Monday, April 5, 2010

Remakes: Redux, Or Ridiculous? -- Two Titans Clash


***Pics from CLASH OF THE TITANS 2010--google images and other websites***

In today's movie going experience, remakes of old favorites has become alarmingly commonplace. Any film that was popular, or amassed a huge following over the years is ripe for the picking at the hands of Hollywood producers. 1981's fantasy film favorite, CLASH OF THE TITANS is one of the more recent. It's difficult where to actually begin with the comparisons and differences as the remake keeps most of the originals characters, adds some new ones and then shuffles everything around.

The remakes director, Louis Leterrier, obviously a fan of the original film, does his best to create a straight up action film modeled on what made Desmond Davis' CLASH so endearing. What it lacks, at least in my eyes is cohesion and characters you either scarcely know anything, or even care remotely about. Some people claim this was also a problem in the original CLASH. I don't quite agree. We learn a great deal about the main characters and even the Gods themselves. You learn of the mischievous and sexual proclivity of Zeus and the vengeful jealousy of Thetis.

In the new film, you are only given a glimpse at what lies beneath Zeus and Hades as individuals. The latter character is, like a number of elements, an addition not present in the 1981 production. Aside from a line or two from a couple of the other deities, you know nothing about them as characters, or whatever traits they may possess. Speaking of the Gods, in the original movie, they made no bones about interfering in man's travails, whether for the good, or otherwise. Zeus looked after Perseus and aided him in his journey. In the new film, man rebels against the Gods and Perseus has a vendetta against them for the deaths of his adopted family. I assume this plot point is supposed to be a parallel for society's growing separation from religion; people preferring to think for themselves without having to be brainfed how you are supposed to act and what you are supposed to do.

Harry Hamlin carrying the head of Medusa in a shot not presented in this fashion in the finished film

Below I will list what else is different between the '81 movie and the 2010 remake since the variances are so vast--

CLASH 1981: Acrisius puts his daughter and her son, Perseus to the sea as retribution for Zeus visiting her one evening and impregnating her. For Acrisius' punishment, Zeus orders Poseidon to "Make sure that no stone stands, that no creature crawls...I command you to let loose the last of the Titans. Let loose the Kraken!! The kingdom of Acrisius must be destroyed!"

Sam Worthington carrying Medusa's head in a bag

CLASH 2010: This time it's Acrisius' WIFE who is ravished by Zeus; only here, it isn't welcomed as Zeus disguises himself as Acrisius, her husband. Out of anger, Acrisius puts his wife and baby Perseus to the sea. He is then struck by a lightning bolt from Zeus which deforms his body.

CLASH 1981: Calibos is the son of Hera. He is transformed into a monster by Zeus for trapping and killing his herd of flying horses with Pegasus (a white horse here and a black horse in the new film) being the only one remaining alive. For this picture, Calibos is urged by his mother to kill Perseus to keep him from accomplishing his mission.

CLASH 2010: For whatever reason, Acrisius, now residing in a cave, or underground grotto, is living (for lack of a better word) under a new alias, Calibos(?) How he comes to be called Calibos is not discussed. He is not the son of a God, or a Goddess in the new film. Here, he is an instrument of Hades to kill Perseus and his soldiers during their journey. There appears to be some exposition missing (I would think this was the case) prior to the first time we see Calibos when he is visited by Hades.

CLASH 1981: Acrisius is killed, along with his city and his people, by the Kraken during the beginning of the film just after the opening credits. The Kraken is seen twice here--once at the beginning and again, more prominently during the finale. The Kraken seen here is the tool of the Gods to pay back defiance. When Andromeda is to be sacrificed to the Kraken, the people of Jappa do not want to comply.

CLASH 2010: The Kraken is seen only once during the movie and that's during the finale. The creature looks vastly different from Harryhausen's creation with the new one bearing more than a passing resemblance to the monster in CLOVERFIELD. Here, the Kraken is the "son" of Hades. As opposed to the original, the people of Argos (destroyed during the beginning of the original) are almost welcoming the sacrifice of Andromeda to the sea beast.

CLASH 1981: When Cassiopeia compares her daughters beauty to Thetis, the head of a great statue of the Goddess falls off and foretells that for her blasphemy, her daughter, Andromeda, must be sacrificed to the Kraken in 30 days.

