Monday, March 29, 2010

Why Bother? Clash of the Titans Is Gonna Hurt Me

We as a nation are fast approaching the release date of the brand spankin' new remake of the beloved classic film Clash of the Titans. I could spend the better part of an afternoon typing about the wrongness of the 3-D "upconversion" of the movie (it's a rip-off and an attempt to rob you of an extra four dollars, save your money and buy a bag of Skittles, kids) but that's been done plenty already.

What gets my goat about this thing isn't the fact that a spring studio tentpole is being made into a two hour moving Viewmaster slide, but rather that it is indeed a brand spankin' new remake of the beloved classic film Clash of the Titans. Plenty, in fact all too many, remakes, reboots, and "re-imaginings" have been made in the decade now past and all of those have their detractors and defenders, but as far as my addled mind can recall, none have hit home for me like a remake of Clash of the Titans promises to.

You see, 1981's Clash of the Titans is a movie I love. I like it more than I like most people. Choose one random friend or acquaintance of mine, it doesn't matter how close or estranged, and present me with the option of either watching them die or losing Clash of the Titans from our cultural memory, and I will gladly end the life of someone I care about in the defense of that movie.

Clash of the Titans is of course an adaptation of the story of the ancient Greek hero Perseus and his slaying of Medusa and the sea monster Cetus (here given the somewhat more generic and confusing name, for those of us with an interest in cryptozoology, of "the Kraken"). As far as story and direction goes, it's slightly above-average at best, nothing special really. What makes it so goddamn awesome is the special effects contributions of the master himself, Ray Harryhausen.

Harryhausen is widely held to be the greatest stop-motion animator in Hollywood history. He's responsible for such classics as Jason and the Argonauts, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, and The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms among many others. Even if his name doesn't ring a bell, you will definitely recognize his work.

The animated creatures provided by Harryhausen, coupled with some awesome appearances from classically-trained thespians like Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith as the gods of Olympus, make what could be a fairly unremarkable sword-and-sorcery flick into a movie beloved by most people of taste born after 1970.

Clash holds a special place in my heart because it was the movie that teachers would show you in middle school history class to teach you about Greek mythology. It was your reward for sitting through a week of learning about augury and how Athena burst out of Zeus' head. And most importantly of all, it was a PG-rated movie from that glorious pre-Gremlins, pre-Temple of Doom days, meaning it featured brief instances of female nudity. Schwing!

Maybe it's because I'm a fanboy of Generation X children's fantasy films, but I just can't help but be a little more wary than usual of the approaching remake, due out this Friday. While I suppose any movie about Perseus has to be called "Clash of the Titans", there seems to be something extra-heinous about turning the best of Ray Harryhausen's oeuvre into a (not even real) 3-D CGI-filled action movie that looks more like God of War than something from the man who brought us 20 Million Miles to Earth.

So I really have to ask, "why bother?" Why not give us a Bellerophon movie? You still get Pegasus, and I think everyone would love to see a CGI chimera.

There was something great about the Harryhausen style, and indeed most stop-motion and practical effects-based movies. By using something that actually physically exists for an effect, as opposed to something that only really exists as code inside a computer, there is something in your brain that buys it, or at least appreciates it more than any computer-generated imagery. At least to me anyway, I was after all the only person I know rooting for Fantastic Mr. Fox to beat Up at this year's Academy Awards.

Maybe the new Clash will win me over; hell, I'm sure it will. From the moment they announced that Liam "throatpunch" Neeson had been cast as Zeus, I was on board a hundred-and-ten percent. And besides, the trailer embedded above makes it look like Dragonforce: the Movie. Still, I'd like to go on record and utter a single cry of "Hollywood is raping my childhood!" for posterity's sake.