The Friday Movie Blog

This week: It’s the clash of the Clash[es] of the Titans. Plus, a few thoughts on font size in movie ads


Clash of the Titans (1981)
As shocking as this will be to you, I have been looking forward to the new Clash of the Titans for months. My brother and I watched the original many, many times as kids — well, that and Jason and the Argonauts (those skeleton soldiers were frakin awesome!). But before this week, it had been several years since I had last watched it. Sadly, all I could remember was a giant vulture with some weird cage-thing, that annoying clockwork owl, and Medusa (of course). Something about the twitchy, animation of Medusa has always stayed with me — probably because it scared the bejeezus out of the young me. [SIGNUP]

Needing some geeky preparation before the release of the new film, I decided to re-watch and reacquaint myself with the original. Sitting with my bag of Swedish Fish I discovered all over again why I loved this movie.

Little of this fondness has to do with the plot. If you haven’t seen it, it is nearly impossible to explain. Hell, half the time you don’t know what’s going on as you’re watching it. But basically, the movie follows the life of Perseus, the son of Zeus. The major action focuses on Perseus’ attempts to find a way to prevent the destruction of the city Joppa and the loss of his beloved Andromeda within 30 days. There is a multitude of subplots that you must really experience for yourself.

What I really like about this film is its creeptastic special effects and its campy splendor. For its time period, the stop motion effects are fun. Sure, the animation does look hokey, especially when you’re used to today’s effects. Yet, the limitations of the jerky technique only heighten the creation and appearance of Medusa. And you simply gotta love the claymation silhouettes of Perseus trying to tame Pegasus — utterly ridiculous. Yet, it’s the camp factor that sets this movie apart. There is nary a scene where Harry Hamlin is wearing a shirt. Apparently, all you need to survive in ancient Greece is a toga-skirt and some sandals. I also enjoy that the Gods, including Maggie Smith and Laurence Olivier (how did the producers get them?), are just ordinary people. They talk. They walk. They play with action figures — all while being filmed in the most glorious gossamer lighting.

So I would argue that this Clash of the Titans, the original, is a classic. Now, I am in no way suggesting that it is a great film — seriously how could it be with that many shots of Harry Hamlin’s nipples? Yet for me it is a perfect representation of the time period. It is an ideal introduction to all of the other 80s fantasy action films yet to come (like The Neverending Story or The Dark Crystal) and an unapologetically fun movie. (On video.)
My Grade: A-

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Every time I see a movie preview with quotes like “an instant classic” or “the best picture of the year” I immediately look at the font size used for the names of the quoted. Why? Today, there exists an inverse correlation between film quality and critic font size: the greater the suckyness of the film, the smaller the size of the font. Have you ever noticed this? This is done because they still want you to buy your ticket. If the film doesn’t have a positive quotes from, say, Time or Ebert, they can simply use those from small, unknown critics. However… and this is important… they make sure these unknown critics’ names are monstrously small. I mean miniscule. That way, we — the lemming consumers — will only read the adulating quotes and think, wow, this film looks awesome; it says so right there.

So this week, when the new Clash of the Titans previews began playing, I was saddened. This movie I had wanted to see for months was now featuring ginormous quotes that were overly fawning; the names needed a magnifying glass to read.

The plot is similar to that of the first. Perseus is again attempting to find a way to defeat Hades’ Kraken within 10 days, before it destroys Argos and Andromeda. Sam Worthington (Avatar and Terminator: Salvation) continues to be the go-to guy for modern action flicks. He does a commendable job as Perseus. Yet, the filmmakers do him a disservice with the huge cast of characters. Rather than focusing on the destiny of his character, the filmmakers burden him with a fellowship of journeymen. Sound familiar? Well it should. This fellowship even has an ageless, beautiful woman (Io, the know-it-all, ever-present beauty. She’s like the Liv Tyler Arwen from LOTR. Watch how her silky gowns never get wrinkled). This fellowship exists to add humor to the movie, sometimes to the point of making this like a mythic buddy movie. But really, they’re there to bolster action sequences and to die off. Seriously. They’re like the Greek version of nameless Star Trek extras. Going out to battle the scorpions? Nice knowing you, Guy #2 in Toga. Confronting Hades? See you later, Blond Man in Armor.

With a greater focus on the human realm, the actors playing Gods spend little time on Olympus. Instead of soap-opera-y discussions as in the first film, these guys spend most of their time turning into eagles, materializing in smoke, and killing extras. While no one could compare to Laurence Olivier, Liam Neeson (Zeus) is respectably believable. Ralph Fiennes (Hades) is…well…he’s a whole other story. It is like his Voldemort simply walked off of the Harry Potter set and directly onto this one. With the exact airy whine of a voice, he hisses his lines. He even has a black robe that he flails in Voldemortian style. Okay, so he’s playing another ultimate villain, but come on Rafe — mix it up a little!

The special effects are superb, specifically the Kraken and the spectacular scorpion battle scenes. But Medusa — the thing I looked forward to most of all — was a complete letdown. I wish the filmmakers had made her more like the original and less like a video game.

For months I had looked forward to this movie. I had hoped this was a rare example where a remake could equal or improve upon the original. It’s not; the original stands undefeated. However, go ahead and see it. Despite its flaws there are some still some fun and campy (in their own right) moments. However this small, unknown critic has to say:

THE NEW TITANS IS AMAZINGly underwhelming.

– Aaron Mettey, The Friday Movie Blog

And one last bit of advice: save your money and do not see the 3D showing. The film was originally planned to be a 2D film. Thus, despite a few crowd action scenes and the credits, all the 3D images appear flat. This should not merit an additional $5 per ticket. (In theaters.)
My Grade: C

See It: Shutter Island (2010). Forget the film’s preview with the chalky-skinned, darky-eyed bald woman. This imperfect Scorcese thriller is more moody madness than horror-film scares. Just don’t read the Lehane novel first; otherwise, you won’t be able to fully enjoy the plot’s psychological puzzle. (In theaters). Grade: B

Rent It: An Education (2009). A restrained coming-of-age tale that boasts great performances from Alfred Molina, Peter Sarsgaard, and Carey Mulligan.Grade: A

Queue It: All About My Mother (1999). Pedro Almodóvar’s unique and whimsical take on friendship, loss, and classic cinema. Grade: A+