That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

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Archive for April, 2010

Uh, guys? Olympus would be THAT way.

Posted by kozemp on April 5, 2010

If you grew up around here in the early to mid 80s, you watched Clash of the Titans a whole bunch.

You watched it a whole bunch because, as near as my research indicates, it was on TV every single Saturday afternoon between 1982 and 1987. I suppose it is theoretically possible for you to be my age and not have seen Clash of the Titans, but if that’s the case it’s very likely your parents were Communist infiltrators, or circus freaks, or both. But, if your parents were proud, upstanding ten-fingered Americans like mine were, odds are that in your youth you, like me, saw Clash of the Titans approximately 91 times.

Now don’t misunderstand me: Clash of the Titans is not a good movie. It’s also important to understand that it’s not one of those things that you remember from your childhood as being awesome that you go back and watch in later life and realize they’re unspeakably awful. It’s just not good. It had its moments, yeah, the dude from LA Law holding Medusa’s head and stop-motion giant scorpions and whatnot. Overall, though, it’s not exactly in the running for Most Underrated Picture of 1981. (DUH.)

Still, I had fond memories of watching the movie when I was a kid, as did many others, so when news of the remake came out I jumped at the chance to see it.

This was, in retrospect, a jump I didn’t really have to make.

The new movie isn’t awful. It goes beyond awful. It takes “awful” and puts it in a bowl along with “stupid” and “hilarious” and “nonsensical,” tosses in some light cream and garlic powder, then reduces it in a small saucepan over medium heat so it can be used as a glaze for pork chops.

The remake of Clash of the Titans is what you would get if you handed Mr. Koch’s fourth grade class a video camera, 34 randomly-selected pages of Edith Hamilton and 120 million dollars, then told them to make a movie.

This is not to say that it doesn’t have its high points. Sam Worthington is, of course, great.

Okay, so there’s only one TRADITIONAL high point. However, watching the movie brings with it a number of EXPERIENTAL high points, moments where you’re sitting there and something occurs on screen and the sheer force of its audacious idiocy knocks you around in your seat. You watch much of the movie with a great big smile on your face, not because what you’re watching is particularly good, or even enjoyable, but because the film constantly affirms the belief that you’re smarter than the people who made it.

Clash of the Titans is a great movie to see if you’re depressed, or have self-esteem issues. It won’t lift your spirits in the traditional way, but it will make you feel a little better, knowing as you will that somewhere there is a person – nay, there are whole bunches of people – worse off than you. Your shame is private. Millions of people will see theirs.

As closely as I can remember them, here is a rundown of the moments of Clash of the Titans that will make you constantly say, Tenth Doctor-like, “what?!” Bear in mind that there are massive SPOILERS ahead but, really, it’s Clash of the fucking Titans, for Chrissakes.

– Right from go you have a serious problem: the title is bollocks. No actual Titans were harmed in the filming of this movie. In the original this is almost forgivable, I mean, you’re making this movie that is… I don’t want to say “loosely based” on Greek mythology, let’s say “slightly near,” and you say “screw it, Clash of the Titans is a good title.”

But if you’re the guy (or guys, I suspect there were about 11 of them) writing the remake, should you not, at some point, google the word “titan” just to make sure that your movie which is called “Clash of the Titans” actually has at least one scene in which Titans clash? Or even appear? I mean, even if it’s just Cronos and Gaea arguing over a parking space. Give us something. I’m not saying that you have to memorize Bulfinch’s Mythology back to front (or, as the movie repeatedly demonstrates, apparently even be aware such books exist) but seriously, people, Wikifuckingpedia.

The best part of this is that the movie has this prologue voiceover explaining how the gods fought the Titans and banished them to someplace or other after doing some kind of stupid bullshit, and the film then proceeds to not have anything to do with the Titans. I’ve long spoken out against expository voice-overs in movies, but this is the first time I think I’ve ever heard a voice-over that provides exposition to another movie altogether.

– Speaking of the opening pseudo-expository voice-over, the second it started I thought, “I know that voice.” About five seconds later I said, “oh, that’s Rachel Weisz!” I knew the movie had a, ahem, “star-studded” cast, but I didn’t even know she was in it.

I didn’t know Rachel Weisz was in it because she is not, in fact, in it. The voice I heard was Gemma Arterton, who you may recall as the chick from Quantum of Solace who was not as hot as Olga Kurylenko. In Clash of the Titans she plays Io. At the very least she plays someone NAMED Io, inasmuch as the Io in the film bears no resemblance whatsoever to the mythical character, no doubt another casualty of people making a movie about Greek mythology without ever actually reading any.

I also did not know that the character was supposed to be Io because everyone in the film kept pronouncing her name “ay-ya,” which made me constantly wonder why the writers chose to name their female lead after a track from Dance Dance Revolution.

Gemma Arterton actually turns out to be a sort of low-rent Rachel Weisz, perfect for when you want a pretty woman with an English accent but don’t want to be bothered by any of that “acting” stuff.

