Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Titans Clash in my brain

So I saw the new Clash of the Titans this weekend. This was a movie I was actually looking forward to. Unlike many genre fans, I do not get upset at the prospect of Hollywood remakes. I could care less honestly... whatever they wanna do works for me. I don't have to go see it if it looks shit... and a lot of them do.

But Clash of the Titans....

My little disclaimer here - I'm committing a big movie review faux pax here and letting my fond memories of one movie taint my opinions of the newer one. It's never fair, but with a remake I feel like at least some comparison is in order.

This is a film I have a long, long history with. The original that is. I've said on here before that I don't have a storied film past... movies were just not something my parents presented to us as kids. But Clash of The Titans was one I caught on television very soon after it was released. I'm not sure of the year exactly, but it had to have been in the early 80s.

I can still remember the first time seeing the movie on my dad's wood paneled Zenith on what must have been a local station because we didn't have cable until around 1990. I was eating a salad drenched in blue cheese salad dressing that made me feel sick when the three Stygian witches stirred their cauldron with the hand emerging. I can remember how bad I wanted Bubo the clockwork owl. And I can remember this time and so many others being scared shitless at the scorpion fight, the two headed dog fight, and especially the horrifying (for a kid anyway) Medusa face off.

I had the book based on the screenplay, although I'm not sure I ever actually read more than the first chapter. I just loved the cover of it so much that I wore the book out just looking at all the detail there.

Even one of my favorite toys until I thought I was just too cool for toys anymore (holy shit did I ever turn that around), was the fucking Styx ferry driver! Screw you, Calabos, I'm going with the hooded skeleton!

Oddly he came with a sword, but most often I used him as some sort of miniature evil wizard that would kick He Man's ass. Man I really need to find this thing. I had the waist joint so worn that you could just flop it back and forth, and I'd really have to balance the figure when standing lest he just bend over at the waist and fall.

His skeletal hand in the film taking Perseus' coin and eerily closing around it just looked fantastic and I loved the crunchy sound effect with it. It was definitely one of my favorite parts.

Ray Harryhausen's special effects were beyond special in the film. While they certainly look dated now, they had such a nice, tangible quality about them. Just seeing the detail in his creatures was awe inspiring then and brings back waves of nostalgia now.

What I wouldn't give to have those awesome sculptures sitting on my fuckin desk!

I have to say that fond memories and nostalgia certainly color my opinion of the film. It's not great - it's actually really cheesy for the most part. Watching it now, you can see the overacting in virtually every facet. The film has pacing issues at times... it feels a bit long at almost 2 hours, but I do feel like it is well written and has an interesting story of the gods really toying with humans to serve their own ends. The story was very serious at times, but still felt light and definitely authentic to me for whatever reason. (The story certainly deviates from the original greek myth FYI... read up on the history of Perseus if you are interested. No Kraken for him!)

But any way you look at it, it is a magical fuckin movie to show to a kid!

But the magic has faded away in the past nearly 30 years. Differences in tone honestly  might have been my biggest problem with this Clash of the Titans remake.

I probably made a mistake in rewatching the 1981 film the same day I was going to watch the new one. I was not entirely fair in my judgments of it because I sat there the entire time comparing the two. As a CGI-effects laden action romp, new Clash serves its purpose. It looks great. I've heard there are some issues with the 3D version, but I saw the 2D so I can't comment on that. The costumes looked incredible. Liam Neeson was shiny as a fresh shit, and I really liked Hades' (Ralph Fiennes) charred armor in particular.

The Kraken looked cool as did many of the creatures involved. Medusa looked really awesome and I like that scene a lot. The fight with the scorpions isn't quite the same, but really cool here regardless. It's too bad the two headed dog never makes an appearance.

The three witches that reminded me of blue cheese salad dressing looked fantastic, but the scene didn't carry the same weight for me this time around.

The acting in the film is universally corny, but it comes with the territory. I didn't sign up for this expecting brilliance. There are some dramatic scenes, still though, that will have you gritting your teeth.

The story is changed a bit, but that's understandable. Remakes that are reworked a bit plotwise make more sense than 100% retelling the same story, as long as they are faithful to the original. Otherwise you just have a film that seems to say "I can do this better." And while new Clash was faithful at times, other times I felt those turds dropping.

This is most apparent as the group begins its quest and are gearing up. Perseus (Sam Worthington) finds a golden mechanical owl in the chest and asks what it is. The head soldier (Mads Mikkelsen I believe?) tells him pretty much Oh forget that. You won't be needing that.


Bubo is not to be shat upon! corny or not....


The biggest thing for me here, as I said, was the tone and theme of this film in comparison to the original. I think this is more of a fair contrast between the two because I'm not necessarily saying the first one is technically better. It seems obligatory almost these days for action films to have a 'tude... and new Clash is no different.

One big thing I loved about the first film is that it felt authentic as far as Greek myths, and followed essentially one mythical hero's quest to challenge forces far beyond his scope. The gods were almost separate from the humans, playing chess with them if they wanted and dealing more with their relationships with one another. It's certainly not explored to its fullest extent in old Clash, but having Zeus protect his mortal son and other gods looking after their own interests as well added an interesting element to that film.

New Clash has to have the modern day 'shove it up your ass' attitude of course, having the humans declare this the new era of man... damn the gods! Perseus' quest against the odds of old Clash has been transformed now to a quest of lots of guys that Perseus just kind of stumbles into and goes along with. He is still the central figure in the struggle, but it becomes less about his myth now and more about the city of Argos rebelling.

Perseus could care less that he has gifts from the gods here, whereas in old Clash, the awesome sword/shield/helmet/BUBOTHEMIGHTY gifts were all cherished and came in handy in their own ways.

And was it just me, or was the whole Pegasus story much more interesting the first time around? And does he really need to be black? Come on... The original myth had Pegasus coming out of Medusa's neck hole after Perseus removes her head for her. How fucked up is that??

The relationship between Zeus and Perseus was not handled as well in new Clash either. In old Clash, Zeus looked over his son, and wanted him to succeed. Was it because Zeus is an egomaniac and his blood had to prevail? Perhaps, but it made some interesting (if underdeveloped) tension between the gods there. In new Clash, Perseus is far more a bastard child... offspring from Zeus fucking over a king that Zeus may or may not even remember. Zeus communicates with Perseus from time to time, but it's less of a game now and more of the gods dealing with their rebelling human problem.

Am I reading too much into this?

New Clash was fun, but watching it (and unfortunately comparing it) to the old was a mistake. On it's own, it's a good popcorn flick certainly. The creatures don't have that special Harryhausen touch, obviously, but look phenomenal in their own right.

As I write about new Clash, I feel better about it honestly. Maybe that would change if I sat down and watched it again, as I felt irritated upon watching it this weekend, but especially for people not super familiar with the original, new Clash is fun. If you can leave your notions at the door, you can enjoy it more than I did certainly.

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