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To change topics entirely though, I struggled for this topic, Internet. Not that I don't feel very strongly about it, it's just so much harder to write coherently about a movie you didn't write than about one you really really did and maybe obsessed over a little bit. It's just so hard to break something down when you're busy dry heaving an saying "BULLSHIT" over and over again. It really does a number on my typing skills for one.
Now, Internet, let me tell you about why I absolutely love and hate The Clash of the Titans.
THIS WEEK'S TOPIC IS:
Oh My God, Guys, I just really Hate Clash of the Titans
Now, some brief qualifications; When I say I hate Clash of the Titans, I am of course referring to the 2010 remake. The 1981 Original is wonderful and it's one of those movies I saw as a kid and was kind of enamored with. You can tell, we already kind of have a theme for these Bonus Posts.
Way back in like 2009, when I saw the first previews for the remake, I got super excited. Liam Neeson was Zeus, there were Giant Scorpions killing people and stuff and Titans were Clashing, man! Liam Neeson!
How foolish was I to realize that it could only spiral downwards from there.
As I learned more and more about the movie, I began to realize how awful it was going to be. It starred Sam Worthington who is very very good at playing the manly gruff marine but not so good at...just about anything else. And what was this? Hades was the bad guy? They gave the sea monster to the God of the Underworld and not the god of, you know, the SEA?
By the time the movie actually came out, I was so turned off by it, I refused to see it and this was back when I still worked at the theater, this was back when I could have seen it for free. This went on for a few years (two, to be exact), me just sort of blindly hating it/pretending it didn't exist. In hindsight, I realize it wasn't fair. I realize that I need to see a movie before I decide it's an unforgivable mark on humanity as a species.
So a couple weeks ago, I borrowed a frenemy's copy (because none of my true friends would own such a film) and watched it for the purpose of writing a compare/contrast essay for a class.
Now I can clearly and justifiably say that this movie and it's relative success is a black stain on all of humanity. Hooray!
Studios are Christian Bale, Culture is the Girl, we are the nailgun.
So let's take a look at what makes a good remake. To make things a bit simpler, let's not just look at remakes of movies from other movies, but movies from other mediums as well, comics, books, video games, etc.
What do we generally consider to be good remakes or adaptations? The Lord of the Rings, The Watchmen, Willy Wonka/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, (Many of) The Harry Potter movies, and so on. What do all of these films have in common aside from being good in their own right? In all cases, the movies pay respect to their source materials, but still break out in their own direction. So it's essentially a three step process, making a remake:
1) Respect your Roots
2) Move in your own direction
3) Be good without relying on your source material
Now, there is a trick to remakes in that you have to do all three of those steps. Focus too much on one and the other two will suffer. Some of the Harry Potter movies, for instance, were pretty good as movies, but not really very good as Harry Potter movies. When I was a kid, there was a zillion sequels to The Land Before Time and these all pay tremendous tribute to the original by being the exact same movie with new songs and they kind of forget the "Own direction" and "Be good" steps.
Sometimes the stars will perfectly de-align and we get a movie that actually manages to flub all three steps rather spectacularly. That's about how we ended up with the new Clash of the Titans. Let's go over how it violates all of these rules in a clearly-defined, organized manner because I am a vengeful fanboy, damnit.
1) Respect your Roots
This one is the most rage-inducing for me because, especially for a story as old as this one, it should be just about the easiest step. It doesn't require any sort of creation, per se, just that you don't piss on its grave and tell roughly the same story, maybe in a new light or direction, possibly with some tongue-in-cheek throwbacks to the original.
In the original Perseus Myth, Perseus was the son of Zeus and a mortal who got thrown into the ocean by his earth father because he got warned that Perseus was totally going to kill him one day, got rescued by fishermen, killed the horrifying Gorgon, Medusa, after which he was laywayed in Ethiopia to save Andromeda from a great sea monster (wearing flying sandals or riding on Pegasus, depending on where you read it) because her mother boasted that she was beautiful than the Goddess Nereids and was being sacrificed as punishment.
In the first Clash of the Titans Perseus was the son of Zeus and a mortal who got thrown into the ocean by his earth father because he got warned that Perseus was totally going to kill him one day, got rescued by fishermen, solved the riddle of (and ultimately slayed) Calibos so he could marry Andromeda, killed the horrifying Gorgon, Medusa which he then used to kill the Kraken (admittedly a Norse monster, but at least it has a name, now) and save Andromeda's life who was being sacrificed because her mother claimed she was more beautiful than Thetis.
