by Richard von Busack
A synthespian made completely out of Black Angus beef, Sam Worthington has an irreplaceable acting talent, and he demonstrates it Clash of the Titans. What those little chemical packets in shipping crates do for moisture, Worthington can do for levity. He has a unique ability to suck out every touch of humor in a movie, so that no matter how ridiculous things get no one laughs during his scenes.
Admittedly, Worthington keeps his back covered. He even passed on the risible coiffures endemic in director Louis Leterrier’s vision of the ancient world. His head, fuzzy as a tennis ball, is unique in the land of a thousand fright wigs. The Most Hirsute award goes to Liam Neeson’s Mr. Z, in shiny tinfoil armor last seen in Excalibur—a glittering Real 3-D eyesore that looks like a flicker postcard. This glowing apparition stares down his evil brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes): nothing says “tension” like two furry, heavily mascaraed men giving each other the eye.
As a baby, Perseus (Worthington) is rescued from the brine by doughty fisherman Peter Postlewaite. The demigod loses his family during Argos’ terrorist attack on the Twin Towers—or rather, the twin towering legs of a colossal statue of Zeus. Dragged back by the Argive soldiers to their blasphemy-rich court, Perseus arrives in time to hear the king say, “Why, my daughter would make Aphrodite look like a skank!” or words to that effect.
Swift retribution: Lord Hades materializes like a bad fairy to promise that city a visit from the dreaded Kraken in 10 days. Can Perseus retrieve the necessary weapons to repel this sea creature? And will the Argos princess escape the blood lust of the local high priest, a Kraken-hugger who (with caste mark, wound-up hair and dhoti) looks like that Hindu convert from Omaha whose gaze you try to avoid when you visit Varanasi. Yes, and yes obviously.
Luckily, there are a few moments here with the sturdiness of the old myths. Kids will agree that any movie with Medusa in it can’t be a total loss. The hunt for the creature (“The bitch!” as Perseus calls her) takes place in a shivered temple and is prepped for with Medusa’s sad story. This legend is told by Perseus’ guardian angel, Io (Gemma Arterton); she thus provides not only the movie’s too-rare girly action, but Clash’s one nod to the pathos of Ovid.
Perseus’ captain is played fetchingly by Mads Mikkelsen; Calibos the demon is barely recognizable but fierce enough in the form of Jason Flemyng. And for the fan boys, there is a rare sighting of the Robot Owl (Bubo idioticus Lucasripofficus)—as well as several ridiculous djinns, a cross between Tusken Raiders and Wookies.
Bargain-matinee filler, then, but the inevitable Christianizing has gone down. No multiculti Ray Harryhausen here: the remake is more Cecil B. DeMille punishing the impious. One god (Neeson’s Zeus) predominates; the rest of the deities hang around the Dubai-like Mt. Olympus with their hands in their togas. Evil Hades is responsible for all the mayhem.
Rather than damning the gods (“Somebody is going to have to say, enough!”), it’s clear that man’s lack of prayers started it all. Why is man warring on Zeus? Clash doesn’t say—no famines, droughts, etc. And there’s no chess game between the gods and the out-of-sight, theologically confusing goddesses. No disturbance, then, to the pimps-up, ho’s-down, manly-man cinema of 2010. You’ve seen more unfettered paganism at a Unitarian potluck.