Saturday, August 28, 2010

One Titan Wore Green, Another Wore Orange

Abby and I watched Clash of the Titans the other night, and it was a lot less awful that I'd anticipated.

No doubt because we watched it in 2D.  It's a shame, really.  It's a competently-if-not-expertly directed action film, but it's legacy will be that it was the film where people realized 3D can suck.

Oh, there are still things to complain about.  The dialog was clunky.  Some of the CG effects needed more polish--Medusa, in particular, had a distracting, cartoony aura. Then there's the post-climax coda in which the movie reneges on its one moment of real drama--I won't spoil it for you, but it was a tad cheesy.

Also, a few of the action sequences felt clumsy.  Take, for example, the fight against the giant scorpions--the sense of scale was constantly shifting, and the ending was sudden and anti-climactic.  Oh, look, the scorpion's dead.  Oh, hi there Perseus, you did that, eh?  And I could have done without the Zack-Snyder-esque film-speed ramping.  Can we call that a cliche and move on already?

All that said, the Pegasus sequences looked pretty good, and the kraken battle worked for me.  The acting wasn't stellar, but it's wan't bad.  The production designer clearly got off on Lord of the Rings; I particularly enjoyed the film's imagining of Mount Olympus, and while the movie was not without anachronism, it managed to maintain its own internal logic.  Furthermore, Perseus' quest had sense of purpose and urgency to it--all these adventures ultimately serving a single goal.  I've always felt that Greek myths ramble too much, so that was a welcome change.

I will say one thing: I don't care for the way ancient mythologies are co-opted by Judeo-Christian sensibilities.  Hades, in particular, becomes a proxy for the devil because he is the Lord of the Underworld.  So you see elements of that in his character and design, and while the movie gave him at least some semi-plausible motives for feuding with Zeus, it's still in the vein of "I feed on human suffering".  Well, in the ancient Greek mythos, the Underworld was a place of darkness, not fire, and Hades more or less kept to himself.  The villain in the original film was Poseidon, who was a jealous and powerful and quick to anger, but not evil, per se.  In fact, one of the nice things about polytheism is that you can have conflict without making any one god or goddess a "bad guy", so it's a shame to see that thrown out.

I should give a quick hat tip to Abby here, because my casual knowledge of Greek mythology is drastically augmented by her academic knowledge of Greek archeology (and the fact that she knows the original film pretty well).  She also noted a number of visual inconsistencies in everything from costume design to Zeus' eagle (bald eagles, apparently, aren't indigenous to the Mediterranean).  If you ever want a discussion on problems with movies that take place in the ancient world (see also: 300, see also: Troy), hit her up.

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