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Titan of boredom

‘Clash’ is a dull remake.

'CLASH': A titanic bore.
  • 'CLASH': A titanic bore.

One of the major appeals of B-movies has always been the tension between imagination and budget. Ideas outpace resources; ambition runs up against reality. But cut-rate visionaries don't let anything get between them and their accomplishments. All the ingenuity and problem-solving put into cutting corners is matched by enthusiasm and creativity. Sometimes the film that results turns out to be pretty good, or at least entertaining. It gets bonus points for charm.

Like a lot of the cult faves rehashed for modern audiences lately, to the gasping disapproval of the Internet, “Clash of the Titans” wasn't exactly a masterpiece to begin with. The 1981 pseudo-mythological effects-fest gets by mostly on the strength of Ray Harryhausen's remarkable stop-motion monsters, all of which are no less fascinating for their stuttering, handmade unreality — even for audiences who had moved on from King Kong to the slick aliens of H.R. Giger.

The cast wasn't exactly cut-rate, with stars like Laurence Olivier, Burgess Meredith, Ursula Andress and Harry Hamlin. Those names may not seem very impressive from this distance, but they were enough to power a pretty successful run in theaters for such a modestly budgeted toga-fest with antiquated FX work and cheesy dialogue.

I can't imagine that the remake will meet the same response. Director Louis Letterier showed talent when emerging as a director in the garish, zany style of fellow Frenchman Luc Besson. But a succession of edgeless snoozers has dulled his promise and revealed him to be your garden-variety hack. Here his direction is entirely functional and without character. I'd wager he wasn't even there for a good chunk of the shoot; at least half of this movie is digital and another 10 percent is composed of sweeping B-roll landscapes shot from a helicopter by the second unit.

The character of Greek antiquity provides plenty of opportunity for the kind of gleeful boundary-crossing so prevalent in French action filmmaking, but nothing in this movie treads even the lamest taboo, earning it a tame rating and an audience full of bored teens.

Sam Worthington stars, which is apparently what he was hatched to do. The “Where did this guy come from?” meme has pretty much been exhausted on the Internet, but in his three blockbuster starring roles he's provided little evidence for Hollywood's inordinate faith in his potential. He whispers his way through this performance, like a bad singer who covers up by slowing everything down and singing in a hushed voice.

The cast is rounded out with fine actors who are clearly just cashing a check. Along with big names like Ralph Fiennes and Liam Neeson, lesser-known greats like Mads Mikkelsen and Pete Postlewaithe toil against an unfocused and confused screenplay that does them no favors.

One of the most wonderful traits of the gods of Greek mythology is their volatile, petty, and vengeful natures. They're always acting out of spite or jealousy or simple caprice. There's nothing rational about it. Here, the so-called conflict manifests from a cycle of violence more like what you might find in Greek drama. Gods are mistreating humans because humans are dissing gods because gods are mistreating humans. There's no root to it all, save the need to have some driving force in the plot.

That would be fine if the action in this movie were more central and the exposition more gestural. Instead, we sit through a lot of inexplicable explanations and too little monster-killin'. And that's my main complaint against this movie. I don't mind the pat acting, the ridiculous script, the silly characterization, the outright heresy of remaking a cult favorite. The most damning charge against this film is that it is boring.

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