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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Clash of the Titans

A mildly diverting but ultimately unlovable action spectacle

Posted By on Wed, Apr 7, 2010 at 12:00 AM

No one ever mistakes 1981's cheesy Clash of the Titans for a masterpiece, yet any nerd worth his salt keeps a soft spot for that original Greek god showdown. Lots of that love is because the film was swan song to stop-motion legend Ray Harryhausen, a genius who made jittery little puppets into memorably epic beasts. As clumsy as such handmade effects may look today, they had a soul and wit that's lacking in the new spiffed-up 3-D trickery you'll see here. 

So what happens when you rebuild a modest cult hit to summer blockbuster factory specs? You get a mildly diverting but ultimately unlovable action spectacle that vanishes before your eyes. Shot in boring old two dimensions, the film was hastily (and expensively) retooled into 3-D, to better suck every last shekel from your wallet.   

Up in Olympus, feuding bros Hades and Zeus are once again caught up in a cosmic dick-waving contest over how best to quiet earth's rabble. Seems its citizens have stopped praying to the gods and are edging toward a full-scale revolt. 

If Liam Neeson's gleaming armor doesn't distract, you'll learn that Hades plans to scare the mortals to death with his dreaded sea serpent and other nasties, whereas Zeus seeks to inspire faith with the aid of a hero, who just happens to be his half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington), who was raised by a humble fisherman, unaware of his real parentage. 

Back in the day, Perseus was played by the blow-dried and bronzed-up Harry Hamlin running around in a white toga and flailing his scrawny arms at rubber monsters, but that was preferable to Worthington (coincidentally star of Avatar), a hero with  all the charisma of dirty dishwater. Everything about him is drab; clad in earth tones and dirt, his brooding attitude matches his grimy exterior. Dude is so grungy that even his winged horse Pegasus is shit brown. His sidekicks are nothing more than fodder for arrows, giant scorpions, or to be turned into stone lawn gnomes by fearsome snake woman Medusa. 

He makes a nice villain, but why is Ralph Fiennes in this turkey? It's a mystery only he and his accountant can answer.

Louis Leterrier makes competent action, like the more recent Hulk flick, and the set pieces are fine, if forgettable. There's nothing here to be taken seriously, but it's damn near impossible to suppress giggles when Neeson's Zeus sternly bellows, "Release the Kraken!" That's what she said!

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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