27 July 2010

Blu-Ray Review: Clash of the Titans

(This review was originally published at www.flickfeast.co.uk by Daniel Kelly on July 27th 2010. This review covers the UK Blu-Ray release of “Clash of the Titans”, although it appears there are no differences between it and the recent US counterpart.)

1981’s "Clash of the Titans" is not a film remembered for great storytelling or emotional depth, but rather it’s landmark use of Ray Harryhausen’s stop motion effects. Harryhausen delved deep into Greek mythology for his work on the 1981 project; garnering gasps of awe and nostalgic adoration from an entire generation as a consequence. Louis Leterrier is the director behind this 2010 reimagining of "Clash of the Titans"; albeit instead of the hand sculpted wizardry of Harryhausen, Leterrier fills his version with oodles of CGI beasties and computer generated battle mongering. "Clash of the Titans" circa 2010 is undeniably a less charming endeavour than its 80’s predecessor, but thanks to good casting and a storming second half it provides a modest degree of entertainment.

Zeus (Liam Neeson) has grown weary of mankind, and finds their lack of respect and love for the gods unacceptable. In a bid to scare them back to their worshipping ways, Zeus unleashes his evil brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) to offer them a perilous ultimatum. The humans must sacrifice their gorgeous princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) or else a hideous creature named the Kraken will be unleashed, making the destruction of the great city Argos inevitable. However into the fray jumps Perseus (Sam Worthington) the demigod son of Zeus, and a man with vengeance against the gods on his mind. Along with a band of soldiers (including Liam Cunningham and Mads Mikkelsen) and his priestess advisor Lo (Gemma Arterton), Perseus sets out to free mankind from the terrible fate proposed by Hades.

"Clash of the Titans" is really a movie of two halves. The first is a ponderous and uninspired bungle of exposition and unconvincing characterization. However the second ramps up the energy and spectacle considerably, resulting in several fantastical instances of large scale action. "Clash of the Titans" is also driven to a traditionally heroic finale; something that this sort of fantasy picture demands. If audiences can sidestep the clumsy opening they stand a good chance of enjoying this well intentioned slab of bunkum; it’s just good old fashioned fun.

Sam Worthington’s performance here is adequate, but definitely a step down from his work in "Avatar" and "Terminator Salvation". He plays Perseus as a sympathetic tough guy, finding very little depth beyond this herculean caricature. Still “Clash of the Titans” doesn’t really require much more from the actor to properly function, it’s a simple performance for a relatively simple film. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are well cast as Zeus and Hades respectively, hamming it up in an equally overblown manner. Fiennes in particular skewers a deliciously cartoonish level of evil in his depiction of Hades; and the shared sequences featuring both he and Neeson are a total hoot. It’s interesting to see thespians of Liam Cunningham and Mads Mikkelson’s standard slotted into conventional supporting parts, but at least they growl their lines with true conviction. Finally Gemma Arterton provides only sex appeal in what is otherwise a silly performance. Her ability to utter exposition and sound wise beyond her years is limited, as audience’s can also see in the recently released "Prince of Persia".

The story is paper thin and fairly forgettable, but the action is consistently cracking. The CGI is solid and the creature designs are nicely thought out; leaving Leterrier only the job of concocting blockbusting mayhem and monster madness. Thankfully, he succeeds royally in these areas. "Clash of the Titans" throws everything it can at the viewer in a frenzy of Greek Mythology and sword and sorcery adventuring. These bursts of awesomely constructed combat mark "Clash of the Titans" out as decent slice of undemanding popcorn cinema, allowing it to mount some semblance of credibility despite its lack of humanity. Leterrier has designed the movie as a theme park extravaganza, taking viewers from one adrenaline stocked set-piece to another. The action and digitals are aided thanks to polished cinematography and production design. Leterrier has created a believable Argos and shoots with a pleasing gold tinted perspective, effectively maximising the visual panache his production boasts.

Fans of the original picture will revel in the reappearance of Pegasus, the Gorgon Medusa and of course the imposing Kraken. However equally familiar will be the loose plotting and lack of narrative substance, something many hoped this remake might repair. Leterrier has approached the material with the same thirst for fantasy fury that the original filmmakers provided, skimping on a compelling emotional centre to a similar degree. It’s a vague disappointment that "Clash of the Titans" 2010 doesn’t attack its Greek mythology with a further injection of pathos or storytelling integrity; something that might have pushed it beyond its place as an aesthetically competent piece of escapist filmmaking.

"Clash of the Titans" isn’t essential viewing; and it doesn’t lose much in the translation from multiplexes to Blu-Ray. The film has been lovingly crafted as an imbecilic but satisfactorily action packed adventure; and against all odds it’s a rather decent watch. Those with a tolerance for CGI fuelled enterprises are sure to find it a perfectly passable way to fill two hours, just as long as they are willing to accept it as little more than epic eye candy. "Clash of the Titans" deserves acknowledgment as a boisterous big screen bonanza; but much like the original it’s happy enough to skimp on silly things like dialogue or a meaningful screenplay. Still, it’s always hard to argue with monsters and swordfights.

The Blu-Ray looks and sounds tremendous, the audio quality in particular is a true indication of what Hi-Def home entertainment can really offer. The actions sequences in particular benefit from the sublime sound design, allowing the sounds of old school sword fighting to consume your living room, without being intrusive or irritatingly overblown. The musical score and dialogue are also worked well into the mix.

The Blu-Ray comes with a decent selection of extra content. The Maximum Movie Mode allows viewers to embrace interviews and insights from the filmmakers, whilst having the film itself play at the same time. Maximum Movie Mode is always a nice touch though I’ve felt it better deployed on other releases, with less information and large swathes of nothingness being evident as viewers sit down to tackle this particular portion of filmmaking know how. Still, what’s there is worthwhile for fans of the movie. A roster of uninspired deleted scenes were correctly and thankfully excised from the finished film, and they offer very little pleasure or action. More intriguing is an alternate ending that actually takes the picture in a fairly different direction. It’s hard to say if it’s any better than the finale tacked onto the theatrical cut of the movie, but it at least offers consumers a completely new climax that doesn’t rely on slight editorial changes or simple switches in spoken dialogue. Basically it actually earns the “alternative” moniker. Rounding out the package is a ludicrous bit of back slapping entitled "Sam Worthington: An action hero for the ages". To date I’ve mostly appreciated the work Worthington has done (and I know I’m in the minority with such an opinion) but this 10 minute feature is just an excuse for the creators to lavish him with overcooked hyperbole and to sell him as the lead in their movie. If I was Sam Worthington I’d be flattered, but as a film enthusiast it was merely annoying. Rounding out this sufficient Blu-Ray release are DVD and Digital copies of the film.

Find the original review here: http://flickfeast.co.uk/feature/clash-titans-2010-2/


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