The clashing titans in “Clash of the Titans” are a pretty sorry lot. There’s Zeus, played by Liam Neeson with a beard best described as magisterially scraggly. Then there’s Zeus’s brother Hades, a Ralph Fiennes looking even more hollow-cheeked than usual. Demigod Perseus, Zeus’s bastard son, is incarnated by none other than “Avatar” lead Sam Worthington. He looks like he’s primed to appear in a sequel to “Gladiator.” If he doesn’t watch out, he’s going to end up as Russell Crowe 2.0.
I have no overly fond memories of the original 1981 “Clash of the Titans,” although Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion special effects were zippy and Laurence Olivier as Zeus was Olympian camp. (With the possible exception of his work as Neil Diamond’s rabbi father in “The Jazz Singer,” this is probably the performance Lord Olivier would have least liked to be remembered for.)
The new “Clash” is, of course, in 3-D, prompting me to wonder, as I often do in these multidimensional days, whether I should just palm a pair of the darn glasses. It might save time at the next screening. After all, we’re getting to the point where even “Napoleon Dynamite 2” is likely to be in 3-D. Maybe the movie hucksters will want to reissue “The Godfather” or “Citizen Kane” in 3-D? And don’t get me started on 3-D TV.
It’s worth pointing out, however, that 3-D does almost nothing to deepen drama. Case in point: “Avatar,” which was memorably described by the comic actress Susie Essman as being the only movie ever made that was simultaneously three-dimensional and one-dimensional.
Actually, she’s wrong about that. Most 3-D movies are, in dramatic terms, resolutely 1-D. Case in point No. 2: “Clash of the Titans.” Not that I was expecting dramatic depth here on the order of, say, “The Iliad” or even “Bridget Jones’s Diary.” But, as a filmmaker, you have to possess an ear of purest tin to feature a line of dialogue like “Bring on the Kraken!” with a straight face.
The Kraken is the monster of monsters from the underworld that Hades wants to unleash to teach those uppity humans from the island of Argos a lesson. Perseus, furious at Zeus and Co. for smiting his adoptive parents, vows to conquer the Kraken. To do so, he must enlist a band of Argos stalwarts – they look like castoffs from “300” – as they slice and dice their way through a landscape of giant scorpions and other 3-D-approved creepy-crawlies, culminating in a smackdown with Medusa, who instantly turns to stone any man who dares look upon her. This seems a shame, since she is outfitted in what looks like a serpentine bikini.
Medusa, at least, is fun to watch, and, as a bonus, we in the audience don’t have to worry about turning to stone (although, watching this film, your eyelids do get awfully heavy). She steals the thunder from the Kraken, who, as in the original film, proves to be a great big anticlimax. He/She/It looks like a sea anemone with a massive case of elephantiasis. Perseus does such a good job of saving the day that even Zeus can’t resist rewarding the guy. He presents him with Io (former Bond Girl Gemma Arterton), a demigoddess babe with whom he enjoyed a demifrolic before she was presumed semidead.
A cynic might accuse director Louis (“The Incredible Hulk”) Leterrier of setting up a sequel here. But he must know that Worthington is already lined up for “Avatar 2,” which, assuming it happens, will probably occupy him for the next 120 years. Maybe Shia LaBeouf could be persuaded to step into Perseus’s sandals. Personally, I would give a lot to see John Malkovich as the Kraken. Grade: C (Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images, and brief sensuality.)
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