A clash of perspectives (i.e. I liked it, so there) ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Friday, April 9, 2010

A clash of perspectives (i.e. I liked it, so there)

Clash of the Titans
My rating:

Is it just me, or was there a lot of undue hype for this movie? A week or so before its release, I got wind of a fair bit of anticipation on the internets, which I didn't think was warranted at all. I wasn't much impressed by the CGI beasties in the trailer, and Louis Leterrier has not proven himself a director worth looking out for. Then the negative reviews started coming in, many of which point out the shoddy 3D conversion, and I admit to feeling quite smug about it. Serves you right for getting excited about a film that I wasn't!

Then I watched it myself. And whaddya know, I liked it.

Perseus (Sam Worthington), who was found in a chest floating in the sea as a baby, loses his adopted family in a vengeful attack on the city of Argos by Hades (Ralph Fiennes), god of the underworld. Argos has openly defied the gods of Olympus, decrying them as tyrants; and Hades has convinced Zeus (Liam Neeson), king of the gods, to deliver Argos an ultimatum - sacrifice their princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) to the monstrous Kraken in ten days, or be destroyed. When Perseus is discovered to be a demigod son of Zeus, he is roped into a quest to find a way to kill the Kraken. Aided by a band of companions that include the immortal sorceress Io (Gemma Arterton) and the veteran soldier Draco (Mads Mikkelsen), their quest will take them face to face with the winged horse Pegasus, the vengeful creature Calibos (Jason Flemyng), Medusa - whose gaze turns living things into stone - and finally the Kraken itself.

The original 1981 Clash of the Gods was a seminal childhood cinematic experience for me - which is to say, my memories of it are fond but vague. Haven't seen it again in ages, doubt it holds up very well (James Berardinelli says it doesn't), and didn't really feel anything - anticipation nor outrage - when it was announced that a remake was being made. But Clash of the Titans 2010 was good cheesy fun for me, and I really don't know why it's been getting bad reviews from both critics and the average Malaysian forum-dweller who only weeks ago was drooling over it.

You know what genre this movie is in? It's sword-and-sorcery, folks, and it's a lot more enjoyable and energetic than the last recent attempt at it. You got your motley band of adventurers, which include the hero; the chick; the grizzled veteran; the non-human; the, um, other grizzled veteran; the brash youngster; and the, er, even younger and brasher youngster. Okay, well-defined they're not, and you won't shed any tears when most of them die, but at least they all get a snarky line or moment of their own. That's enough to make it fun watching them in all the monster-fighting action scenes, of which there are plenty. And ancient Greece is really the perfect milieu for sword-and-sorcery, 'cos of all the freaky monsters around every corner. Seriously, this movie is just fun.

And I know, a verdict like that does little for my film critic cred, so now let me get a little intellectual. Why were the Greek gods such dicks? In this movie alone, Zeus rapes the wife of a king who dared defy him, Hades kills Perseus' family almost as an afterthought, and we hear the pleasant tale of Medusa who was first raped by Poseidon and then cursed by Athena for being a rape victim. But such was theology in the ancient world. It's no coincidence that their gods always represent natural forces, e.g. the weather, the oceans, the sun and moon, the seasons - because those were the things that people were at the mercy of. In trying to make sense of why a drought wiped out their crops, or why they're dying of plague, or why a storm at sea has destroyed an entire fleet of ships, they could only come to one conclusion - these are the works of gods, who are dicks.

Which is an alien concept to us modern folks, since the Western concept of religion has since been defined and codified by Jesus. And regardless of your religious denomination, you have to give him credit for first coming up with what was a pretty radical idea at the time - that God is not a thing that likes to jerk you around and act like a dick; God is a being that loves you and wants you to be good. (And it wasn't just radical to the Romans - see the Old Testament God.) But we're digressing a little too far from the movie here. There's a theme of man rebelling against the gods - and the gods deserving to be rebelled against - that it touches on, but sadly never gets deeper than the surface. I was cheering Perseus on every time he rejects his semi-divine heritage, growling "I won't be like them!" - but by movie's end, he's been told that he's "the best of both worlds", and made nice with dear old dad. Sigh.

Acting is a mixed bag - which is to say, the stars are bland but the supporting performances are good. Sam Worthington continues to not impress; he was alright in Avatar, but his one-note acting proves dull in a movie like this. During his big anguished reaction to his family's death, notice how quickly the camera cuts away, as if the editor knew Worthington just cannot emote. Gemma Arterton tries her best but seems miscast, and has zero chemistry with Worthington; Alexa Davalos is much better, and one wonders why she didn't get the bigger role. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes were apparently brought on to lend gravitas to the film, and they couldn't really pull it off; Neeson phones it in, and Fiennes was better at playing villain when he had Voldemort's makeup on. And then there's Mads Mikkelsen, so creepy as the villain in Casino Royale, but so cool and badass as Draco here; he's one of the movie's highlights.

I have a sneaky suspicion that most of the negative reviews came from people who watched it in 3D. I had been forewarned of the poor 3D conversion, so I watched it in good ol' 2D, and I liked it just fine. It doesn't have the reverent, mythical tone of the original - nor does it have Ray Harryhausen's lovingly-crafted stop-motion models - but replaces it with fast-paced fantasy action-adventure fun. Sure, it's cheesy and dumb, but... okay, lemme tell you about a good bit. As Medusa dies, her expression turns sad and pitiful - which is a callback to her tragic story that we heard earlier. A film that at least attempts to be that thoughtful can't be all bad.

NEXT REVIEW: Evolusi KL Drift 2
Expectations: wonder if I should watch the first Evolusi KL Drinaah.


Em said...

i'm too lazy to write my own reviews, and i probably wouldn't be able to, if i wanted to, so here i'm gonna share with you this review i read that i agree with: http://k0ks3nw4i.blogspot.com/2010/03/public-service-announcement-for.html

muhamad imran said...

3 and half star? come on...the effects is good, but can be a lot of improvements on story telling. i know it was based on ancient greek myth, but i still it can be tweak here and there.

TMBF said...

Of course it could be improved. That's why it's not 5 stars.

Anonymous said...

i thought it's a lil confusing..i mean abt the myth.thought that perseus supposed to be poseidon son and in this mov,he's zeus's?

TMBF said...

They changed it for the movie. Nothing confusing about it. :)

BTW, this is a fascinating report on how different the movie could've been. Even though I liked it, I have to admit this sounds much better.


I wonder if the change was because of some stupid religious-fundamentalist reason...