Liam Neeson-led cast can't save 'Clash of the Titans'

Liam Neeson-led cast can't save 'Clash of the Titans'
(L-r) ALEXA DAVALOS as Andromeda and SAM WORTHINGTON as Perseus in Warner Bros. Pictures

Clash of the Titans Grade: C

The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and with a name as big as something calling itself “Clash of the Titans,” perhaps this movie was doomed — even prophesied — to fail. And much like the Greek myths of prophesies past, everything it does sets itself up to fulfill its promised failure, a reality only made worse by how overly serious it tries to take itself.

“Clash” tells the story of Perseus, played by Sam Worthington as an Aussie-tongued fish-out-of-water with ample amounts of fight left in him. Perseus lives in an Ancient Greece besieged by angry gods. Himself a demigod, Perseus’s father is a disenchanted Zeus (Liam Neeson) who is egged on to punish humanity’s transgressions by his scheming brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Hades plans to let loose the Kraken, a vast, monstrous creature, on the city of Argos. As usual, it is up to Perseus and a team of soldiers to find a way to stop the city-sized creature.

A remake of the 1981 version with then-dazzling stop-motion special effects and starring Harry Hamlin, this “Clash” was directed by Louis Letterier. The Frenchman is a hit-or-miss auteur in his own right, with both the capable storytelling of “The Incredible Hulk” and hammy action of “Transporter 2” under his belt. “Clash of the Titans” is something in between the two — not terrible, but certainly disappointing for the lost potential of what could have been an energetic sword-and-sandals flick with an impressive cast and pleasing visuals.

The actual result is a film that does not live up to its name. The clash is underwhelming, the supposed titans inspire no awe and any clash of titans that could have happened is lost to characters with the scantest of motivation or dimensions. The lacking character is not due to the cast; all appear to be trying their hardest. Unfortunately, the actors must contend with a script that calls on them to employ vast amounts of exposition to try and make up for a barely-there plot. Story points are either discarded or simply turned on their heads with nary an explanation and just more dribble of vomited, distracting exposition.

In some ways, “Clash” strikes a bit of a balance between what are admittedly good visuals and a plot that cannot contain all the sense it doesn’t make. Worth note is that, while they are good, the visuals are not great or awe inspiring. Not without entertainment, the action is admittedly decent and the visuals usually track. The film even boasts a few bursts of humor.

What it doesn’t boast is a great deal of sense. Perhaps homage, perhaps merely laziness in crafting that most elusive of film accomplishments — an original plot that actually makes sense — this “Clash” does little more than transplant all the elements of the original. But it didn’t simply tell the exact same story; that would be too easy. Instead it tossed those elements up in the air and played connect the jagged edges where they fell, letting gravity decide the mangled descent into needless story filling. No, that’s not a typo. “Clash” only tries to tell a story; in reality, it merely fills it.

Really, we should have recognized the warning signs when the decision was made to retrofit the film for 3D, delaying its original release date by a week from Friday, March 26 to April 2. The retrofit, while not terrible, is unneeded and cannot save the movie from visual effects that can be replicated by films with the benefits of modern computer graphics. The real point is that Warner Brothers decided the film was worth retrofitting, at best a sign of their greedy leap onto the 3-D bandwagon, and at worst the result of a total lack of confidence in the film’s ability to engage audiences otherwise.

Ultimately, “Clash of the Titans” will be remembered as yet another unnecessary remake that thought it could cover up a halfhearted plot with pretty but heartless visuals — if it is remembered at all.

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