Monday, May 10, 2010

Clash of the Giant CG Monsters... in Pseudo-3D

NOTE: I want to finish this entry fast and get down to more important things (i.e. Machol Romania), however, I promised you I’d do this review, so here goes, but I’ll keep it short.

You knew this would happen sooner or later. If you know me, then surely you know how much I loved Clash of the Titans. Not only is it my favourite movie using Ray Harryhausen effects, it is one of my favourite movies of all time. It keeps the story of Perseus simple, yet engaging, truly capturing the epic feel of Greek mythology, with solid acting, amazing effects (for the time) and a very well-paced story.

When I went to see Alice in Wonderland and saw the trailer for the remake of Clash of the Titans, it actually left a bad taste in my mouth. I knew the movie would suck. Not because I have a prejudice against remakes, but because I honestly loathe bad remakes, and from my own experience, remakes nowadays tend to be really bad. So what were the chances of this one actually being good? Pretty slim. Well, it didn’t disappoint in any way… it sucks so hard that time and space get distorted around it.

So, let’s make a comparison between the two, shall we? And let’s hope I won’t get struck down because of this blasphemy.

The original story is pretty straightforward. Perseus falls in love with the princess Andromeda, who is under a curse and can’t marry anyone else, but the one who answers a mysterious riddle that changes every day. Using gifts from the gods, Perseus frees her from her curse, but when they would get married, due to a slip of her mother’s tongue (because she’s overwhelmed by joy, nonetheless) which ends up offending the goddess Thetis, Andromeda is fated to be sacrificed to the kraken. Perseus goes in search of Medusa, whose head can turn anything to stone, even the kraken, an immortal titan. Of course, Perseus succeeds, the kraken is defeated, he marries Andromeda and they live happily ever after. It is an appealing story of love and courage typical for Greek mythology.

The remake focuses a lot more on the war between gods and men (when did that ever happen?). Perseus’ parents and sister are killed by Hades when he makes an attack on the city of Argos. Andromeda insults the gods out of vanity, not ecstasy, and Andromeda ends up being cursed the same way as in the original. Perseus finds out that the kraken was made from Hades’ flesh (what?), so he decides to kill it, in order to weaken Hades and ultimately defeat him, to get his revenge. The outcome is very much the same as in the original, except instead of the wedding, Perseus banishes Hades back to the underworld. Now, my question is: isn’t love a strong enough force to drive this story forward? Is revenge really that much more appropriate? Does it have to do with the violence surrounding us in our everyday lives? Does revenge feel more authentic than love? In the end, it might, but I think it doesn’t involve the viewers enough to warrant a change of the classic erotic theme (and by this I mean love, not something pornographic you’d find on 4chan) so deeply enrooted within the mythology we’re talking about.

I’ve talked about Perseus before somewhat, by saying that he’s driven by revenge rather than love. However, that alone makes him a completely different character. The original Perseus is innocent, somewhat naïve, much like Zeus describes him. He always learns things, from the owner of the amphitheatre, from the captain of the guards, from the Stygian witches, and he is confident, in a childish “I’m playing the hero” manner, which I think you would expect a mythological hero to be like. The remake Perseus is filled with rage, listens to no one, shows no interest in anything but his revenge. You’d think “this sounds like a baddass Kratos”, but sadly that’s far from the truth. Deep inside, remake Perseus is weak, and I think overall he is pathetic. His confidence comes from stubbornness and the love interest he develops for Io (what’s she doing in this story?) is more than superficial.

The other characters are very different in the two versions as well. The owner of the amphitheatre takes the role of the wise mentor, however, when he sees things of legend (such as Perseus’ gifts, or the Pegasus), he is genuinely surprised. In the remake, this role is somewhat undertaken by Perseus’ adoptive father, whose only important role is saying that he loves Perseus like his own son and somewhat justifies Perseus’ rage when he is killed. Also, at one point, he says “Perseus, I am your father”, at which point everybody in the cinema laughed; you can’t use that line seriously since Star Wars.

The princess Andromeda and the queen Cassiopeia are very nicely outlined in the original movie. Andromeda’s despair when no one would show up as a suitor is so clearly read on her expression. Cassiopeia, although having a small role, is shown powerful and proud, yet understanding of her place. When she compares her daughter’s beauty to that of the gods’, she immediately realises her mistake, but it is too late. In the remake, these two characters are bland. Andromeda as Perseus’ love interest is replaced by Io, who pretty much guides him throughout his adventure, but seems just as one-dimensional as the other two characters.

The captain of the guards pays an important role in both stories. Given, he gets more attention in the remake, however, I think it has the opposite effect on his character development. I felt a much stronger connection with the original captain of the guards, without knowing things like how he lost his child to the wrath of the gods (or should I say “days of judgment”?) and without his heroic (yet utterly stupid) sacrifice in the face of Medusa.

