Sunday, 4 April 2010

Ye gods!

I went to see Clash of the Titans yesterday, in 3D - the remake of the 1981 staple of Sunday afternoon TV re-runs, with Laurence Olivier and Tim Pigott-Smith. And bowled over I was not. Where to begin?

For a start it is not a clash of Titans, any more than the first film was - more of a boundary dispute between Olympians. It is mainly about Perseus, a demi-god or hero whose story has many variants. This however did not count as one of them. You can't say just because it's mythology anything goes. There are some changes which maybe you can justify because of the demands of the medium but some are just wrong.

For example, Perseus was the son of Danae and Zeus. Fine. So far so good. But the god did not come to her in the likeness of her husband Acrisius. Firstly because Acrisius was her FATHER (she did not have a husband)and secondly because Zeus CAME TO HER AS A SHOWER OF GOLD!

Sorry to shout, but if you change that, you miss firstly one of the most beautiful images in all mythology and secondly will not understand one of the most marvellous lines in all English poetry - Tennyson's "Now lies the earth all Danae to the stars." And that really matters to me.

OK, calm down and breathe.

In the film Perseus was rescued as a baby by a fisherman called Spyros. I can live with that even though in the sources he was Dictys. I can just imagine the movie mogul in Hollywood saying "Sounds to much like a dick - lets change it to some other Greek-sounding name - I know, how about Spiro or something?" as he chomped on his cigar.

Danae is dead in the film - OK, can live with that too. Parents can clog up the action. But the adult Perseus is apparently an American soldier with a buzzcut. In fact, he is Sam Worthington AGAIN, he of the Dances with Smurfs movie, Avatar (which I enjoyed far more). Is he going to be there every time I don those special glasses?

A less charismatic actor I have yet to see - he didn't even turn blue and have cat ears in this one. The introduction of the Kraken, a Norwegian myth, was there in the '81 movie so can't be blamed on the new script, but to have it be a child of Hades "born of his flesh"? Say what? In the film it is the sea-monster who is going to eat Andromeda, whom (SPOILER alert!) Perseus does not wed in this version because he wants to go off and prove himself a man or something.

This he does with the completely delicious Gemma Atherton playing an immortal called Io. Why, FFS? I mean why give her the name of the woman who was turned into a white cow? She says herself that she was being propositioned by a god who, when she rebuffed him, cursed her with agelessness. Don't know who that was but it sure wasn't poor old bewitched and be-uddered Io. Why didn't Mr Movie Mogul ask for her to be given a all-purpose Greek-sounding name? Chloe, say, or Zoe?

I can understand wanting to give Pegasus to Perseus to help him complete his mission even though in fact (yes fact even though it's a myth) what he was given was winged sandals and Pegasus didn't appear till after he had killed Medusa. (Pegasus springing from her neck after her head was severed). It makes a better image to have Perseus ride through the air on a winged horse.

But it creates confusion - it was Bellerophon who was the hero who rode Pegasus to slay another monster, the chimaera.

What about the stunning visuals? you ask. Well, actually, meh. The howdahs on the giant scorpions were surely something picked up from Weta Workshop's dustbins after Peter Jackson's oliphaunts (mumakil) had finished with them?

The many and tedious fight sequences were confused blurs of slash and kill, with no tension, suspense or finesse. The ?priest/rabble-rouser on Argos seemed to have wandered in from the set of The Life of Brian, cockney accent and all.

It really was dire. But the woeful miscasting of Sam Worthington as Perseus was what made it GI meets CGI.

If kids are going to get a revival of interest in Greek mythology, which is what Percy Jackson and this seem to be about and why we are having a "favourite Olympian" poll here at the Book Maven, please let's give them something better than this travesty.

There is only one joke. At least the earlier version gave you something to laugh at, even it was only the shaky sets.


Kathryn Evans said...

Just read the Lucy Coats version kids - stay away from the movie or The Bookmaven will BREATHE FIRE! Which could be quite cool actually....

Mary Hoffman said...

That's me - dragon lady. You are quick off the mark this evening mrs burg.

Stroppy Author said...

well, it sounds so rubbish I must go and see it! Thank you, Maven, this is a great review :-)

Keren David said...

Brilliant, brilliant review. Sam Worthington seemed bizarrely Australian to me.

Gillian Philip said...

Oh dear, I was hoping for an absolute blast of a movie, or what was the point of remaking it? But that's so often true... I shall stick with the camp Harry Hamlin classic, with the Ray Harryhausen effects.

Katherine Langrish said...

Oh dear - Mary, you are so right. I cannot imagine getting rid of the shower of gold!!!

fionadunbar said...

...ISN'T he Australian??! I haven't seen Avatar, so didn't know Sam W at all; assumed he was. I'm grateful to Mary for sorting it all out for me, as I was thoroughly confused (where did this 'Io' spring from? Does she belong in this story? And where the hell are they? One minute a northern European - looking forest, the next in the desert...) I agree with everything Mary says, but can I just add, folks, that I wasn't actually bored. Unlike so many films of this type it isn't over-long, and it has its highlights. The scenes of Argos were brilliantly realised, for example. And you can always laugh at the trite dialogue!

Lucy Coats said...

Sounds like an absolute dog's breakfast to me, Mary. Do researcher's not RESEARCH stuff these days (for Olympian gods' sake)? I really hate this kind of laziness and arrogant disregard for the original material in films. Danae was in a copper tower with no doors or entrances except one for food and one for air at the top (through which Zeus entered in his shower of gold). Isn't that an amazingly dramatic, filmic image? Why mess with it? Or with the rest of the 'facts'? I know I ought to go to see this, being the Official Myth Maven, but I just can't bear it, and anyway, I should end up shouting at the screen and get thrown out as a nuisance, no doubt. I haven't seen Percy J film yet either--I love the books and worry that the film-makers won't do them justice. That's one I might try out, despite misgivings.

Nick Green said...

Perhaps they didn't want someone getting a golden shower in a PG movie.

adele said...

The movie of Troy had all kinds of things wrong with it,too, and especially no Gods around to speak of...but I think these movies bear about as much resemblance/fidelity to any real Greek myths as...can't think of a proper comparison but you get my drift. This is just sword and sandals type schlock, it seems. Fine if that's what you want but just not the real thing.

Tamsyn Murray said...

Please can I be cursed with agelessness (will save me a fortune in Olay creams)? And also, why did they go to Argos? I know there are some monsters in there on a Saturday morning but seriously?? (OK, I'll get my coat now...)
Thanks for this review, don't need to see it now and I agree the golden shower sounds amazing (but not the one Nick Green meant).

Mary Hoffman said...

Tam, I thought of that as soon as "Argos" flashing up on the screen! We are so corrupted. Glad I've saved you the price of ticket(s).

And that Nick green is a naughty boy and won't get his Whiskas!