Clash of the Titans was directed by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance), written by Travis Beacham (Carnival Row, Pacific Rim), Phil Hay (Destroyer, R.I.P.D.) and Matt Manfredi (The Invitation, Ride Along), who rewrite the original script by Beverley Cross (Jason and the Argonauts); and stars Sam Worthington (The Last Son, Pros and Ex-Cons), Gemma Arterton (The King’s Man, The Girl With All the Gifts), Mads Mikkelsen (Valhalla Rising, Polar),
The cast also features Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones, The Numbers Station), Ian Whyte (Prometheus, The Reckoning), Jason Flemyng (Boiling Point, Deep Rising), Alexa Davalos (The Man in the High Castle, The Mist), Liam Neeson (Cold Pursuit, Wrath of the Titans) and Ralph Fiennes (No Time to Die, Schindler’s List). It follows a Greek demigod as he and a rogue’s gallery of others travel the lands to push back the encroaching evil beasts trying to conquer the world.
The Plot: We’ve been here before, many, many times. However, Clash of the Titans gets a pass for most of its familiar epic tropes considering it’s one of the first to ever do it and one of the best. The demigod Perseus (Worthington), conceived by human queen Danae and the god Zeus (Neeson) has so far led a peaceful life as a fisherman, but when the cocky humans in Argos stop worshipping Zeus, Hades (Fiennes), and the other gods; Zeus allows Hades to send a destructive message.
Obviously, Hades wasn’t going to stop at sending a message, and Perseus’s family pays the price. Once he’s brought to Argos, he’s conscripted by the king to stop Hades’ plan to unleash the Kraken if the princess Andromeda (Davalos) isn’t sacrificed. This is all played straight, and in-universe, it all would be taken seriously. So it’s nice to see a movie with grand stakes not downplaying everything for the sake of laughs. (Cough cough Marvel).
Perseus now leads a band of soldiers, including but not limited to Draco (Mikkelsen) and Solon (Cunningham), along with fellow demigod Io (Arterton), and eventually the Djinn Suleiman (Whyte) on a journey to come back with the head of Medusa before either the crazed citizens sacrifice Andromeda, or the ex-king Calibos (Flemyng) kills the group, or Hades lets his baddest creation loose. Clash of the Titans shows how to do a sword and sandals blockbuster, there’s a lot going on to be sure, but it’s simple fun that retains its stakes.
The Characters: There are plenty of players in Clash of the Titans’ but at the end of it all, this is a fantasy action/adventure, so all the larger-than-life characters are given the most development with the mere humans acting as companions.
Perseus goes through a modified hero’s journey, having everything taken from him before he can find out what he’s really capable of, now thrust into a conflict that he doesn’t care about; revenge is his sole goal. That’s the initial thought anyway, eventually, he grows to like those around him and wants to keep them alive. A simple arc is what’s in place but the script doesn’t stop there, adding in some light romance with Io and a defiant stance from the lead, wanting to prove himself as a man instead of anything more. It may seem like Perseus understands combat a little too fast, but the god side of him effectively prevents this from being contrived.
Io is a nice presence who ironically acts as a parental figure, picking up where Perseus’ adopted mother left off. She’s the healer for the group (when possible) and with her agelessness and experience is a codex for them too, doing the planning and providing most of the knowledge they need to complete their journey. She does get in on training Perseus too, and with Arterton’s chemistry with Worthington, proves a worthy new addition to the crew, as do the admittedly flat sidekicks that are only worth their salt because of the talented actors playing them.
The gods of Clash of the Titans’ mythic world bring the cheesy dialogue back and offer an interesting relationship, with Zeus, like Hades, eager to punish insolence from men. However, he’s not entirely trusting of his brother and attempts to send aid to the adventurers, adding some humanity (pun somewhat intended) to what’s essentially a caricature.
The Action: With a movie like Clash of the Titans, it’s hard to separate the action from the adventure and determine a core genre, but the movie is more focused on the journey than the action within it, for a time anyway. From the beginning, ‘Clash’ is setting up the trials and tribulations that its characters must go through and providing bits of downtime to digest the proceedings. Once the characters and audience are acquainted with the process they must go through, Leterrier lets the audience know that he knows where and how this story must go and shifts the movie towards being an action/epic.
With a host of mythological beings and a budget to effectively show off whichever ones it so chooses, Clash of the Titans provides several exciting set pieces with unique challenges (hence why it’s difficult to pinpoint the main genre). The whole movie is an uphill battle for the characters, going from a rich city to a mythologized hell with foes everywhere they go. Time is short too, so each fight is another minute gone.
Clash of the Titans moves from one obstacle to another, like during their first bout with Calibos, the magic he wields summons giant scorpions that the group must take down as a team, and they must cross a desert with an initially untrusting sorcerer. The script allows examination before execution which adds to the suspense of the fights, and as more of these fights take place, Perseus takes more of a leading role in them.
The highlight is definitely the fight with Medusa, forcing the men to avoid looking at the gorgon directly, instead using their shields and swords as blinders while using the environment to take her down. The choreography is solid, even if Leterrier slips into shaky-cam mode a few times, the variety of the enemies paired with Perseus’s (and Hades’) growing power keeps the momentum up.
The Technics: While this version of Clash of the Titans is more CGI dependent, it’s better in its usage of the technology than most big-budget affairs, with the sheer amount of detail put into each creation making up for the ageing the movie has endured, but the compositing of actors against green/bluescreen is too clear. That’s not to say the whole movie looks bad, because it doesn’t. Around half of the digital creations still compare to what’s being released over a decade later, and some of the environments had CG edits that even now I could barely discern. Of course, the practical effects are always better. The prosthetics, makeup and costume design here are all very good.
Some of the set design is a little shaky, with some of the backgrounds obviously being on a soundstage, perhaps in reference to the original Clash of the Titans. If that’s the case, that doesn’t fit with the updates the rest of the movie has received, and when paired with the solid work done to create the Djinn and the witches, for example, creates a huge disparity in visuals. While more character development for the side characters and baddies would’ve been nice and a few extra minutes with them could’ve been useful, there aren’t many structural issues here even if the story is cliche by today’s standards.
Leterrier’s remake of Clash of the Titans is swift, well-made fun that respects its source and tries to add to it with new characters and references to different mythological sources. It tells its story better, adds to its characters and uses more (as in quantity) thespians to do so. It’s far from soulless, but far from perfect as it could’ve used just a bit more of everything (except CGI).
Clash of the Titans is available on DVD and on Digital platforms from Warner Brothers. Surprisingly, the film’s Facebook page is still available.