Saturday, April 3, 2010

Clash of the Titans

The B-movie lives! Make no mistake, Clash of the Titans is cinematic garbage. Stupid beyond belief. It makes Iron Man and Zombieland look like brainy art films. To argue otherwise is to be a twelve-year-old boy. But the real debate is whether or not it's glorious cinematic garbage, and while I need to mull it over, I may be leaning towards yes. I'm a dude who goes to the movies a lot — two, three, occasionally four times a week — and Clash of the Titans is the first movie in untold years that I've seen in a crowded opening night theater where half the audience was cracking up at the cheese with no one even bothering to shush the chortles and wisecracks because that was the treatment the film clearly demanded. A bad movie, absolutely, but a joyous moviegoing experience.

Okay, so get this: Clash of the Titans takes place in a mythical ancient Greece where the people know for a fact that Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, and all the other gods are real — they see them, they speak to them, they come down from Olympus from time to time — and decide to declare war on them. That just seems like a really awful idea on every level. Look, I'm all for mocking religion, but if I knew that God was real and could smite me you'd better believe I'd bend the knee before he could even issue the decree to do so. At one point in the movie Hades comes down and creates a black whirlwind that inhales half the soldiers in the castle with the apparent ease with which you or I would swat a mosquito. Yeah, humanity, going to war with that seems real smart.

Zeus and Hades are respectively played by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes (making Clash of the Titans a sort of unofficial Schindler's List II) who engage in one of the most delicious duels of overacting I've ever seen. Fiennes hisses and drawls and leers and shuffles zombie-like in what's damn near a parody of his Voldemort while Neeson abandons all dignity and bellows his lines with scenery-chewing ham as befits the King of the Gods. There's a visceral thrill in watching talented actors debase themselves and while there's nothing here that measures up to my all-time favorite display of overacting, Jeremy Irons in Dungeons & Dragons, it's pretty great. Other than Pete Postlethwaite as the protagonist's father there's no other performances of note, especially not a wooden Sam Worthington as said protagonist who almost dares me to take back the praise I gave him after Terminator Salvation, but Neeson and Fiennes need no help from mortals to prop up a picture.

The film's narrative arc reminded me more than a little bit of an RPG video game. We begin with an opening sequence where we're introduced to our protagonist, meet the villain, and our hero gathers his party members and is sent off on his goodly quest. Along the way he powers up his stats, gathers superior equipment (at one point he's given a magical shield and told that it's "a very rare and high-quality item"), gains and loses party members, falls in love with the one female member of his party in occasional cutscenes, and of course has a series of boss fights; first with the cursed King Acrisius, then some giant scorpions, then Medusa, then a rematch with King Acrisius, then the Kraken, then the final boss battle with Hades (this is an alteration from the original 1981 Clash of the Titans, where the final boss was the Kraken). All that's missing is the victory music after each battle and superfluous minigames.

There's no moral gray. There's no politics. There's no socially relevant message. This a monster-fighting flick about swords and gods and magic. The dialogue is so much excrement rolling like shit gumballs from the actors' mouths. The romantic subplot will make you long for the days of Anakin and Padmé's nuanced courtship. At one point a pegasus flies in in glorious slow motion before the sun while unironically epic music plays to let us know that this is supposed to be a great cinematic image. And yes, just as a special "fuck you" to me, the film ends with my most hated trope (spoilers, I guess), a dead character being joyously revived with magic. This movie is fucking terrible. I hated it. I loved it. I don't regret seeing it, especially not with a packed audience in on the joke, but although I know my pleas fall on deaf ears I pray to Zeus that this is the stupidest of this summer's blockbuster extravaganzas.

2 Stars out of 5

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