Sunday, April 04, 2010

Not epic

Harryhausen did a fantastic smack-bang job with his stop-motion version of "Clash of the Titans". Today's CGI version was a total washout in comparison to it's classic(al) counterpart. "Clash (2010)" went for a darker, angstier narrative -- which is usually promising -- but for a story of these purported proportions it didn't quite work.

Dark means that the screen literally went dark with lots of shadows and blues, greys and blacks. I don't know if this was the effect of the 3D glasses we were wearing but I'd readily trade in the illusion of depth perception for a richer palatte of colours.

There's little point going all dark and moody if the characters are people no one cares about. It could have been Perseus and the Argonauts, a team effort coordinating different strengths to take down a common foe; but it was more like Perseus and the practically-anonymous bunch of tough-looking guys that died easily. Before we could get to know them and even start to recognize them by face, they've already hit the dirt like just another red-shirted Star Trek security detail.

Problem is, the whole thing is almost entirely from Perseus' teenage 'why-me' whiny perspective. It's a fantasy of laying the smack-down on everyone who's ever pissed you off, at first resisting then finally accepting all the deus ex-machina devices that've been conveniently provided along the way. That's just too easy and does little to develop him as a character much.

This narrative simply went for the central plot and doggedly remained there. No back-stories for the supporting characters, very little build-up to the next epic encounter, the whole mission undertaken with the efficiency of an audit check and about as entertaining. There was very little humour (except a perfunctory dig at the useless robot owl of the original version), and as such very little joy in the telling of this tale. Not fun at all.

When you set out to recreate a movie of this scale, this grandeur, but condense it into a series of tightly cut scenes that keep such sharp focus on the main through-line all the time, I'm sorry but you cannot expect to call it "Clash of the Titans" again and get away with it. That name has already been taken. Instead, try "Mash of the Tightened", that might have worked better.

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