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Clash of the Titans

Tuesday 20 July 2010, by Kelu13

My expectations weren’t particularly high when I went to see the Clash of the Titans. And I must say I was looking forward to it, perhaps moved by some masochistic feeling that compels me to go see films that are going to provoke my inner academic (knowing a few things about Greek mythology). And yet I’m always up for a laugh.

The movie in all its blockbuster glory fulfils what it sets out to do: it has drama, romance, fights and big scorpions. My concern is that it promises to tell a story and tells another one, underlying the point that many scriptwriters, unable to come up with new ideas, are happy to plunder the treasures of the ancient myths that almost everybody has heard of but few are familiar with the gory details.

As a person planning more or less to make a livelihood out of classical studies, shouldn’t I be delighted to see these ancient stories freed from the dusty libraries where they were held like mystic scripture reserved for an elite cabal of classics students and intellectual spinsters, glad to look upon those less fortunate (?), yet unfamiliar with the Iliad and the Odyssey? Fair enough, it’s a film but my question is why do they have to include, say, the actual names and a couple of original storylines and jumble them up in an incoherent story, greatly diminishing the legend’s potential appeal to the younger generations.

Let’s start with the obvious.

The legend of Perseus is known mostly because of his conception. Zeus visited Danae in the guise of golden rain, provoking outrage and despair from the young virgin’s father, Acrisios. In fact, he was aware of a prediction that his grandson would one day kill him. Which he did by accident. The problem is that in Perseus’s legend, there is in fact no actual baddie and to make a good blockbuster you need at least one or two of those.

But I wouldn’t mind these changes, if the scenario hadn’t included some pretty useless incoherencies. The movie is based on the succession of improbable creatures that spring up randomly along the way, catching the elite squad unawares, as it clambers along a landscape that defies even basic geographical understanding.

There is the Kraken, plucked straight from Scandinavian mythology, with no relation whatsoever with ancient Greece, replacing what in the original legend was an aquatic creature Perseus killed with rocks, on his way home, Medusa’s head in a bag, a trophy collected after a pointless bet he had made.

There are the Djinns, creatures from the Arabian Nights, (well, vague relations at best, for some reason decidedly alienish and dressed in blue). Once again, I’m still looking for any relation to ancient Greece. There are massive scorpions, emerging from… not sure where exactly; I think the congealed blood of another random character but I think I might have actually dreamt that. Perhaps they were leftover props from the Mummy 2 the studios gave a last moment of glory to before chucking them out.

But I think I laughed most when I first caught sight of Pegasus. It was obvious they couldn’t leave a winged horse out of the film, and that’s ok, considering he is directly related to the legend of the Medusa. So what was the problem? Maybe that he was born from the blood that ran from the Gorgons’ head when it was cut by Perseus and could not exist before her death, ah, just to be pedantic, Perseus wasn’t the one to ride him, it was in fact Bellerophon when he went to kill the Chimera. But let’s overlook this; a winged horse is always cool.

Then we have the gods. Blatantly restricted in their movements by their Power Rangers suits in a palace copied and pasted from computer game Civilization, the gods even carry light sabres. Fair enough, but about the ‘Greeks’ gods? The ones no human actually ever took on?

Spectacular special effects, entertaining action scenes, and, ok, let’s admit it, decent actors for the most part, the film could have been a pretty good one, had the team bothered to equate the various characters with the actual deeds they undertook and not pick other ones at random, as was the case with Perseus or Andromeda. I must say I’m sad for their eight children that according to the movie, will never be born, the hero preferring to shack up with ghost Io, a character from a different myth : an ex lover that had been changed into a cow by Zeus. But, eh, why not.

Lots of “why nots” tend to kill a movie’s credibility.

But, if you liked it, rejoice, because a number two is in the making. At least this time, they wont have to pretend to follow an original legend.

Dir: Louis Leterrier, 2010

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