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Thursday, April 8, 2010 08:22 am

The new Clash offers little new

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Jason Flemyng stars as Acrisius and Ralph Fiennes as Hades in Clash of the Titans.

I fondly remember the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. Though it didn’t leave me as breathless as another film from that same summer, a little ditty called Raiders of the Lost Ark, it did provide the necessary fun for a young teen to while away a summer’s day. Besides, being a young movie geek, I couldn’t help but be impressed with Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion special effects. Medusa never looked as scary as she did there.

Some films are better left fondly in your memory. Having seen Clash as an adult, I was able to see it as the threadbare entertainment that it was, a disposable popcorn movie pitched at kids that hasn’t aged well. I have a feeling a similar fate is waiting for Louis Leterrier’s remake of Clash, a film that winds up being all bluff and bluster, impressing us on first viewing but wilting on reflection.

Rarely has a remake adhered so closely to its source material as this film does. The script by Travis Beacham and Phil Hay is not so much a reimagining, as it is an act of plagiarism. As in the original, the Greek gods are peeved because a small faction of humans living in the city of Argos have the temerity not to believe in them anymore. Sporting an easily bruised ego, Zeus (Liam Neeson) decides to teach the foolish humans a lesson, telling them they have 10 days to sacrifice the Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) or risk the wrath of the Kraken, a long-dormant sea monster with a healthy appetite. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Perseus (Sam Worthington), the son of Zeus and an earth woman, is charged with finding out how to defeat the Kraken and save the princess.

The quest that our hero and his cohorts set out on makes up the bulk of the film and it contains an equal number of tepid moments and exciting scenes. Perseus’ identity crisis (am I a man? a god? who is my allegiance to?) bogs the film down at times as Worthington does his level best to inject a bit of humanity into the cardboard role he’s been handed. He makes the mistake of thinking he’s in a serious piece of drama, not a summer event film where the audience is more concerned with being visually wowed than emotionally engaged.

Thankfully, Worthington can wield a sword and hack and slash with the best of them. When he’s called on to dispatch a mythical baddie, he does so with convincing relish. Leterrier’s strong suit has always been staging thrilling action scenes (Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk) and he pulls out all of the stops here to distract us from the film’s flimsy script. An extended sequence in which Perseus and his followers battle giant scorpions is an edge-of-your-seat hoot while their duel with Medusa slowly develops, effectively increasing the tension in this show-stopping and scary sequence. However, Leterrier pulls out all the stops for the climax involving the Kraken, who’s rendered as a towering personification of rage that could take down Godzilla without breaking a sweat.

Leterrier wisely ends the film with Perseus’s battle with this awesome CGI-construct, leaving viewers agog as they walk out of the theater. Surely the success of this film will rely on positive word of mouth, which it will undoubtedly get. However, how people feel about Clash after seeing it again will likely produce a far less enthusiastic response.

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.

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