– Absurd Bit of Star Casting #1: Pete Postlethwaite plays Perseus’ human father. We’re fine with that. But for some reason his character is depicted as being ultra-skinny. We’re talking dangerously, undernourished, Calista Flockheart got into the dexedrine again skinny. The problem is that I had the sneakiest suspicion that his skinniness was assisted with CGI, because he has these comically skinny limbs and tiny little torso and then this GIGANTIC FUCKING HEAD.

Imagine, for a second, that you’re making a scarecrow. But it has to be simple because, I don’t know, if it has too many pieces space aliens will microwave your brains or something. It can only have three bits: the up and down part for the scarecrow’s spine, an across bit for the arms-slash-clavicle, and the head. Seeking proportionality in all things, you use a putter for the spine and the dowel from your blinds for the arms. Nicely done.

Then, for the head, you use a 1967 Volkswagen Beetle.

This is how huge Pete Postlethwaite’s head is in this movie. It would be funny if you didn’t keep sitting there going “Jesus Fucking Christ I can’t get over how big his head is.” There had to be some sort of CGI trickery. No actual human body could support a cranium that disproportionately large.

– The main conflict of the movie opens up when Perseus and his family are out in their fishing boat, reeling in their empty nets (because the gods have, apparently, killed all the fish for no adequately explained reason) and dodging their father’s head. They spy a group of soldiers up on a cliff attacking a statue of Zeus. Eventually they cut it off at the ankles and the statue, which at approximately 800 feet high is a pretty impressive feat of engineering for the Bronze Age, falls into the ocean and makes everyone on Perseus’ ship wet.

It is noted that by this act of defiance that “man has declared war on the gods!” This happens again later at a party when Polly Walker makes a speech at a huge party that basically boils down to “yeah, Zeus can suck my cock, and don’t even get me started on Aphrodite. My daughter is ten times hotter than that bitch.”

This is a flaw in the fundamental conceit of the movie, the idea that man can make war on gods. I’m no theologian, but I’m pretty sure that would actually go something like this:

MAN: We are declaring war on the gods!

ZEUS: Oh, are you? Okay. (Zeus points at man, his finger goes ZOT! Man turns into smoking crater. Zeus turns to the other gods.) Who’s for golf?

The movie handwaves this by saying that the gods need the worship of humans to maintain their immortality – I swear those EXACT WORDS are said not once but TWICE in the course of the film – but as such things go it’s pretty limp.

– Both of these acts of defiance provoke the same reaction, which is for Hades to show up in a puff of black smoke which – I am not making this up – is also a giant electromagnet, and kill everyone. This brings us to Absurd Bit of Star Casting #2: Hades is played by Ralph Fiennes. Hades, as near as I can tell, appears to be Voldemort with emphysema, a hump, and a really shitty barber. (And a nose, I guess, fuck do I know about Harry Potter?)

– Actually all of the gods have pretty awful hair, which one really wouldn’t expect from gods.

– Absurd Bit of Star Casting #3: Poseidon is played by Danny Huston. He has one line.

– There is a whole bit where the people in the one city treat Perseus like crap because he is a demigod. At one point the word “demigod” is actually used as an insult. Though considering this is a city where people think waging a war against GODS is not only a good idea but something to be put into actual practice, there is a very good chance they don’t actually know what the word “demigod” means.

Just in case the audience doesn’t know what a demigod is – not exactly a long shot, I suppose – this situation is corrected when Hermes shows up to tell Zeus that there is a demigod in the city and remind him what a demigod is. You know, in case Zeus had forgotten his penchant for turning into various animals and knocking up human females.

Mental note: is “gods need the love of people to survive” possibly a sly euphemism for “Zeus needs to get his freak on?” Must investigate.

– The aforementioned scene prompted me to say out loud in the theatre, “Doctor Bashir!” Absurd Bit of Star Casting #4: Hermes is played by Alexander Siddig. He has two lines, and terrible hair.

– There are two guys who join Perseus’ little hunting party. They both carry comically-oversized axes and the movie swerves very hard out of its own way to introduce them. They do not do anything for the rest of the movie.

– So in order to save Argos from blah blah blah, oh, who gives a fuck. There’s guys. They wear those hats that double as push brooms. They’re going to do stuff. Perseus is their boss.

The first thing they’re going to do is visit “the Stygian Witches.” They live near the “Garden of Stygia.” These names are profoundly, mind-bogglingly stupid for a reason which will be made clear shortly (if you haven’t figured it out already).

On the way there Perseus and his doodz have a big fight scene with some guy played by Jason Flemyng (who REALLY needs a better agent). His blood makes giant scorpions come out of the ground. (Like you do.) Perseus and his guys fight the giant scorpions and generally get their asses whomped until this wacky dude comes out of nowhere and pulls the old Krayt Dragon Howl on them and the giant scorpions stop killing everyone.

One of the soldiers in Perseus’ group, possibly named Audience Surrogate Man, says “who the fuck are those guys?” Though I may be paraphrasing the dialogue slightly, it’s a perfectly reasonable question. I myself was curious who they were.

