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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Sam Worthington takes on the Greek gods, without the aid of an avatar, in Clash of the Titans.
I know there are people out there who absolutely love the original Clash of the Titans, but I'm not one of them. The movie always seemed kind of cheesy to me, although not the cool kind of 80's cheese like, for example, Flash Gordon. So when I heard there was going to be a big-budget remake, you could safely say that I was incredulous. And now, here it is, in your choice of 2-D or 3-D formats (more on that in a bit). It's all right, I suppose, but not necessarily anything that's going to release your Kraken. Sorry - couldn't resist.

Considering how over-plotted the film is, the premise is actually pretty simple. The Greek gods are angry that their human subjects no longer worship them enough. Hades (Ralph Fiennes) rises up from the underworld to convince his brothers Poseidon (Danny Huston) and Zeus (Liam Neeson, looking embarrassed to be here) to help instill fear in the ungrateful little bastards, thereby forcing them to pray and be obedient. Zeus agrees, and various creatures - including the dreaded, all-powerful Kraken - are unleashed upon humanity. Sam Worthington plays Perseus, a demi-god who leads the charge to fight the Zeus and company. Teaming up with various allies, he faces an onslaught of dangerous demons before finally coming face-to-face with Hades.

What I remember about the original Clash was that it had some interesting visuals and a plot that bored me silly. This remake garnered the same reaction from me. The movie is essentially a series of action set pieces, strung together with a lot of dull exposition. When there's action going on, there is definitely some fun to be had. Perseus takes on a giant scorpion, the snake-haired Medusa (in what is hands-down the coolest scene), and the behemoth known as the Kraken. The CGI effects are impressive, as are the designs of Perseus' various enemies. Whenever there were creatures or action on the screen, I perked up; whenever there was "story," I found my attention drifting to other, unrelated things.

Part of the reason why the story doesn't work is that there's no character development. Everyone is one-dimensional, so I never had any rooting interest in any of them. Many of the supporting characters are just barely even introduced, which turns them into almost complete enigmas. The hero himself is perhaps one of the dullest characters in the whole movie. Sam Worthington has been in three big movies in the last year - Terminator Salvation, Avatar, and this one - and hasn't shown an ounce of personality in any of them. The role of Perseus needed an actor with some viable charisma.

Clash of the Titans is less than the sum of its parts. Individual scenes are entertaining, yet everything in between those scenes withers on the screen. Most of all, I think the movie fails to establish a sense of grandeur. Greek gods have provided some of the most potent dramatic stories of all time. Here, they are just reduced to being part of an overblown B-movie. Interestingly, the scenes in Zeus' kingdom even recapture the cheap-o 80's aesthetic, with the actors inhabiting a blatantly fakey looking set.

Are fans of the original going to like it more than I did? I'm not sure. A group of eight sitting directly behind me spent much of the film whispering back and forth about the many changes made. If that's what the audience is doing, the picture clearly isn't working because people are not being swept into it. As a non-fan, I'd say I liked about 50% of Clash. On an action movie/creature feature level, it delivers satisfactorily, with visually appealing monsters and decently staged fight sequences. On a plot/characterization level, it's a complete bore.

It's important to note that Clash of the Titans is being released in two formats. I saw it in 2-D, which is the format in which it was technically made. The 3-D conversion was done during last-minute post-production, to capitalize on the 3-D mania fueled by Avatar, and also to take advantage of higher ticket prices for 3-D movies. Personally, I think this is the ultimate in cynicism. Colleagues who opted for the 3-D version have uniformly told me that the 3-D sucks. The film was made in 2-D, and that's how it should be seen.

( 1/2 out of four)

Clash of the Titans is rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

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