Year Released: 2010
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen
(PG-13, 110 min.)
"The glorious gifts of the gods are not to be cast aside." Homer
This is a cotton candy of a film – an enticing confection spun into an aromatic puff of delight. It is a brief and teasing taste of early summer sunshine complete with maidens lovely and virtuous, warriors bold and brave, and gods great and glorious even in their pettiness.
And it obeys that most sacrosanct of Hollywood traditions – mangling its source material. And here I don’t mean the original 1981 Clash of the Titans, but the Greek mythology on which both films are based. At least they got Perseus’ paternity right here, correctly tracing the young demigod to Zeus instead of Poseidon, as the recent Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief did.
Despite its name, the main quarrel here is between the gods of Olympus and man, not a clash of the titans, who were the generation before the Olympians and soundly defeated by them. But hey, this title is a tested brand name and no one seriously quibbled with it almost thirty years ago, so why start now.
What we’re really here to see Perseus (Sam Worthington) battle the monsters – whether is it the loathsome Medusa, her hair a nest of serpents, a glance at her enough to turn a man to stone, or the horrible sea monster, the Kraken, its slimy maw packed with enough razor sharp teeth to put a piranha to shame. It’s also fun to watch him meet with the three gray sisters --they’re called witches here -- who share a single eyeball between them.
And we meet some new creatures, too, giant scorpions that provide transportation for some strange desert dwellers, looking a bit like they escaped the set of Dune or one of the Star Wars features.
I agree with critic Jesse Hassenger that as remakes go, the 1981 Clash of the Titans is a nice choice, good cheesy fun just aching to be revisited with our updated special effects technology. But, as he points out, just as the 1981 version couldn’t complete with Star Wars, so this version, even with its solid special effects, cannot compare to the quantum leap in that direction taken by Avatar.
Another problem has to do with the cheese factor – not enough of it. Worthington’s Perseus looks like he’s still the jarhead from Avatar, his closely cropped hair setting him apart from all the other long-haired Greeks, god and mortal alike. His is the stoic face of a grunt, a military man of action, certainly not the chiseled look of a Greek god, or demigod to be accurate. He is earnest and resolute, but takes himself a little too seriously.
Liam Neeson seems to be sleepwalking his way through his part as Zeus; perhaps he is still somewhat shell-shocked from the death of his beloved wife, Natasha Richardson barely a year ago. Yet I seem to remember the same lackluster performance in 1999’s The Phantom Menace.
Ralph Fiennes as Hades, plays his part with a bit more zest, but it is a somewhat sad to see him reduced to playing villains as he does here and in the Harry Potter series. Critic Jesse Hassenger best describes the two Olympians as “Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes in the least classy Schindler's List reunion imaginable without involving a strip club.” Mad Mikkelsen plays Draco, instilling his warrior role with a presence and nobility that sets him apart from the others, even though his part is much smaller. As a tribute to his acting, it seems almost impossible that he is the same man who played the villain Le Chiffre in Casino Royale.
Gemma Arterton as Io, has melting eyes, courage and loyalty as does Alexa Davalos’ Andromeda, both welcome changes from an industry that more often provides less worthy role models for young women.
The filmmakers try for some heft and contemporary angst –I still would recommend upping the cheese quotient instead – by imbuing the Greeks with some of our own religious skepticism. Man is angry with the gods, crashing their statues into the sea, inviting their defiance. Perseus rejects his demigod status, angry that Hades has killed his mortal family. He wants none of Zeus’ help in defeating Medusa. In fact, all of the warriors roundly reject the gods, declaring this to be man’s world alone, their voices almost as strident in their secular humanism as The New York Times. Zeus, for his part, needs man’s prayers to feed his powers, just as Hades does their fears.
This is definitely a B movie with B+ pretensions. Let the actors take themselves seriously; you don’t have to. Just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Perseus is taken in by a good-hearted fisherman who raises him as his son. Though he has the natural instincts of a warrior, he is more at home on the sea, mending the nets, casting the sails, and harvesting the fish.
What better dish to accompany our film then, than this exquisite Baked Greek Grouper that is as beautiful to look as it is to eat.
Baked Greek Grouper
This fish dish has bold, Mediterranean flavors. It is also gorgeous to look at. Accompany with a good white wine and lots of crusty bread, because the sauce is unbelievable.
- 2 lbs fresh black grouper fillets, cut into approximately 1 1/2 inch pieces (or other fillet of your choice)
- 2 (16 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, juices drained
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup kalamata olive, pitted and halved
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons small capers, drained
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1/2-3/4 cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- Place the fish pieces in a metal baking pan.
- Season lightly with salt.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients, except the wine and olive oil, season, and distribute on top of fish.
- Pour the wine and olive oil over and bake for about 35-40 minutes, or until the fish flakes.
Recipe Source: Recipezaar.com