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'Clash of the Titans' remake lacks form, but there's no denying it's fun

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Posted: Saturday, April 10, 2010 12:00 am

The big-budget remake of the '80s cheeseball classic "Clash of the Titans" has arrived with much fanfare, and count me alongside the legions of fans who have, thus far, made the movie an even bigger hit than anyone expected.

(My prediction: It'll have legs at the box office, especially without much competition within its target demographic in the coming weeks.)

And while I maintain that it is a "good" film that accomplishes its goals with relative ease, I can't help but lament the fact that, if studios hired refutable film artists more often, movies like "Clash of the Titans" might be legitimate cultural events as opposed to entertaining yet disposable bits of popcorn fluff.

"Clash of the Titans"

*** (out of four)
2010, Louis Letterrier, U.S., PG-13

The movie is serviceable, but can you imagine what we might have gotten if somebody like Sam Raimi or Bryan Singer or Zack Snyder or Kevin McDonald or Matthew Vaughn, or basically anyone besides Louis Letterrier (the illustrious filmmaker behind such efforts as "Transporter 2" and "The Incredible Hulk") was behind the camera?

The man is neither a quality director nor a bankable talent, so why did the studio settle on this random bloke to helm one of the biggest films of the year?

The people demand answers.

In any case, check back next week for a look at "Date Night." (Normally, I wouldn't touch such a movie with a 10-foot pole, but luckily Tina Fey is on board to make things all awesome and magical and completely irresistible.)

Some people freaked out when it was announced that "Clash of the Titans" would be remade as a modern big-budget spectacle, but I always thought it was one of the better remake proposals to emerge in the past couple years.

The original isn't exactly a great film, and in fact it's often rather laughable, in a cute and cuddly '80s sort of way. You may love it for nostalgic value, but the fact remains that the story was rife for an update.

And with a (slightly) more serious approach and greatly improved special effects, this remake manages to work as both an engaging jolt of old-fashioned adventure as well as a strange sort of tribute to the original.

It somehow retains its predecessor's free-wheeling spirit and goofy vibe without ever coming across as derivative or too immature, and even though the critics have declared it an unmitigated disaster, I think the movie is ultimately entertaining enough to hold one's interest for two hours.

This "Clash of the Titans" doesn't always adhere to the original details of the various myths it references, but frankly, between all the cool action and impressive eye-candy location shooting, I had a hard time caring.

This version of the story works for me: After Perseus (played by Sam Worthington, who once again exhibits the natural charisma of a common household sponge), demigod son of Zeus, sees his adoptive family massacred by the underworld god Hades (Ralph Fiennes), he teams with the people of Argos to wage war against the gods by defeating the dreaded Kraken, a mammoth tentacle monster that serves Hades.

The plot is incredibly simple for a movie that makes heavy use of typically confusing and slapdash Greek mythology, which is a logical approach for a movie that essentially exists as a structural framework to support a series of action set-pieces.

Under normal circumstances I would criticize such a reductive approach, but the movie is full of such good humor and involving action that the viewer happily follows the episodic narrative from one set-piece to the next, waiting for the action to start up again but never getting too bogged down in the admittedly less interesting (but still competent) in-between bits involving such peripheral concerns as character development and dialogue.

I saw the movie in 2-D, since it was shot with that format in mind before the studio decided at the last minute to ship the finished film to India to insert 3-D effects (no, I am not kidding).

This bizarre outsourcing has reportedly resulted in the worst 3-D effects seen in the past 10 years, so my recommendation is to follow suit and see the film as it was originally intended. (Even Letterrier is on record as saying that the 3-D looks ridiculous.)

There's plenty to enjoy, even without the "updated" tech: the desert battle against a horde of gargantuan scorpions; the extended action sequence in Medusa's lair; the final showdown against Hades and the Kraken. These are all effective (if not top-notch) sequences just as they are, and I can't imagine that invasively shoddy 3-D visuals would add anything to the experience.

There will almost certainly be at least one sequel to "Clash of the Titans," and the film's success may even herald the arrival of a whole rash of myth-based adventure pictures in the years to come. I wouldn't be opposed to this trend, one thing provided: Like the comic book genre (to a certain extent), it should be used to showcase the talents of actual filmmakers with talent and vision and a genuine artistic voice — not to give an outlet to bargain-basement hacks like Letterrier.

Jason Wallis is a News-Sentinel copy editor. He can be reached at jasonwallis@comcast.net.

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