Then one of the other soldiers, possibly named Exposition Man, says, “they’re djinn.” And I sat in my seat and said “whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat?”

No longer content to confine its raping and pillaging to ancient Greece, the film has now branched out and appropriated Persian mythology for its own nefarious purposes.

Then there’s some bullshit about how the Djinn [snicker] can’t be trusted because they’re body modification fetishists or somesuch – you have to work pretty hard to offend the sensibilities of ancient Greeks – but eventually it’s decided that the Greeks with work together with the Djinn [snicker] and go off to see the Stygian Witches. But they’re so far away! How will we get there before blah blah blah oh who gives a fuck. It’s far.

This is when we learn that the Djinn [snicker] have TAMED THE GIANT SCORPIONS. And that they’ve put little Winnebagos on their backs, and the gang is going to ride them.

I saw the giant scorpions-slash-RVs and said, “this is the greatest movie ever.”

– So, the Stygian Witches in the Garden of Stygia. These are actual beings, in a mythological sense at least. They’re the Graeae. Three old women, one eye, etc etc. (Make like someone who didn’t write Clash of the Titans and look it the hell up.) After telling Perseus that he can kill the Kraken (which is going to destroy Argos in however many days because of blah blah blah oh who gives a fuck) by cutting off Medusa’s head and showing it to the beastie, they prophesize that Perseus will die.

This moment is kind of like that bit in Lord of the Rings when Galadriel is mind-melding with Elrond and, talking about Frodo, she says “the quest will claim his life.” Well, okay, it’s only PARTIALLY like that, since whereas in LOTR the quest comes perilously, dangerously, hairs-breathedly close to claiming Frodo’s life, in Clash of the Titans the prophecy is never even alluded to again. Perseus cuts a bloody swath through everything else in the movie and doesn’t sustain so much as a scratch.

– The Stygian Witches live in the Garden of Stygia. These are pretty cool-sounding names unless you know that the word “Stygian” means “of or pertaining to the River Styx,” which in the movie is NOWHERE NEAR WHERE THESE BITCHES LIVE. Seriously. How do you use the word “Stygian” in a movie that has the fucking river in it and use it to describe something else?

– In the bizarre pseudo-mythological world of the movie, we are told that Medusa was cursed by the gods for somesuch thing or other, and that she would be transformed into a giant lizard lady with a prehensile tail and snakes for hair, and that she would turn anyone who saw her face to stone. She was cursed as punishment for some dumbass thing – not declaring war on the gods, they don’t really seem to sweat that too much – and so she would be a warning to others who would, I dunno, cheat the gods at poker or something.

The gods then put her up in a very nice temple with geothermal heating and lots of wide open spaces for her to practice her archery. (Oh, right, Medusa is a crack archer. For some reason.) The temple, unfortunately, is in the Underworld, which presumably limits the number of visitors Medusa would receive. I would think that the overall effectiveness of both the punishment and the warning are diminished somewhat when she lives in another dimension populated entirely by people who are already dead.

– THAT’S WHAT YOU THINK, FUCKER! Because in what may be Clash of the Titans greatest single choice, the Underworld is a place you can walk to. After we visit the STYGIAN Witches at the Garden of STYGIA, we then walk way the fuck someplace else and, bang! We’re at the Underworld. Specifically at the River STYX, which is nowhere NEAR anything that actually bears its name. We know we’re at the River Styx because there’s a dock. That you can walk to. Perseus is about to try and swim the river – aka Colossal Mythological Bad Idea #1 – when the ferry shows up, and Perseus bribes Charon with a coin Zeus gave him (don’t ask), and we get on the ferry, and after WALKING TO THE UNDERWORLD Perseus and what’s left of his crew arrive at Medusa’s temple. But Io can’t go in with them because Medusa’s curse doesn’t work on women, which means they can’t… enter… the temple… er, wait, what?

– Now that I think about it, why is there a temple in the Underworld, anyway?

– After Perseus cuts off Medusa’s head and puts it in a giant duffel bag – honestly, this movie has serious issues with head size, you could fit a foosball table in the sack he carries the head around in – there is a fight scene where Jason Flemyng shows up again out of nowhere. I mean, I get that he walked to the Underworld, but how did he get across the river? Do monsters carry around loose change?

– During the action sequence in which Perseus flies Pegasus around and through and in between the tendrils of the Kraken (which is from Norse mythology, thank you very much) I remarked at one point to my friends, “it’s a good thing Perseus went to Top Gun.” Seriously, Pegasus handles like a freaking F-35.

– The last scene of the film is the most blatant sequel setup I’ve ever seen. Seriously, I’m sitting here trying to think of something that even comes CLOSE and I’ve got nothing. If Sam Worthington and Liam Neeson just turned to the camera and said, “if we have a big enough opening weekend there’s gonna be another hot mess like this in three years,” that would have been MORE subtle than the scene we got, which involved them bitching about Hades’ inevitable return and the weakness in the hearts of man and blah blah blah oh who gives a fuck. You had me at “Sam Worthington.”

JLK

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