few weeks ago, Sithkitten was shopping at Wal-Mart and noticed that
they were selling the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans on dvd for
As a special promotion to the (then) upcoming remake, they offered a voucher for a free movie ticket. Because we always liked the old film and figured the Younger Posse Members would as well, she bought it. After all, if one calculated the value of the free ticket, we were basically getting the movie for the cost of a rental.
When she told me about it, I agreed that it was a good deal, but I wondered if the studio was including the free ticket because they knew the remake was a real stinker.
This is what we call “foreshadowing.”
Yesterday we saw the remake (in 2D, 3D gives us headaches).
It’s pretty, but that’s about all you can say for it. The plot is nonsensical, the dialogue pathetic, basically nothing works. Even the CGI is disappointing – yes, it looks nice, but some of the monsters are actually inferior in terms of creepiness to Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion creatures from 1981.
The 1981 version is of course campy and over-the-top in places, but it is actually pretty true to the source material. The Greek gods are capricious, jealous and arbitrary, the heroes heroic and the princess is quite good looking. Interesting side note: there is actual nudity in the 1981 version, even though it was rated PG. I’d be amazed to see bared breasts get a PG rating these days.
Now for those who missed the original, go grab a copy, kick back and enjoy. The cast is great: Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Harry Hamlin as Perseus, plus a supporting cast that includes Burgess Meredith and Sian Phillips. Good stuff.
As I said, the plot is very Greek: King Acretius of Argos has a beautiful daughter named Danae and is so determined to protect her virtue that he locks her in his treasury. Zeus transforms himself into a shower of gold and gains entrance and then impregnates her. The King is outraged at his daughter’s loss of virginity and after she gives birth to Perseus casts her and her child into the sea in a locked casket.
Zeus is pissed, so he has Poseidon unleash the mighty Kraken, which devastates Argos, but mother and daughter are borne safely to a small island and there they live in peace until Perseus grows up.
This is great stuff and it only gets better and more convoluted as the gods constantly torment each other and use mortals as pawns.
I’m sure the purists out there will sniff that it does not strictly conform to the Greek legends, but there are usually several versions of these to pick from. The ancient Greeks were famously divided on all sorts of things and that applied to their mythology as well as their politics.
The point is that if you watch the 1981 version, you get an idea of something very close to an actual Greek hero-story. We have the youth seeking fortune and adventure, the meddlesome gods, companions and of course his magical weapons, each of which serves a purpose.
It has become cliché in movies to give a hero a magic sword or gadget and then have it prove its worth later in the show, but for a classical tale, it’s essential to the genre. Thus, Perseus gets a sword that cuts almost anything, a helmet that makes him invisible and a shield that one day will save his life.
All of this is foretold and it all comes to pass. Call it trite, predictable or whatnot, but some of the best stories are the ones we all know. It is no accident that Star Wars in its original incarnation was hugely successful precisely because it followed these conventions. Is anyone surprised that the prequels are so lacking given that George Lucas abandoned this formula?
But I digress. Back to the review.
The plot of the new version makes no sense. Basically Perseus declares war on the gods themselves and tries to defeat Olympus. I’m not a big fan of militant atheism, but I can see how, in today’s generally safe and technologically sophisticated world, people would doubt the existence of God.
But in a world where the gods actually manifest themselves and strike mortals down with lighting bolts and blazing maelstroms? Uh, no.
Instead of a classic hero story, we get a mish-mash of idiotic plot devices, set-piece fight scenes and lots of people running from CGI.
I simply cannot understand why they wouldn’t just go for a straight-up remake. Every time Hollywood has decided to depart from a tried and true heroic story, they screw it up (see, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Trojan War…).
Oh, I’m sure the studio hacks can give me a sheaf of reasons why they need to make these stories “more modern” and give them an “edge,” but c’mon! The fact that it took four writers to come up with this tripe really speaks volumes about Hollywood’s creativity (or, more specifically, lack thereof).
I must admit I was really surprised because this film came from the same studio that gave us the superbly awesome 300. I can’t say enough great things about that film. Had they gone with a straight-up remake of the 1981 feature with the look and feel of 300, it would have been amazing.
Alas, what we have instead is yet another CGI demo reel.