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Entries in Greek Mythology (2)

Friday
Apr022010

Clash of the Titans

Something's wrong in Hollywood. It's called 3D. Now, before you naysay my statement, know this. I do not hate 3D. It has a place in film and, perhaps unfortunately, is the next evolutionary step in the future of filmmaking. However, with Avatar still going strong at the box office, Alice in Wonderland still climbing out of the rabbit hole and last week's How to Train Your Dragon enjoying its debut, the last thing we need is another 3D movie, yet here we are with the remake of the 1981 cheese-fest Clash of the Titans. Forget about what those big wig execs up in their ivory watchtowers want you to think. Clash proves that not every movie needs the extra dimension.

What separates this apart from those movies previously mentioned is simple. It was never meant to be in 3D. It was not filmed with that technology, like Avatar, or with the mindset for it to later be converted, as was the case with Alice in Wonderland. No, it was bumped up after the movie studio discovered just how profitable the format could be, considering the extra cost to see one in theaters. Thus, it looks horrid. Some scenes feel unfinished, certain visuals look blurry and at times, the characters seem misshapen with distorted heads and cut off body parts, as seen with the ear in multiple shots. Sometimes, I took my glasses off only to find much of it was barely converted, if at all. I watched whole scenes in crisp clear 2D without the glasses in a supposedly 3D movie. It's a nasty trick by the studio to force you into paying extra money with the notion that you're getting something more. Don't be fooled. You're not.

Regardless of how you're looking at it, you'll most likely wish you weren't at all. Clash of the Titans is an action bombshell, taking the genre and forcefully deflowering it with no regards to style or substance. It uses Greek mythology to prove itself as an epic, but it never does anything to warrant such a title.

Sam Worthington plays Perseus, son of Zeus, played by Liam Neeson. Zeus, a god, mated with a human in an act of revenge, who eventually gave birth to Perseus. Being half-human and half-god, a demi-god if you will, he is thrown into the thick of things when the battle between humans and the gods heats up. You see, the humans have betrayed the gods and Zeus is angry, so he joins with his brother Hades, ruler of the Underworld, played by Ralph Fiennes, to put them in their place. If the people of the city do not sacrifice the beautiful Andromeda, played by Alexa Davalos, a giant Kraken will come and destroy them. Perseus' mission is to figure out how to kill the Kraken and defeat the gods.

Essentially, it's a long winded journey to drably colored locales that all look exactly the same with the hopes of finding the information to take down the giant beast that ends in as boring a fashion as it possibly could. By the time Perseus finally gets to the much talked about Kraken, the creature merely waves his claws around, roars a few times and the movie ends. There's no battle, no showdown and, most importantly, no enjoyment to be had in any of it.

Perseus' journey is never fraught with peril or wonder. It gathers up the extensive history of Greek mythology, but has no fun with it. The PG rated Percy Jackson & the Olympians did more with its source material than this supposed grown-up tale of survival and sacrifice.

And that would be due to the script. This is a very badly written film, with unexplained plot occurrences and dialogue that would be better fit for a fun cornball picture. If you've seen the original film, you know it was a poorly conceived B-movie, yet irresistible in its campiness. This modern update doesn't even reach that status because it takes itself far too seriously.

Going hand in hand are the actors, who all seem half asleep in their performances. Liam Neeson, as established a star as he is, is boring as the god Zeus while Fiennes does little more than channel a less creepy version of Lord Voldemort from his roles in the Harry Potter films. Sam Worthington's banality may be the most egregious, however. He was great in Avatar and Terminator: Salvation despite their mediocrity where he proved himself as an up and coming action star. He was somebody to look out for, but he comes off as a second rate actor from a military commercial here. Sure, he looks strong and menacing, but his goofy way of talking in a loud whisper, not unlike Jack Bauer in 24, is laughable and makes his tough look moot.

Clash of the Titans is a disaster, joining the ranks of big budget travesties like Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Land of the Lost. It's one of the worst movies of the year thus far and you should skip it, but if you must see it, take my heed and skip the 3D. Why pay extra when you'll walk out miserable either way?

