Friday, April 2, 2010


I had the opportunity to see a screening of the new Clash of the Titans Tuesday night and was legitimately excited to see the remake of the original 1981 film that I loved as a kid. Some movies are begging to be remade (I'm looking at you Less Than Zero) and I really thought that Clash of the Titans was among them. A classic story, tons of action, and a chance to update Ray Harryhausen's (amazaing for its time) stop-action special effects; how could Louis Letterier and company miss? And have you heard it's in 3D?

Maybe my hopes were too high, but I felt like the "rethinking" of Clash of the Titans was, as they say, not great.

A note for moviegoers pumped to Avatar-like 3D action: you will be disappointed. It became pretty clear early on that the movie was not filmed with 3D in mind, and instead it was added later to capitalize on the success of Avatar and the other recent 3D releases. For most of the movie it was hard to tell that there was a reason for wearing the glass, and a moments the "3D" made the fast-paced action sequences harder to follow. New 3D technology can really add something to the movie (and it's certainly not going to go away anytime soon), but only if done correctly.

And therein lies the problem with Clash; it just wasn't done right.

Remakes require a degree of artistic license and the chance to reintroduce the story in an original way, but I felt the minds behind the current incarnation of this classic story deviated too far from the original.

The story of Perseus (played now by Avatar's Sam Worthington) is a classic hero's tale with a quest, trials to overcome, meddling Gods to deal with, and even a Princess love interest to save. The original film does a nice job of blending the Greek myth with a few Hollywood twists to keep the audience interested for the full 118 minutes, but the core of the story remained the same.

The new Clash re-envisions Perseus as a crusader against the Gods, a man filled with hatred after his family was destroyed by a wrathful Hades, god of the Underworld. The story is no longer about Perseus' quest to save the princess (who in the new version isn't even a love interest), but instead about proving that men can stand up to the Gods and win. Underlying this is a whole convoluted plot line where Gods on Mount Olympus need the prayers of man to remain immortal but Hades doesn't, so by turning men against the Gods he gets to rule Olympus.


Maybe the plot for Clash of the Titans worked for everyone else in the theater, but as a guy who spent a good portion of his college education reading the classics, I just couldn't get why such drastic changes were made. The story of Perseus has worked for thousands of years with the core of the tale intact. The original movie was pretty well received and did well in the box office. So why change what wasn't broken?

But even if I could live with the writers, director, and producers ignoring the heart of the original story, the cheesy dialogue, bad acting, and campy antics for comic effect were frustrating enough to make this movie bad. All that combined with the poor execution of 3D leaves me rating this one with two and a half out of five stars. This is the kind of movie you watch on cable on a rainy Saturday in February because the action is decent and there's no more football on.

But the point of this post is not that I was disappointed overall by the movie (which, if I wasn't clear enough, I really was), but that I'm frustrated with Hollywood's insistence in remaking perfectly good movies; and doing it badly. Yes, I agree that Clash of the Titans was in line for a makeover/upgrade, but somebody messed up. It came out looking like a character from the Real Housewives series that had a botched boob job and too much botox to the face.

It's not impossible for a remake to be better than or as good as the original; The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock redoing Hitchcock), Ocean's 11 (2001), and The Fly (1986) remakes were all movies that are considered by many to be better made than the originals. But for every one of those films there is a Psycho (1998) that makes people shudder and ask, "Why?"

My problem with the remake is when it does not improve upon the original. Isn't that the point? When filmmakers take a tried-and-true story and "update" it just to bring in ticket sales the filmmaking suffers.

Death at a Funeral is a hilarious 2007 British comedy, but many people will see it for the first time this spring as an American remake with an overacting Martin Lawrence and a Chris Rock that was last relevant years ago. This movie is going to be terrible. I'm saying it right now. Go see the original first before the American version ruins all the good jokes for you. Am I judging too early? Possibly, but until American filmmakers show that they can consistently remake movies the right way (making bad movies good and good movies better), I will continue to spend more time on Netflix than in the movie theater.

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