s version.

In case you don't want to sit through the entire movie (and I wouldn't blame you) above is the plot in simple form. Really - this is a surprisingly good precis.

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