CLASH 2010: During a grand celebration of Argos' independence from the Gods, Cassiopeia makes a disparaging remark about her daughters beauty in comparison to the Gods. This time, Hades shows up and makes a mess of the place and states that for her insult, her daughter must be sacrificed to the Kraken in TEN days. The vocal Queen also suffers a grim fate in the new film.

The new Medusa was the most eagerly awaited segment of the new CLASH for me and was a bit of a let down. It's not a patch on the originals much more accomplished sequence

CLASH 1981: Much is made of the romance between Andromeda and Perseus. He goes through an ordeal to win her hand having to solve a life threatening riddle. The answer to the riddle lies in the hand of Calibos, which Perseus severs during a battle in the swamp (the circumstances of which are different in the new film). This is also a reason for Thetis orchestrating the death of Andromeda. The film is built around the relationship between Andromeda and Perseus.

Perseus and the Djinn in Medusa's lair

CLASH 2010: There is no romance between Perseus and Andromeda. There's really no romance at all in the entire film. There is a new character added, a demi-god named Io who has something of an attraction to Perseus. More time is spent with her than Andromeda. Very little time is even spent with Andromeda and her impending sacrifice to the Kraken has no meaning, or build up whatsoever. It comes off as something of an afterthought amidst all the action.

CLASH 1981: There's an entire adventure involving Perseus obtaining the white winged horse, Pegasus. The flying steed is an integral part of the movie and gets quite a lot of screen time. Pegasus is the most prized pet of Zeus.

CLASH 2010: Perseus more or less happens upon Pegasus, this time a black stallion. There's no mention of him prior to Perseus finding him in a forest and the winged equine is barely in the movie at all relegated to almost cameo status. There's no mention of Zeus having a flock of flying horses, just that Pegasus must be a gift from the Gods.

The best damn scene in the original CLASH OF THE TITANS

CLASH 1981: The Gods give Perseus a number of gifts to help him on his long and treacherous trip to save Andromeda. Zeus gives him a sword, a magic helmet that makes him invisible and a special shield which upon seeing Zeus's image glaring in it, tells him "Guard well this shield...for one day, it will guard your life." He is later given a mechanical owl named Bubo, a character aimed at the children in the audience. Bubo later rescues Pegasus after having been captured by Calibos.

The new Stygian Witches look cool and all, but seem like they're just thrown in and do not have the gruesome appeal of the three cannibalistic non-cuties from the '81 film

CLASH 2010: For the new film, Perseus gets a sword that only he can wield. There's no helmet or shield from Zeus. He does get a shield from the Djinn fashioned from the skin of the scorpions. He finds Pegasus out in the forest and he's seen only sporadically from there till the end. Actually, I think the winged horse isn't seen again until the finale although I don't quite remember. Bubo puts in a cameo appearance for all of ten seconds and that's it.

CLASH 1981: The battle with the scorpions takes place just prior to the Kraken sequence. The scorpions are born from the blood of Medusa. Calibos stabs her decapitated head and the blood hits the ground creating the scorpions.

In Hollywood movies today, everything has to be 'Big, Bigger, Biggest' while the plots and characterizations are 'small, smaller, smallest'.

CLASH 2010: For the remake, this fight is pushed up towards the middle. The scorpions are born after Calibos has his hand cut off during a fight between Perseus and his troupe of warriors. The scorpions here are at least three times bigger than the ones seen in the original film. What is most confusing is that a new character is introduced here--the Djinn. They also have giant scorpions of their own, so when they appear with even BIGGER arachnids, it makes this sequence a bit perplexing.

Now for one of the biggest alterations which was the sequence I was most looking forward to--the Medusa sequence....

Did I mention how great this sequence is? If you never see the original CLASH, you should at least watch this damn fine scene in its entirety

CLASH 1981: In what is quite possibly the best sequence of Harryhausen's esteemed career, the duel between Perseus and Medusa was a scene immersed in suspense and smothered with intense terror. The reference mentioned above regarding Perseus' magical shield comes into play here during this awesome scene. Everything in this sequence reeks of perfection. So perfect in fact, that Luigi Cozzi laughably ripped it off in his unintentionally hilarious HERCULES 2 (1984) starring Lou Ferrigno.

