The idea behind The Public Movie Defender is to take up the cause of a particular movie that I believe is better than the majority of reviews it has received. These are movies which I feel are worth either a second look or at least a more open examination considering the predominantly negative opinions of them. The films chosen are ones that I like so therefore I’m taking their case and defending them before the court of negative opinion. Let the trial begin…
DEFENDANT #3 – “Clash of the Titans” (2010)
When I first came up with the idea for this fun little thing called The Public Movie Defender there were several movies that immediately came to mind for inclusion. Some are personal favorites that I am deeply passionate about and others are simply movies that I feel are good yet that get pounded a bit unfairly. Some aren’t that difficult to defend while others are a REALLY hard sell. 2010’s remake of “Clash of the Titans” is one of those hard sells. And while I wouldn’t categorize it as a personal favorite, I do think it’s a good movie that doesn’t deserve the level of disdain it has received.
“Clash of the Titans” had its work cut out for it. It’s a remake of a cult classic from 1981 that featured a wonderful fantasy adventure as well as the final work of stop-motion special effects master Ray Harryhausen. This time advanced makeup and a ton of CGI would serve to bring the world to life and that in itself was quite the task. While my deep affection for Harryhausen’s brilliance trumps the new computer effects, this “Clash of the Titans” features some fantastic effects that easily overshadows the few visual hiccups that we get.
And then there’s the story. There were two different approaches that the remake could have taken. The film could have taken a grittier and more serious look at the material or it could try and capture many of the nostalgic elements of the original. By that I mean the over-the-top language, the massive cheese, the classic fantasy movie plot dynamics. The filmmakers made a deliberate choice to modernize the story a bit but also tip their hat and incorporate a lot of these late 1970’s and 1980’s approaches to fantasy storytelling.
I think this is what alienated some people. I think this clashed with people’s familiarity with modern filmmaking and current cinematic storytelling that we get today. Personally I ate it up. The stilted and uber cheesy dialogue along with several old school plot mechanics brought back memories of the “Sinbad” films, “Ice Pirates”, “Conan”, and “Kull”. These are films that I grew up watching and I clearly see how the movie uses and embraces them. The great actors Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes ham it up as Zeus and Hades. Are they cheesy? Yes, more so than a pizza. But they are supposed to be. I completely understand if that doesn’t work for some people, but I don’t see it as a deep flaw in the movie itself. I responded to it with a nostalgic smile and appreciation.
Now it’s not like everything in the movie imitates the original. A tightly shorn Sam Worthington replaces a mop headed Harry Hamlin as Perseus. Some have had issue with Worthington’s character and performance. Not me. I like this grittier and more solemn turn. Considering all that his character faces I can understand him being a bit angry and coarse. I think Worthington brings a toughness and physicality to the role that I welcomed. Add to that an interesting and fun supporting cast of traditional survival-fantasy characters (again a tip of the hat to those old-school flicks). None are better than the great Mads Mikkelsen as the gruff and tough Draco, captain of the King’s Guard.
The movie features the classic fantasy tale. A quest is in place which takes Perseus and crew on a ‘who will survive’ adventure. Along the way they face threats such as witches, Medusa, and of course giant scorpions. And what a scene it is when the giant scorpions appear. Incredible visuals and a beautifully filmed sequence. And then there’s the Kraken. There’s perhaps nothing in this film ridiculed more than Liam Neeson’s command to “Release the Kraken”. And while I wouldn’t call it the equivalent of a great thespian’s oration, it’s not that bad of a line. Sure it’s absolute cheese, but the mockery was really fueled by the the line’s use in the trailers and TV spots. The Kraken itself looks cool and Neeson’s over-the-top unleashing fits in perfectly.
I believe that your opinion of this film will be dictated by expectations and preferences. It’s worth recognizing what the filmmakers are doing and the type of movie they’re making. I think they set a cool nostalgic target and hit it dead center. Now to be clear, I’m not saying this is a perfect film. But I really like what they did. It took me right back to those movies that I would lay in the floor and watch on Saturday afternoons. That made this a fun and entertaining experience and when considering the film in that light I see it as a success. The sequel was a massive disappointment, but for my money “Clash of the Titans” was a blast.