Clash of the Titans receives 0.5/5

Sunday
Feb142010

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief

I suppose we can thank good 'ol Harry for this. Due to the success of the Harry Potter franchise, we now have a countless number of books being adapted to the big screen in an effort to start a lucrative series. Harry Potter, Twilight, The Chronicles of Narnia, Cirque du Freak, all hope to grab that cash from you. While not all were successful, namely the latter one, all shared that same trait. Now we have a newcomer hoping to wedge its way into the fold in the form of Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Despite a few problems, it largely succeeds and proves itself as a fun, entertaining fantasy adventure that will tide fans over until the next Potter film.

Logan Lerman plays the title character, a teenager who is about to find out that his entire life is a lot more complicated than he thinks. His father is actually Poseidon, god of the sea, played by Kevin McKidd. Years ago, he came onto land, fell in love with his mother, played by Catherine Keener, and they had him as their child. Now, Poseidon's brother Zeus, god of thunder, played by Sean Bean, has accused Percy of stealing his thunderbolt. He has 14 days to return it or the gods go to war, destroying the heavens and the earth. As a result, Percy is taken to a camp exclusively for demi-gods, kids who are half human and half god, to train. Once he arrives, however, he watches his mother get abducted by Hades, god of the underworld (or more precisely, the Devil). He is played wonderfully by Steve Coogan. So Percy decides that he must get his mother back and treks across America with Annabeth, played by Alexandra Daddario, and his protector Grover, played by Brandon T. Jackson, in search of three pearls that will grant them entry and exit to the underworld.

Phew. You wouldn't think so given the PG rating and marketing towards kids, but this film has a lot going on. On their journey, the kids meet Medusa, battle a 10 headed dragon, and travel down into Hell to confront Hades. I felt like I was watching an epic for the ages, an exciting, scary, violent romp through the best parts of Greek mythology. The funny thing is that despite the kid-centric commercials, this thing is more for adults and teenagers. It features decapitations, a drug induced happiness that is played as cool and the aforementioned descent into Hell. Top onto that the intense battles with all sorts of mythical creatures and you have a film that is actually quite creepy. This thing's scarier than The Wolfman.

Although comparisons are unavoidable, especially given that this director helmed The Sorcerer's Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, Percy Jackson differs from Harry Potter in these respects. The Harry Potter films are more polished, but Percy Jackson is more fun. This doesn't waste its time in endless set-up with zero payoff (much like the fifth Potter). It's more of a droll, white knuckle action fantasy that moves at a brisk pace towards its conclusion. If you're looking for a better film, go with Potter, but if you're looking for something you can put on and enjoy at any time, Percy Jackson is your best bet.

Still, the film is nowhere near perfect and actually stumbles the most when it tries to mix that drollery with a serious story. The humor rarely works and feels out of place when one-liners are thrown out in the heat of battle. Its tone gets mixed so frequently that I'm not sure one is ever established. For instance, when they first arrive in Hell, they see thousands of tortured souls below them. The visual is haunting. Then they meet the Devil and his, shall we say, mistress, played by Rosario Dawson, and it turns lighthearted with an eerie sexual tension bubbling beneath the surface. The movie would have been helping itself had it gone the full scary route rather than attempting to juggle the two.

Then you have the ineffective side stories about Percy growing up without his father and the kindling romance between him and Annabeth. You see, Percy has been bitter his whole life about his father running out on him and his mother. He was only 7 months old when it happened, so he never even got to meet him and now he's stuck with his nasty stepfather who treats his mom like a piece of meat. The ending tries to resolve these daddy issues and the cheese is stacked up high. The romantic chemistry between him and Annabeth was missing, rendering that moot as well.

If you're looking at the film from an analytical point of view, this is a great story told haphazardly, but if you're looking at it through a normal citizen's eyes, this is great fun. It won't ever reach the success of Harry Potter, but here's hoping it makes enough money to warrant a sequel. Percy Jackson deserves at least that.

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief receives 3.5/5