CLASH 2010: The Medusa sequence in the remake replaces the suspenseful buildup of the original with a cosmically shallow, video game oriented "run-and-gun" scenario. The remaining group that follow Perseus into the underworld are killed off here. The filmmakers even lace this scene with humor of all things. Medusa attempts to turn the Djinn to stone, but after three or so tries, the thing just laughs at her while she has a right dumbfounded look on her face. The scene itself isn't terrible, just terribly different from the perfection of the original.

At one time one of the top most requested movies on Turner's cable channels, the original CLASH slays the new one with veritable ease.

As already mentioned, the characters are simply cardboard cut outs to be used as fodder for the various creatures seen during the many action set pieces. A lot of them seem unnecessary (including two comic relief hunters) considering how little screen time they are given. In the original film, Perseus is shown honing his sword fighting skills over a period of time. In the new film, he learns in just one scene how to brandish his blade.

Andromeda is offered to the Kraken much to the delight of the seemingly bloodthirsty Argosians

One of the biggest cardinal sins of the new film is that Andromeda is a side character whom you only see in a couple of scenes. Her supposed sacrifice to the Kraken has no lasting importance (unlike the first film) considering there is no connection, or romance (nor the possibility of one) between herself and Perseus.

Also, the action scenes fall prey to pretty much every Hollywood movie of recent memory. They are shot often in close up and bearing rapid editing which often makes it extremely difficult to ascertain just what in the hell is going on onscreen. The camera and the editor seldom allows a scene to breathe even momentarily so we can enjoy what substance these bits possess. The grandeur of the real locations are the one saving grace, though. The score is vastly different from the original movie as well. The '81 CLASH had a thunderously big, bold and romantic score that covered the spectrum of a huge epic. The new movies soundtrack is fine, but abrasive and angry with nary a quiet moment that I can recall. It's good, but lacks the scope of Laurence Rosenthal's cues.

Perseus converses with the Stygian Witches in the new version of CLASH OF THE TITANS

Getting back to the characters, the Stygian Witches pretty much act in the same capacity only their cannibalistic tendencies are never mentioned (if they were, I missed it considering how fast everything moves). The bulk of their dialog is lifted from the original movie. The one major difference in this sequence is that Perseus and co. never get too close to them since they crave human flesh. Here, in the new film, Perseus even lets them feel him up! Unlike the original, there's no buildup to making the journey to their lair and the danger involved upon meeting them. It's all like, "We have to go to the Stygian Witches to find our next stop and big action set piece."

Everything surrounding Charon is a surreal nightmare...everything but Charon itself

Charon, the Ferryman of the river Styx is a lot different here from the original movie. The filmmakers did an incredible job creating the set for the unholy river and Charon's vessel dragged by zombies. However, Charon looks a tad bit disappointing. In the original movie, he was a skeletal monstrosity clad in a black hooded cloak, his bony hands being visible as he guides his boat to Medusa's lair. For the 2010 update, the cloak is gone and Charon resembles a haunted carnival attraction.

Death of Dioskilos

Also gone is the duel with Dioskilos, the giant two headed canine guardian of Medusa. Calibos' giant vulture is also excluded from the new film. As already mentioned, the Gods themselves are largely absent from the new film whereas they feature in a great many scenes from the 1981 original. Liam Neeson relished the chance to appear in this production, but his performance pales to the one essayed by Sir Laurence Olivier in the original.

Sir Laurence Olivier as Zeus

Director, Leterrier has stated his excitedness at the prospect of producing the two proposed sequels which he says will be much bigger than the first one. Hopefully when the remake hits DVD, it will be a better movie, as opposed to the 'Loud & Proud' production it presents itself as. In its current incarnation, it doesn't hold a candle to the wonderful original movie. If you are unfamiliar with the MGM film from 1981, or didn't like it for whatever reason, than this new version will likely present little problem for viewers. Fans of the original may end up being terribly disappointed.

Perseus & the Stygian Witches from the 1981 version

CLASH OF THE TITANS 2010 follows Hollywood's current stance of style over substance and action over exposition. I had high hopes for this one, but while it has its moments, it's ultimately a major league disappointment. Lacking the scope and adventure of its source material, the new CLASH is all flash and no focus.

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