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"Let them known men did this!"
on 18 December 2010
At the risk of not so much swimming against the tide as against a tidal wave, I thought the much-despised 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans was a terrific entertainment that managed to improve on many aspects of the now much-loved but itself initially disparaged Ray Harryhausen version. For a start it's barely a remake, sharing only the title and the subject matter, discarding the love story and family-friendly elements for an altogether grittier and bleaker view that's at least more true to the cruelty of Greek mythology even if the details aren't so well served.
If Sam Worthington's Perseus is a throwback to the typical beefcake hero of 50s peplum, the script at least is smarter than the average mythological adventure. Instead of than fulfilling a divine destiny, this version's demi-god Perseus - half man, half-god, all-Ocker - is raging against it, determined to defy the gods as a man. These gods are cruel and parasitic, dependent on the worship of men to fuel their immortality but unwilling to earn it, their arrogance sparking a war with the mortals who don't want them any more. Rather than taking a Richard Dawkins "there is no god" approach, this is more of a "the gods exist and they're a right bunch of bastards" attack, with the dawning realisation that they can ultimately kill them by denying them their prayers. The film does copout on this with the end used in the film, the Blu-ray offering an alternate but poorly executed original version that saw Liam Neeson's Zeus and Perseus still very much at loggerheads, and by losing the love story between Perseus and Andromeda it does lower the stakes somewhat. Perseus' quest is now fuelled by pride, arrogance and defiance, with an impressively bitter Mads Mikkelsen and his high-testosterone expendable Argonauts all manly men meeting manly deaths at the hands and claws and tentacles of mythological beasts.
The beasts themselves are generally a pretty impressive bunch, the CGi faring much better in the original 2D than in the clumsily converted 3D version released in cinemas. If Ralph Fiennes' Hades is better as a special effect than when overdoing the Uriah Heap routine in more human form, the impressively rendered giant scorpions, multi-tentacled Kraken and the serpent-like Medusa grab the limelight over some of the old favorites from the Harryhausen version: Jason Flemyng's Calibos has less to do this time round while Pegasus simply conveniently appears when needed without needing to be tamed in a rather lazy bit of deux ex machina. But then this is the kind of film where the human cast are mostly sidelined as well, actors like Pete Posthlethwaite, Elizabeth McGovern, Danny Huston and Polly Walker turning up for a minute or two as little more than walk-ons and most of the gods having nothing more to do than stand around a disappointingly designed Olympus whose exteriors are spectacular but whose interiors look like Las Vegas car showroom. But it keeps moving without feeling too chopped up and thankfully there's a minimum of shakeycam or MTV overediting to accompany the overdose of testosterone. Big on spectacle and short on charm, it's a very different animal to Harryhausen's film (there's even an injoke about that version's irritating mechanical owl), but as long as you're expecting that it's one of the better action adventures of recent years.
DVD buyers get short shrift yet again, with nearly all of the extras reserved for the BluRay release - 10 deleted scenes and alternate ending, 11 featurettes and additional picture-in-picture featurettes running throughout the film if you choose `Maximum Movie Mode' - which has a generally excellent transfer.