Friday, April 16, 2010

BuboBlog Reviews 'Clash of the Titans'

BuboBlog fans from the Czech Republic, rejoice — for I have FINALLY seen "Clash of the Titans"!

Kelly and I managed to get a babysitter Thursday night, allowing us to catch a showing down at the San Francisco Centre. Sadly, none of the 3-D screenings was feasible, so we saw it in 2-D. This was a disappointment, but I'm going to pretend it was intentional. After all, that was how the movie was originally meant to be seen, right? [Way to keep it real. -ed.]

Let's get one thing out of the way right now. Bubo does appear in the movie — for less than five seconds! Perseus pulls him out of a bin and another character tells him to leave the owl behind. What kind of "loving cameo" is that? More like an insult, I'd say. But I'll let it go.

Really, the Bubo snub was the least of the problems here. Maybe the movie is just paying homage to the campy charm of the first "Clash of the Titans," but I can sum up the experience in one word: "ludicrous." The scenes on Mount Olympus are silly, there's way too much exposition, and the film takes even more liberties with Greek mythology than the original.

The setup of the movie relies heavily on narration and flashbacks. You might think, well, at least I'm learning something here. But since it has little correlation to actual Greek mythology, you're not going to be able to impress any classics professors with what you pick up in this film.

As with the earlier "Clash," the story centers on Perseus. And in both films, he slays Medusa and uses her head to vanquish the Kraken and save Andromeda. But in this one, the writers felt that the love of Andromeda was insufficient motivation for wanting to slay the Kraken, so they cook up some story about Perseus' adopted family getting killed by Hades. That leads Perseus to vow revenge on the gods.

The problem is, Perseus' family is killed by accident during a skirmish between Hades and the soldiers of Argos. His family was more like innocent bystanders, so it seems like insufficient motivation for Perseus to go on a jihad against all gods. Even worse, Andromeda is no longer the love interest of Perseus. The writers randomly bring in Io to serve that purpose (Io and Perseus had no connection in actual Greek mythology). When Perseus rushes to save Andromeda at the end, it's like, who cares? He barely knows this girl.

The theme of the movie also is muddled. Is this film trying to make a case for humanism (mankind doesn't need the gods; it can rely on itself)? Because that idea isn't carried forth very faithfully. When the people of Argos turn their backs on the gods, they're severely punished. (It's also possible they were punished for their men using too much mascara.) Ultimately, Perseus succeeds by relying on Zeus' help — not by breaking free of the gods.

Io's presence also is troubling for mythology purists. In this movie, she has a curse where she never ages. In real mythology, she was turned into a cow. Did the writers think that would make her less attractive as a love interest? I would have enjoyed Perseus marching across Greece with an amorous heifer by his side.

The writers' interpretation of Hades character is far out of step with the spirit of Greek myth. Hades was not some devil character, trolling the underworld in search of ways to prey on man's weakness. Greeks didn't regard the underworld as a hell; it was just the place you went when you died. There was suffering there, sure; death is sad. But it was more of a neutral place than the Christian hell.

When Hades appears, he comes in a swarm of dark smoke and winged demons. It's a bit distracting that the character is played by Ralph Fiennes because the whole thing is reminicent of Voldemort (also played by Fiennes). The filmmakers probably should have anticipated this and cast against type...perhaps Mo'Nique would have been better for the role.

Another odd choice: What was with the two crafty Semitic mercenaries that join forces with the Argives soldiers? The film paints them as vaudevillian Jews and uses them as comic relief. And when it comes time to go to the underworld, they announce that they can't go there and disappear. Is that because Jews don't believe in hell? Very strange.

Sam Worthington plays Perseus, reminding the viewer of his role in "Avatar." This time around, they let him keep his Australian accent (more or less), since it's pretty much an accent free-for-all here. Seeing him tame Pegasus, meanwhile, is a bit too similar to watching him learn to ride the Na'vi horses — if only because you remember how much better a movie "Avatar" was.

Liam Neeson plays Zeus, of course, and it was a thrill to finally hear him say those immortal words: "Release the Kraken." I began clapping, assuming the rest of the theater would follow suit. They did not, and Kelly quickly told me to stop.

BuboBlog Rating: 2 asterisks (out of 4).

UPDATE: If you trust Kelly's opinion, which is probably much more reliable than mine, she gave it one asterisk (out of 4).