In the 2010 remake, Perseus was the son of Zeus and a mortal who was thrown into the ocean because Perseus's God-hating Earth dad got pissed at Zeus and was rescued by a God-hating fisherman and his family who were unfortunately killed by in an altercation between some Greek soldiers tearing down a statue of Zeus and some unnamed Godly minions. This leads Perseus to hate the Gods even more than he did more while being raised by his God-hating stepfather. So he goes to Argos and The queen awkwardly says that her daughter is more beautiful than Aphrodite and the totally-unrelated-to-this-conversation Hades comes up in a puff of smoke and says that Andromeda, the daughter, needs to be sacrificed as penance for parental bragging so Perseus, Io (who isn't even IN THIS MYTH), and some Argonauts team up to go kill Medusa, fight Calibos (who is inexplicably Perseus' father now), and save Andromeda in between Perseus being angsty about his relationship with Zeus.
If you had a little trouble following that third paragraph there, there's a reason for it; it's not the same story. It bears strong resemblances to the first two paragraphs, but in the end, it's a totally different narrative. The Myth had a story centering around one guy and his interactions with the Gods. The movie was an admittedly tighter narrative about a guy and his interactions with the gods. It added some stuff, moved some stuff around, changed some names, but it always added to the original narrative. The 2010 remake is a convoluted revenge story that hijacks the narrative to give a hamfisted anti-religious message. The worst part is that you can tell it's not even a message they really care about, just one they though would be cool and popular with the rebellious teenagers. If you took all the names and places and changed them out with, say, sci-fi equivalents? No one would notice a damn thing. No one would ever say "Oh, this movie is kind of like Clash of the Titans" and at that point, they're just cashing in on the name. Shaaaaame on you.
There is, in the whole movie, one call back to it's predecessor, and that's an awkward, immersion-breaking reference to the most annoying/endearing side kick in the whole movie, Bubo.
Even Sam Worthington looks upset by this development, and he never shows emotion.
I could mention other things, like how they introduced the myth of Io so they could mess that up, too. How they tried to be all cool and multicultural by adding Jinn, a distinctly Persian bit of myth, despite them actually being nothing like Jinn, or how Calibos went from being an interesting, even a bit tragic character, to a throwaway miniboss, but I don't think you really want to read all that so let me just finish this up by saying that this is not a Clash of the Titans movie, this is a movie that uses the name to get the ticket sales associated with it.
Move in your Own Direction
Now surely, a film that has moved so far away from it's source material has at least been able to find its own direction, yes? I mean, that's the whole idea behind abandoning your source material!
See, the problem isn't so much that it doesn't go in a different direction, it's that the direction it goes in is everyone else's direction, too, and it doesn't even do anything interesting with it. Anti-religious, or even just pro-secular messages and themes have become increasingly popular over the years and what with the all of the Women's rights, tolerance, and Human rights fiasco that the Church is currently involved in, it's not hard to see why, and that's fine. If someone has something nasty to say about religion, let them, I have no problem with it.
The problem with Clash of the Titans using it is that it fundamentally changes the story in huge, huge ways, but you know what? I wouldn't even have a problem with that if they did it well, if they tried something new or interesting with it.
But they didn't.
Did you notice how in the 2010 Clash plot synopsis, "God-hating" got tacked on to a whole bunch of the characters? Yeah, that's pretty much how they treated their whole "anti-god" theme; tacked on. Superficial. Worst of all: totally unnecessary. For those of you who write, or for those of you who read my Iron Giant post, you might know that, in writing, everything, every little detail must serve an important purpose and convey the theme. I'm not saying an anti-religion theme itself is unnecessary, I'm saying that how the plot was constructed made it completely unnecessary. It's like the scriptwriter turned in his rough draft and the execs say "Hmm, yes this is really good. I like that callback to Bubo, but our numbers people say that the kids these days are really big into rebellion, could you maybe make everyone hate the Gods? I think that'd be really popular."
And don't forget to make our one principal female completely useless in a fight. This is a guy movie after all, she's just there to be emotional and have boobies.
Sometimes over the course of the story, you actually forget that. The movie is so superficial, it's so apparent it just added that to be edgy, that sometimes they totally forget that's part of the story, like when Perseus playfully pets Pegasus (who is black, for some reason), a gift from the Gods, who he hates. Whoops.
