The new remake of 1981’s Clash of the Titans has gotten little respect, which seems quite odd to me. The fact is, the original was one of the worst Ray Harryhausen special effects extravaganzas ever. The stop-motion master was fit to retire back in ’81, and Clash, in fact, was his last effort as creator of special visual effects. But many weren’t so special, including a juvenile mechanical owl character which was so bad it even gets a brief snide put-down in the remake.
Look, I don’t just admire what Harryhausen did. I revere it. I grew up loving Jason and the Argonauts, Mysterious Island and the Sinbad movies. But times change. CG animation now rules, and with it you can do things far beyond the painstaking limitations of stop-motion work.
Others will grouse that this fable about man defying Greek goods amid much monstrous mayhem is as short in the narrative department as are the warriors’ battle-ready skirts. Excuse me, but when did this kind of thing presume to be Shakespeare (even if Hamlet’s Sir Laurence Olivier did play Zeus in the ’81 original)? This is a popcorn movie, purely and simply. So just pop some corn, sit back, savor the spectacle and don’t expect to feed your mind as much as you’re feeding your gut with freshly poppped kernels.
I’m not saying Sam Worthington as the heroic Perseus is the essence of charismatic heroism, but neither was Harry Hamlin in the original. Again, we’re not talking Saving Private Ryan here. We’re talking giant scorpions on the loose! As soon as I saw those in the trailer, I was ready to sign up with Perseus’ band of adventurers and take the fantasy ride. (And now, via Warner Bros.’ Blu-ray release, we can see how they did it, via the elaborate Harnessing the Gods.)
So go ahead and carp if you must about plot points, acting chops and Liam Neeson making a bland Zeus (though I thought Ralph Fiennes made a haunting, almost pitiable Hades). For me the bottom line is fanciful spectacle, and this Clash provides it, big-time. Give me snake-headed Medussa, the Scorpiochs and the Kraken and I’m happy. As in the old days, monsters are what this is all about, and this Clash gets the movie monster mash job done.
Tags: Ray Harryhausen