x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Blurred vision: Clash of the Titans

Amid all the action and distracting special effects, Clash of the Titans never really finds its plot.

Sam Worthington plays the hero Perseus in Clash of the Titans.
Sam Worthington plays the hero Perseus in Clash of the Titans.

The original Clash of the Titans, released in 1981, is one of those films that remains a cult classic despite a series of shortcomings. Featuring stop-motion animation that was dated even at the time, it told the story of Perseus' quest to free the princess Andromeda from becoming a sacrifice to an underwater beast known as the kraken.

Aside from the ropy visual effects, which included that staple of Greek mythology, a mechanical owl, the film was also notable for featuring acting heavyweights such as Sir Laurence Olivier and Dame Maggie Smith hamming it up. While it was not a defining moment for cinema in the 1980s, the film remains a favourite with many who grew up in the era. Now, ditching the quaint stop motion in favour of giant computer-generated monsters and 3D, Hollywood has decided the time is right for a big-budget remake.

Sam Worthington, last seen in Avatar, takes the lead role of Perseus, who is enraged to discover he is the son of Zeus, played by a shiny Liam Neeson. After a scheming Hades, played by a pantomime Ralph Fiennes, murders Perseus' adopted family in a blur of computer-generated imagery, Perseus (in Worthington's native Antipodean accent) vows revenge. Joined by a ragtag bunch of soldiers, Perseus sets off on his quest to take the head of Medusa, which can be used to kill the massive kraken - thereby saving the princess and the city of Argos and defying Zeus and Hades.

If that sounds like a straightforward plot, it is. However, somewhere among the special effects, the director Louis Leterrier forgets to clearly explain this to the audience, who are just carried along in a series of set pieces. 3D films are never going to explore the human condition - by their nature they favour thrills over drama. But, unlike Avatar, the special effects on offer here actually detract from the whole experience.

The film was originally shot in 2D, and Warner Brothers has been roundly criticised elsewhere for the decision to convert it into 3D. The end result is that fast moving objects become blurred, depth of field seems wrong in parts and a companion I watched it with complained of nausea. Of course, this could all be a cunning ruse to distract the audience from what is happening on screen between action scenes.

The charm of the original has been dumped in favour of a more serious approach. Someone in the production process actually thought the story of a man on a flying horse using the decapitated head of a cursed woman to kill a giant sea monster needed to be treated with gravitas. The original may have been a childhood favourite, but young viewers may be uncomfortable watching this version due to a heightened level of violence.

There is some fun to be had in the film. The ensemble cast members, although bad, throw themselves into the action wholeheartedly and the po-faced tale is told at a breakneck pace. However, it would be much more enjoyable if the audience could clearly make out what was happening.