Clash of the Titans - DVD

Book Review by Ursus

Am I justified in feeling that everyone connected with the making of this film should be summarily executed for crimes against humanity? The "Clash of the Titans" remake is Hollywood at its worst. It derives from a cinematic dark age where producers and writers are simply bereft of an original thought and must cannibalize their own work through remakes and reboots. If this weren't enough, the spirit of Greek mythology so essential to the charm of the original is here subverted to unholy ends, and what is left is an empty shell of a movie existing for the sake of special effects.

Don't get me wrong. The original "Clash of the Titans" (1981) wasn't perfect. It was downright corny. It blended at least two different Greek myths (Bellerophon and Pegasus, Perseus and Medusa) with a monster from Norse folklore (the Kraken). Then there was Bubo, the supposed mechanical owl of Athena, aping the popularity of R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies released a few years prior. But for all that, the movie had charm and dignity. It had actors that could actually act. Its script, while mangling the details of Greek mythology, remained more or less true to the spirit of those myths.

The remake's only improvement over the original is dispensing with Bubo the mechanical owl (aside from one throwaway scene as a nod to the original). I suppose the special effects are an improvement over the original (although I am told the 3D special effects version seen in the theaters was jeered as being unfinished and unprofessional). The problem with the special effects, though, is that they are essentially all the movie offers. The writing is bad, the acting is wooden, and the movie serves as little more than an excuse to carry along as many CGI enhanced fight scenes as possible.

But this I can forgive. I am fairly used to summer blockbuster movies offering little more than special effects and action, and I've even been known to enjoy them when they don't pretend to be anything otherwise. But "Clash of the Titans" does more than this. Its principle offense is that, not simply content to mangle the details of Greek myth, it totally rewrites Greek myth and betrays it in the process.

As this story goes, the Greek gods created humankind because it is their love and prayers that feed the gods' strength and give them immortality. The Olympians are therefore essentially vampires living off their own creations. The movie opens as humanity rebels against Zeus and the gods, burning their temples and destroying their statues. The gods become weak, and fearing their status as immortals, give license to Hades to punish mankind.

Hades, who in Greek myth was simply the ruler of the underworld and lord of the dead, becomes in this remake a Satanic figure. His speech and appearance is repulsive. He begets monsters and demons. He despises humanity. And as any Satanic figure should, he seeks to storm heaven and overthrow God (in this case, Zeus).

Back on Earth, due to the machinations of Hades, the princess Andromeda must be sacrificed, her blood offered to slake the Kraken. A bug eyed, crazed Hellenic priest foams at the mouth, all too gleeful for a human sacrifice. Enter Perseus, the secret son of Zeus (and therefore demigod), who despises the gods in general and Hades in particular for killing his human family. Perseus undergoes the hero's quest to save Andromeda, all the while despising the divine half of his being and refusing to give into it.

What on earth or in heaven inspired the writers to rewrite Greek myth in this vein? The Greek gods are vampires, Hades is the Devil, and priests act more like they are ancient Aztecs than ancient Greeks. Is this some kind of commentary on religion in general? You got issues against modern religion, fine, go grind an axe against modern religion. But leave my beloved Greek mythology out of it.

Other changes from the original I shall mention here. The hero's mentor in the original was a mortal old man with a penchant for philosophy. The hero's mentor here is a demigoddess herself, a hot young babe with a penchant for showing off long, flowing hair. Pegasus is here black instead of white ... why I am not sure, unless to make up for the lack of African-American actors. And finally, the Djinn are introduced, creatures from Arabian mythology (again, why, I am not sure, unless they appeal to a certain demographic).

The DVD contains a number of extras, including several deleted scenes. The deleted scenes are interesting; they convey expanded dialogue between characters on earth and in Olympus, and help round out a few sub-plots. One of the sub-plots completely eliminated from the theatrical release concerned Apollo questioning the will of Zeus, and his strained relations with his half-brother Perseus. I suppose these subplots and extended dialogue scenes were cut from the theatrical release because they didn't lend themselves well to special effects. Too bad. Their inclusion almost would have given the movie some kind of humanity.

In any event, "Clash of the Titans" could have been a passable remake, but it wasn't. It's a mindless special effects film tethered to an insulting rewrite of Greek mythology. The ending of the first film left room for an inevitable sequel. I wonder what the sequel will offer us. No doubt we will see mummies and zombies and space aliens in Ancient Greek. And no doubt before the film's end, Ancient Greece will completely abandon its mythical heritage and usher in an enlightened age of Atheism. Or something.

Count me out. If there were any justice, Zeus would fling a lightening bolt at the director.

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Union Jack Clash of the Titans for the UK