So Clash of the Titans failed step one and made it look like they were using the name for a cash grab and then failed step two and made it look like they were using a semi-edgy theme for a cash grab. Gee, I wonder how they'll fare on step three?
3) Be good in your own right
Let's say that you actually did change all the names and places to Science Fiction counterparts. Let's say you removed the silly religious theme, or at least did something interesting with it. Would it be a good movie then?
Eh, not really. It'd certainly be better, no doubt. I'd have at least 2/3rds fewer things to complain about, but I don't think that Clash would ever rise above merely mediocre because, by itself, it's just not a very well made movie.
Insofar as acting, Liam Neeson is really the only bright spot because, well, he's Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson is the man responsible for making Episode I watchable, next to Ewan McGreggor and the guy who played Darth Maul. Really, I don't watch most of Episode I anymore, I just watch that one scene over and over again for an hour and a half.
Still a better love story than Twilight.
Sam Worthington is, well, Sam Worthington, however, and is one of the reasons I randomly burst out in awkward laughter during Avatar. I had trouble remembering the name of even the important Argonaut, and everyone else was either throwaway cannon fodder, dull plot movers, or someone you never see again. How much they simply do not care about their own characters is evident by the fact that I'm pretty sure they kill off the same Argonaut twice, in two consecutive scenes.
Set design is equally unimpressive. Not that it's not big and grand and sweeping, just that it doesn't make an impression. Here's a brief tour of where the movie takes us.
First, we start in the ocean:
Then, for the Marine fans out there, some more ocean (20 years later)
"Sweet! Waves! My favorite!"
Then we go to Argos, which is, admittedly, the most interesting location in the movie, but isn't exactly an original work, either.
"I'm so lonely...I miss my waves."
Then we find ourselves in a nondescript forest where everyone puts on red capes and pretends to be Spartans.
Then off to a desert-y mountain place with color-corrected rocks and some random Greek architecture.
Then to ANOTHER mountain-y, color-corrected place with some random architecture.
Then into Medusa's temple, which really just looks like more mountains (albeit, inside of a mountain) with some more Greek Architecture thrown in.
And then finally, back to Argos for the big climax which is still the best location in the movie but, I mean, look at what it has to compete against.
So not only are we left with a generic sameness when it comes to the characters, but we get a similar forgetability for the locations but that's almost okay if the story is---
There's one thing you should know about the Original myth, and that's that it came about before we had neat little writing theories like the five point story structure and arcs and so on, so Classical myths tend to be kind of...spazzy. Sometimes they just read like a laundry list of badass stuff someone did. Naturally, this doesn't fit very well into the traditional take on story structure that we know and love today and, to an extent, even the original Clash struggled with this, having multiple big hurdles to cross and several places where the film could have just ended fine.
While the original had its difficulties, however, the remake falls flat on its face, totally unsure of what to do with the multiple climaxes, like a recently devirginized teenager. To be fair, the pacing is maybe a little better than the original, if only because they gutted most of the story. It still suffers from not knowing what to do with itself, generally, mostly from simply being bad, however. \
On top of that, the writing just doesn't make sense in general, sometimes. At one point Percy and the gang are tracking a wounded Calibos and our stalwart hero suggests that they "Split up and follow the blood trail" because, you know, one person with one flesh would is going to produce multiple blood trails. Somehow though they all follow this one blood trail and one group finds him and one group doesn't and frankly, I still can't make sense of that.
My sentiments exactly, Bubo.
So Clash of the Titans is very definitely a very, very, objectively bad movie. I hate it. Everything about it makes me sad inside from the terrible decisions that formed it, to the fact that it's so stupidly popular in spite of those decisions. I do suggest it to people though. Specifically, I think it's a great learning tool for people who want to know what not to do when making a movie because in just about every discipline involved in this film, they got something really wrong. Writing? Check. Acting? Check. Set design? Check. Direction? Check. Character (specifically monster) design? Check. Just about the only department I don't have anything to say about is the sound design, not like that blew my socks off either.
On the flip side, I do want to acknowledge that lots of people's hearts and souls and hundreds upon hundreds of manhours went into this film and I'm willing to bet more than a few people felt like they were really making a good tribute to the original works. If this film is evidence of anything, it's that Moviemaking is a big, complicated process, where one bad idea can send the whole thing spiraling off into mediocrity.
Thanks for reading, don't forget to vote and if you found this post interesting/enraging, share it with your friends and talk about what a jerk I am! I love that!
Thank you, goodnight.