Blu-Ray Review: Clash of the Titans

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I’ve always been a sucker for the worlds depicted in Greek mythology.  Because of this, I would find myself as a child watching the original Clash of the Titans over and over again, imagining what it would be like to live in that world with those incredible creatures and locations.  It’s been many years since then, and I found myself settling in to watch this remake with a combination of hope and fear.  Would they have contemporized it to such a degree that all sense of wonder was removed?  Or would they be able to replicate that sense of awe and transport me back to that state of mind I had as a kid?

Well, as it turns out, the answer is a little bit of both.  This version of the story doesn’t have that same sense of child-like whimsy to it.  Rather, it is a much grittier and darker take on the story.  However, I was still amazed by the sheer imagination and depth of detail on display.  I love it when a film creates an entire world unlike our own.  Here, the filmmakers have crafted a place where men and Gods are at war.  Where enormous scorpions and sea-creatures seem expected, and journeys to the underworld not that far-fetched.  The film is a technical marvel.  Unfortunately, I didn’t find the script worthy of the artistry on display.

It is very obvious that all of the work on this film went into the special-effects eye-candy, and not so much into dialogue or characterizations.  Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator: Salvation) play Perseus, a Demi-God not only at war with the Gods, but with himself.  He is the son of a mortal woman and the God of lightning, Zeus.  However, Zeus’ brother Hades (God of the Underworld) killed those Perseus had come to call his family, leading Perseus on a rampage against all of the Gods.  Denying his own Godly heritage, Perseus takes a team (including a Djinn and a woman who doesn’t age) on an epic mythological quest to destroy the Gods.

His story-line is simultaneously simplistic and convoluted.  The narrative makes sense, but the motivations aren’t always clear.  Even more confusing are the actions of Zeus.  As played by Laim Neeson, he seems to be a needy dictator along with being a kindly father-figure.  Throughout the film, he flip-flops between wanting to destroy man, and wanting to save them.  He provides tools for Perseus along his journey (a flying horse, a coin to pay for passage in the underworld, etc), and yet is the one who set the events in motion that Perseus is trying to stop.

I ended up watching the film twice, and I still can’t entirely understand why Zeus and Hades do what they do throughout the film.  Having said that, none of that really matters in a film like this.  What matters is how “cool” Medusa looks, how they depict the voyage to the Underworld, what Mount Olympus looks like, etc.  In this regard, the film is a huge success.  And this is why I loved Warner Bros. treatment of the recently released Blu-Ray.

In putting this set together, they understood the appeal of the film.  As such, there is a ton of great material exploring set design and construction, the evolution of the creatures, the special effects, etc.  By the time I got through all of the extras, I had a definitive understanding of what went into each major set-piece.  They show the filming of most of the key sequences, as well as a lot of concept art, interviews, and behind-the-scenes footage.

A lot of this material is presented in a feature Warner Bros. calls “Maximum Movie Mode.”  This is a really neat concept where you can watch the behind-the-scenes footage while watching the movie.  I really enjoy watching the features this way, rather than just going through a list of extras after the fact.  They also have several moments where you can leave the film to watch a feature on a specific segment.  These are accessible through the main menu as well, but I found myself appreciating them a lot more in conjunction with “Maximum Movie Mode.”

I don’t know if I would have enjoyed this as much as the original when I was a child.  What I do know is that I really enjoyed the movie as an adult.  It obviously could have been better, but as pure eye-candy, the filmmakers did a great job.