Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Things I Hated About Clash of the Titans

The new Clash of the Titans stars a fantastic cast of actors, stunning special effects and a story that dates back to ancient times – so what went wrong? What always goes wrong in a Greek tragedy? Hubris.

In 1981, Desmond Davis directed the original Clash of the Titans starring Harry Hamlin as Perseus, Lawrence Olivier as the god Zeus and Maggie Smith as the goddess Thetis. So when Hollywood announced plans for a new Clash of the Titans, I was thrilled.

I love Greek mythology. I loved the original Clash of the Titans and I am a total sucker for a solid heroic tale. So why did I sit down in a theater on April 3 and stare at this film with a mixture of boredom and annoyance? Let us talk about that.

Things I Hated about Clash of the Titans

Top of my list is the film's insistence on telling the story rather than showing it. In the original, we saw the hubris of Acrisius; we saw the attack of the Kraken and the destruction of his town. We saw him cast Perseus and his daughter into the sea. This film simply opens in the sea, with a fisherman pulling the sarcophagus from the water, a dead Danae inside with baby Perseus. It would still be quite some time before we learned "why" he was in the water.

Weak Opening

The power of the opening is diminished even further by showing Perseus' normal life with only the presumption of his demi-god status. Of course, we the viewer know this – but it is the hubris of storytelling to just assume the viewer knows that without showing them the story. Instead, we see Perseus grow up with his adopted father and mother and his baby sister. We see them become fishermen and we hear the arguments made by his adopted parents in favor and in opposition of the "gods".

Forced Tragedy

Their fishing boat just happens to be at the base of a cliff where soldiers are knocking down a massive statue of Zeus. They survive the wash of water, but when Hades shows up to kill the soldiers, he overturns and sinks Perseus' boat, trapping his family inside and sending it plummeting to the bottom of the sea.


So it's soldiers of Argos that knocked the statue down and they just happen to be nearby and fish Perseus off the boat wreckage. They trot him through Argos, which swims in poverty and misery to the fat, drunk court of the King and Queen. So Perseus just happens to be standing there when Hades shows up to kill all the soldiers and punish Cassiopeia for daring to compare her daughter's beauty to the gods.

Hades the Hitman

Okay, the hubris of the Queen, I get that – it's total Greek mythology, but why is Hades the hitman? Since when? And where are all the other Greek gods? Poseidon gets a token line and so does Apollo, the rest are mute and vanish leaving it only Zeus and Hades are the big players. Okay – that's popular in modern retellings of the story (see Disney's Hercules), but this just fell flat.

The Anti God

So Hades warns, sacrifice Andromeda or see the entire town of Argos destroyed. The King can't have that – but now, neither can Perseus, because he's pissed and decided that he's going to fight the Gods too – even though Hades labeled him a demi-god and the soldiers of Argos beat him to get the truth of his parentage out. But that's okay; Perseus doesn't want to be a god.

Honestly, by this point in the story, I kept staring at the ceiling, wondering why the tale felt so cobbled together, and wondering just how many writers it took to do this. For example – the war of man on god is something we're "told" about, not really shown and after just a small example of their power, it seems bizarre that men would think they could challenge the "gods" – so is their war about knocking down statues?

So Perseus says, natch, I'll kill the Kraken because a god, Hades, killed my family and what use are they? Now you could make the argument that Perseus had been raised this way by his father the fisherman, but Sam Worthington delivers his lines in a flat, passionless monotone that I couldn't tell if he is supposed to be in shock or what. In the meanwhile, Zeus never knew Perseus survived?


Enter the Immortal Babe

Io shows up to confide in Perseus, to give him guidance and reveals that she's immortal thanks to having either turned down a god or pissing one off. She's been looking after Perseus his whole life.

Right – in the middle of an ocean when he was on a fishing boat? And she's mortal? Even if Io is the name of a river goddess and she was also a priestess of Hera that Zeus really wanted. Either way – it is just so convenient that she shows up to guide Perseus on his journey.

I could go on and on and on and on about what I didn't like and honestly, the film was a tremendous disappointment from both the storytelling and epic hero perspectives.

But since I want to end on a positive note, I must say that I did love the creatures in the tale. The monsters were magical, particularly Medusa, whose wild beauty is juxtaposed against her monstrous condition.

Did you like Clash of the Titans?

Movie Trailer


  1. I thought the movie was weak. It made me miss Harry Hamlin and the old cheesy film.

  2. I haven't seen it yet, and was keen until reading this. Now maybe I'll save my money or download it.

  3. I saw the preview for the movie and it did absolutly nothing for me - zero interest. Most of these films are just special effects/big opening weekend kind of movies.
    I did just see How To Train Your Dragon and that was fantastic - a film worthy of 3D technology and with a great story too!

  4. Karen, we went to see How to Train Your Dragon right after seeing Clash and I have to agree -- a much better film overall. My daughter is in the middle of reading that series of books, she said the film was different from the book, but she loved both -- so that's some good kudos there!

    And sorry Fredamans, I wish I'd saved mine. I really wanted it to be good -- guess I need to dig out the Harry Hamlin and watch it again.