The remake has a cast of extra characters which are just too stupid to even touch on. Seriously, it includes two hunters which remind me of something from the Conan the Adventurer TV series, as well as djinns. That’s right, djinns. I’m certain the people who wrote the script didn’t spend any skill points in Knowledge (Mythology). Honestly, I think the remake has less to do with Greek mythology than the God of War video game trilogy… and that’s a huge offence in case you didn’t catch it.

Actually, there are no real villains in the original story, per se. Perseus’ main foe is the fate bestowed upon Andromeda by the goddess Thetis. Note, I didn’t say that Thetis herself is the foe, by no means, what she does is legitimate, so much that even Zeus can’t get in the way (apparently the gods respect each others’ vanity more so than the happiness of their demigod children). Of course, this dooming fate combines with the creature Calibos, who is Thetis’s son, punished by Zeus because he kills off the majestic winged horses (leaving only the stallion, Pegasus). Calibos is the one who cursed Andromeda in the first place, and when Perseus lifts the curse, he cuts off the beast’s hand. Even though Calibos demands vengeance, Thetis is unable to act until she is mocked by Cassiopeia. The original story subtly outlines the rules that exist in the world of the gods.

The remake has one clear villain: Hades. He wants to overthrow Zeus, because he tricked him into ruling the underworld, while he got to rule the heavens (really now, can anyone take this joke seriously?). Of course, he enlists the aid of Calibos, whose true identity is replaced in the remake by Acrisius, the husband of Perseus’ mother, who in the original was destroyed by the kraken. I really don’t understand; what do people have against Hades? Sure, hell sounds bad, but the underworld wasn’t really hell. Hades isn’t Satan, people! He’s not a bad guy. He contributes to the balance of life and death existing in Greek mythology. Also, he is a badass. He is the supreme ruler of the dead, and not even Zeus can stand up to that (in certain aspects). However, here, he is pretty much a pussy boy, though you have to give him credit for scheming instead of a direct attack. Heck, they should have made him Loki instead of Hades; that would have fitted with his personality. What’s that? It’s a different mythology? It doesn’t matter in this movie; we have djinns for crying out loud!!!

Granted, the effects of the remake are far superior to those of the original, even if they were state-of-the-art back then… … … … that’s what you expected me to say, right? Wrong! Truth be told, some effects are really good, especially the kraken, Calibos, and the aura of Hades (even if he is a useless character). However, that doesn’t mean much. The giant scorpions, for example, move very robot-like, unlike real insects. The stop-motion used in the original befitted the giant scorpions a lot better. Also, Medusa is beautiful until she tries to turn someone into stone, which seems to happen at will, instead of automatically. If that were the case, it wouldn’t be much of a curse, now would it? The original Medusa looked a lot more frightening to me, though that might be because I saw the movie when I was a kid. Also, there were a lot of useless effects (i.e. the lightsaber), useless characters (i.e. the djinns), and useless scenes (i.e. fighting the head djinn and the Stygian witches). I didn’t know where to put those complaints, so I added them here.

Also, I have a complaint, which may sound weird. Technically, this movie was supposed to be 3D. I’m not dying over seeing movies in 3D, but it seems to be the norm, so whatever. The thing is, even though it was marketed as a 3D movie, the actual 3D content is well under twenty percent, and even those scenes suffer from blurry character edges, rather than 3D effects. My take on it is that it was originally supposed to be a regular 2D movie, but when they went into post-production, Avatar came out, and its huge success determined the staff to turn this movie into 3D, in the last minute. It failed miserably. (NOTE: I later learned that this is in fact true…)

Now, before anything, I have to admit that I liked two things a lot. One of them was the kraken. It didn’t have the fish-like look of the original one, but still retained its monstrous nature. It took a few whole minutes for it to completely emerge from the water, which was really cool. Then, it roared, which really sent shivers down my spine, and it was awesome. Then two minutes later it was dead, which was lame. They should have given it more screen time; it was by far the coolest thing in the movie. The second thing I liked was Calibos. Not the fact that they changed his nature, but the design and the badassness of the character were awesome. When he took on Perseus and his entire band single-handedly, even killing some of them (if I remember correctly), was really sweet.

Besides those two points, the movie sucked and blew all over. If it were up to me, I would have either made a remake of the original abiding by the story and just spicing up the effects (even though you still need good acting, which this movie lacked horribly, despite the fact that the original wasn’t in the award-winning category when it came to acting either); or I would have made a completely different story, turning Perseus into a badass Kratos ripoff, where he would rape Andromeda while choking Calibos with his own bowels.

Next time, Machol Romania is Born!

NOTE: In God of War 2, you actually face Perseus as a boss. It’s a really funny battle, where Kratos takes no break in showing off his awesomeness.

1 comment:

dr. Vincze-Nagy András said...

I don't know the original one. I saw this movie the day after I finished God of War III. It was like a bad joke!