Sunday, March 28, 2010

Clash!!! Ah-aaaa! He's a miracle.

The anticipated CGI remake of Clash of the Titans opens (in 3D no less) this Friday. The original Clash of the Titans was one of those movies that tided me over between Star Wars movies, back when they were good. It retold the ancient Greek myth of Perseus, and how he saved the beautiful princess Andromeda from a monstrous whale... Not quite. The movie spiffied it up a little, and imported the idea of the Kraken from the realm of Thor, and mutated the beast into a four limbed giant merman. Four tentacle-like arms? Why only four? Because this was the last gasp of quality stop-motion animation. Ray Harryhausen, the master of this special effect, was old, and tired. Four arms was all he could handle. There you have it. I've put it on the Internet, so it must be true...

The original movie is almost 30 years old, and it looks quaint today. But it was a stunner back in it's day. They lavished the budget on this thing, grabbing A-List stars to be the Greek Gods: Laurence Olivier as Zeus, and Ursula Andress reprising her role from Doctor No as Aphrodite (If you have to ask, you really need to brush up on you Classics, and your classic cinema...). I even remember the clockwork owl Bubo fondly. He was steampunk before it was cool. And it also showed a sly understanding of real history that I'm certain will be absent from the update.

Harry Hamlin became something of a Gay icon from this movie. Sure, the ladies loved him on TV's LA Law, but every gay man I've ever known has made at least one passing reference to Hamlin's turn as the demigod Perseus. And this isn't surprising, because it is a virile performance, and he manages to hold his own in the minimalist Greek wardrobe. I suspect Gerard Butler watched this movie as preparation for 300. (Again, I'm putting this on the Internet, so it must be true...)

This version gives us Sam Worthington, the Aussie sensation who has already had a more successful big screen career than Harry Hamlin. Liam Neeson does a turn as Zeus, and Ralph Fiennes is Hades, a character I don't remember playing much of any role in the original. Was he there at all? Aphrodite is played by somebody named Agyness Deyn. Who? I had to google her, and the pictures I found were of some generically pretty goth waif. Come on; I'm sure Angelina was busy, but couldn't you find somebody with more "Sexual Napalm" credibility than this?

So, do I think they will "improve" on the original? Meh, maybe. I think it will be an eye-of-the-beholder situation. If it looks half as good as the trailers, it will please the key 18-to-30-year-old male demographic they crave. I'm sure the girls (maybe even some of the boys) will love to see Sam flex his muscles too. Whether or not it has the campy heart that sustained the original is yet to be seen. It makes me happy to see them trot out the "old stories" again for a new generation. The Greeks nailed storytelling while the rest of the West was just getting warmed up. These old tales are the fuel for the dreams that we make today. The next Star Wars, the next Pirates of the Caribbean, the next Harry Potter...
But not the next Lord of the Rings. For that, we need to cast our eyes northward to the land of ice and snow. See into the realm that gave birth to the kraken. Look past the arching rainbow to the Halls of Asgard. There in his hall sits Odin, attended by his chattering ravens, waiting Ragnarok with his army of dead heroes.
Now that would make a great movie.

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