Saturday, April 3, 2010

Release the Kraken!

I saw the Clash of the Titans remake this morning with some friends.  Contrary to the lackluster pronouncements of several critics, we three fans of the original film enjoyed it.

The plot follows a broadly similar outline to the '81 original, though a theme of Man versus God is emphasized (and perhaps over-emphasized.  We got it already!), and a true villain is added--instead of just antagonists--which is what I think the original had.

Comparing the 1981 and 2010 films is interesting.  The remake suffers from what I see as a common flaw of modern genre/action film screenwriting compared to the style of older films.  Events are streamlined, probably in the name of making the film more "fast-paced," leading to the feeling of jumping from one action set piece to another, and inevitably losing some filler details, and atmosphere-building.  Serving this same goal of narrative straight-forwardness, characters are eliminated and "good guy" and "bad guy" tend to get more sharply drawn.  And this is all in comparsion to an original which was a pretty shallow fantasy film!

This rapid pace tends to necessitate broadly painted characters, and character "bits" are almost inevitably scenes of comic relief and badass-itude.  These can be well-down and enjoyable, but also feel cliched.  Of course, secondary characters in the original (besides Burgess Meredith's character) can hardly be said to be developed at all, so I suppose you could view this as an improvement.

CGI is certainly superior to stop-motion in terms of versatility and versumilitude, but the "ritual dance" nature of a lot of modern action sequence direction, means that doesn't equate to greater thrill value most of the time.  The giant scorpion sequence in the new film is certainly more frenetic, but I can't neccessarily say that its better. 

The ferry across the Styx, likewise, isn't really any better or worse, though for different reasons.  The Stygian witches, I think, actually work better in the original, though I can't put my finger on exactly why--and admittedly, I'm working form memory.

So did the new one do anything better?  Sure.  The Olympians with speaking roles seem more "into it" than the slumming stars of the original.  The "floor map" of the world in Olympus is a lot cooler than the "amphitheater"the god's crowd around in the original.  Princess Andromeda is better developed, if in cliched ways.  The sets for Argos are sumptuous. 

The thing the new film does best in my opinion is the medusa.  She's fast moving, and so more menacing, but she also has a great deal of expression in her facial animation.  You actually get a sense of the medusa as a charatcer, more than just an obstacle.

Anyway, its worth checking out, in my opinion--though the 3D doesn't add anything, so save yourself a few bucks.


Brutorz Bill said...

My wife and I saw it today. I agree with your assessment/review. I did like the brief, tip of the hat to the original with a certain "critter's" cameo.
We did the 3D thing, should have just gone the regular old fashioned route.

Trey said...

My friends and I were divided by that cameo. They both liked it, but I felt it was a little mocking and could have bene done without that tone. of course, some may feel a little gentle mocking was exactly what was needed.

Anonymous said...

I saw it yesterday afternoon and it was okay, but after seeing the original on TCM last week I feel that the acting was better in the original. But then, with trying to sell the stop motion animation it had to be.

The Stygian Witches I believe worked better in the original because of the atmosphere, they were in a cave and stewing a recent catch that tried to escape the cauldron.

The new medusa was better and creepy. Zeus didn't come across as almighty, though.

And the nod to the character from the original was amusing. If only mildly. When I saw the character I was about to groan.

Trey said...

I totally agree on the Stygian Witches. The more I think about it, there more it feels to me that it had a little Sam Raimi-ish tinge to the presentation that undercut the atmosphere.

I still like Neeson a little better as Zeus. True, he wasn't all-mighty but that was a script choice really. Olivier seemed like he was just collecting a paycheck in the original--and that 80s neon nimbus behind his head just didn't age well.