Clash of the Titans (12A)
Time Out rating:
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Time Out says
Tue Mar 30 2010For the past year, 3D has been a guarantee of box-office gold, as proven by the runaway success of ‘Avatar’. But now, for the first time, a film arrives for which the 3D element may prove to be a commercial hindrance. It’s not only that ‘Clash of the Titans’ will compete with ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and ‘Avatar’ for the nation’s 3D screens. More critically than that, the film's conversion to 3D (a decision taken late in the filmmaking process) has rendered this campy, unashamedly old-school but still highly enjoyable blockbuster rather painful to watch.
In story terms, ‘Clash of the Titans’ doesn't stray too far from the beloved 1981 Ray Harryhausen classic which spawned it. The setting is mythical Ancient Greece – an age of Gods, monsters and muscular men in little chainmail skirts. Sam Worthington is Perseus, an orphaned demi-God drawn into the battle between man and the immortals when Hades (Ralph Fiennes), lord of the underworld, threatens to unleash his great sea-beast, the Kraken, on the city of Argos. Accompanied by a ragtag band of warriors, Perseus sets off to learn the secrets of the Kraken and end the reign of the Gods once and for all.
There’s no ignoring the fact that ‘Clash of the Titans’ is a mess: the plot is episodic and rushed, the dialogue blunt and occasionally laughable, and there are far too many characters, few of whom leave much of an impression. Both Worthington and love interest Gemma Arterton look like they’re on a strenuous Aegean package holiday, but luckily they’re surrounded by the likes of Fiennes, Pete Postlethwaite and Liam Neeson as Zeus, whose commanding, armour-clad presence seems, at times, to be the only thing holding this crumbling edifice together.
Other notable names don’t fare so well: Danny Huston gets a mighty fake beard but just one line as sea-God Poseidon, Mads Mikkelsen does little more than bare his teeth as burly swordsman Draco and, most egregiously, Jason Flemyng gets a terrific backstory and some superb melting-face makeup as ruined ruler Calibos – and that's it. It's is a recurring problem throughout the film: with dialogue and character motivation cut back to the bare minimum, there’s no way for anyone to express themselves except through action.
But, luckily, this is where ‘Clash of the Titans’ succeeds. Whatever the flaws in the script, there’s no faulting director Louis Leterrier’s visual ambition: this is a film of mighty vistas, beautifully designed beasts and intense, well-structured combat sequences, all rendered in eye-popping, though still rather fake-looking, CGI. Taking the lessons of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to heart, Leterrier goes all-out for excess: his computer-generated camera soars above sprawling cities, endless deserts and blasted underworld hellscapes, lending the film a dizzying, epic scale.
A shame, then, that the addition of 3D has rendered much of this grandeur all but unwatchable, blurring the image to a headache-inducing degree and adding absolutely nothing to a film which was obviously shot in two dimensions and should have stayed that way. As an experiment in high-Hollywood style over substance, ‘Clash of the Titans’ is a very entertaining ride. But take our advice: sidestep the 3D and see it the old fashioned way.
Author: Tom Huddleston