Monday, April 12, 2010

Clash of the Titans?

I went to see Clash of the Titans on Friday night with my friend Sharad. Both of us have seen the original 1981 film, which stays true to the adventure and polytheistic psychology of Greek mythology.

Themes from Greek mythology are a part of modern culture, inspiring literature, film, and art. Shakespeare modeled his characters Theseus, Hippolyta and Oberon from A Midsummer Night's Dream and even Romeo and Juliet on characters from Greek mythology. Dr. Carl Jung studied Greek mythology and tried to interpret archetypes within it. Even the Percy Jackson series for young adults has combined elements of Harry Potter with Greek mythology and is disappearing like magic from bookstore shelves. And now, the Clash of the Titans remake? No!

Greek myths showcase eccentric, unique creatures or deities with supernatural powers. Their plights typically illustrate a moral lesson. The gods can be proud, loving, spiteful, vengeful, loyal, and philandering. The interplay of these drives shapes the story. Moreover, bigger than life characters such as Medusa with her face framed by hissing snakes and her ability to turn anyone who catches her eye into stone, the flying horses who are pure and strong, and the heroes on a quest to save a loved one or a city allow Greek mythology to educate about the values of respect and ingenuity while evoking fear, hope, and curiosity.

The new Clash of the Titans is a series of CGI images and fight scenes. The character development is minimal and corpses in the Greek underworld have more flesh than the storyline. Perseus, the son of Zeus and the hero, confronts scary creatures in video game style - a couple of quick jabs and on to the next one. I'd say Perseus whines, but he refuses to change the tone or pitch of his voice in the movie, so "whines" is the wrong word. Instead, Perseus annoyingly repeats in a stern, rumbly voice that he is a man, not a god, and he is going to defeat the Kraken (the supervillaneous, almost omnipotent, town-sized creature that destroyed the father of the three most powerful gods - Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon) as a man. He sounds like a seven-year-old child with a goal of digging to China from the United States with a sandbox shovel. Perseus attempts to toss away the magical sword that his father, Zeus, gives to him and, almost until the end, seems ready to sacrifice everyone in the city because he can't come to terms with his own talents. Any reasonable person understands Perseus' success depends on his tapping into the supernatural. Perseus denies his own "bigger than life" quality and that of the story. Who expects the hero's fatal flaw to be that he wants to handicap himself?

A few good actors are in the movie. Liam Neeson plays Zeus. Ralph Fiennes plays Hades. They both have shaggy beards. Hades has heavy make-up and Zeus glows the majority of the time, making his face appear unnatural with the color white oversaturating his features. Maybe these veteran actors appreciate the makeup and hair camoflauge, wanting to hide behind something after agreeing to do the movie?

Final comment: only watch Clash of the Titans if you aspire to see giant crabs.

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