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Clash of the Titans 3D (2010) -vs- Clash of the Titans (1981)

Clash of the Titans 3D -vs- Clash of the Titans

Mark Sanchez, Featured WriterThe Smackdown

Somebody tell me: Are the studio big shots this easy to figure? The new “Clash of the Titans 3-D” reflects two persistent trends hitting the screen: More 3-D and rampant sequel-ism. The studios love the early returns on “Avatar,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “How to Train Your Dragon” because the 3-D versions are popular with audiences willing to pay an extra two-to-five dollars per ticket. Not surprising, Warner Brothers promises nine 3-D releases in 2011 and perhaps half that many this year. That studio rushed a converted 2-D to 3-D  “Clash of the Titans” into the theaters. Was that worth the effort?

Was this material worth a redo? It seems you can watch the original 20 or 30 times a year on cable. Its earnest cheesiness always gets a laugh. This adventure loosely based on the legend of Perseus never screamed for reinterpretation, but the original movie made money and retains a core of support. The low risk factor may account for the green light on this and upcoming sequels of “The A-Team,” “The Karate Kid”– even “Predator.” Perhaps it’s the lure of the familiar. Those remakes are a million miles away from a sequel like “The Godfather: Part II.”

That’s the challenge facing “Clash of the Titans 3-D.” Does this makeover vanquish the popular campy version from 1981? Release the Smackdown Kraken!

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The Challenger

Perseus is the half-human son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) caught in a struggle between the immortals on Olympus and the ungrateful people of Argos. Zeus wants to teach them a little humility; his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) wants the monstrous Kraken to open a can of destruction. A time limit is set. Perseus (Sam Worthington) is enlisted to stop the monster. The journey has Perseus battling overgrown scorpions, visiting the Isle of the Dead and confronting the gorgon Medusa on his way to the big Smackdown with the Kraken. None of it is easy, disaster awaits every sandal step in this 3-D adventure. Louis Leterrier directed a script from Travis Beacham and Phil Hay that freely reinterprets the ancient legend described by Ovid and Apollodorus.

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The Defending Champion

Desmond Davis directed a Who’s Who of film deities in the 1981 movie. On his Olympus, Zeus is Laurence Olivier moving through the mist in flowing robes. There’s Claire Bloom and Maggie Smith and Ursula Andress. Harry Hamlin as Perseus was five years away from the greater recognition he’d earn on “L.A.Law.” All approached their roles with a straight face even as they were eclipsed by the creatures special effects master Ray Harryhausen created for the film. Both “Clash” movies share the scriptwriter’s contribution to the legend: Bubo the mechanical owl. The script from Beverley Cross – like the new film – takes a free hand in interpreting the legend of Perseus.

The Scorecard

Both films loosely follow the legend that forms the spine of their stories. If accuracy matters here, read Edith Hamilton’s essential book on the timeless tales of gods and heroes, Mythology. Both versions of “Clash of the Titans” stand as filmed entertainment, not as documents of historical fact. For that, it’s easy to forgive a lot. Laurence Olivier can play Heathcliff, Hamlet, Othello and Lear – so why not a star turn as Zeus? The cast appeared to be having fun, and that is still apparent to audiences three decades later. The original “Clash” may shine brightest as the canvas for Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion animation.

This material is elastic, not sacrosanct, so cranking up the popcorn factor is not the worst thing. The new “Clash” serves up a new generation of actors you may not expect: Neeson and Fiennes and Sam Worthington (looking – with his buzz cut – like this flick could have been titled “Clash of the Avatars”). The computer generated effects give special life to the various creatures, the snake-haired  Medusa and the world-killing Kraken. Ray Harryhausen is still watching movies at age 90. I think he’d be impressed with this, but not in 3-D. Honestly, the conversion is unsatisfying. It makes the compositions look like those crude cutouts on a 3-D postcard. If you enjoy this type of movie, save a few bucks and catch it in 2-D. James Cameron (“Avatar”) had it right all along: “If you want to make a movie in 3-D, make the movie in 3-D.”

Two flawed movies, good for entertainment if not for the ages. Is there a winner here?

The Decision

The older film makes way for the new. The original “Clash” fits like an old shoe: comfortable, maybe a little out of style, always welcome. Check it out on cable, it’s only a matter of time. Still fun.

By contrast, the new version does not aim for allegory to tell a larger story. It does not presume to make you smarter, or more noble, for watching it. This is an entertainment, not high art, and succeeds on that level. It’s even one of the better sequels coming your way.

Our winner: “Clash of the Titans 3-D” but here’s a recommendation: Watch it in 2-D. Looks better.

About Mark Sanchez 81 Articles
Oregon based media and communications consultant Mark Sanchez is on the fifth or sixth step of his recovery program from his career as a television news reporter. And that’s the way it is. Mark has been an Oregonian since the Reagan administration and shows no signs of leaving. He lives in Portland — a city that is famous for its transit system, its rain, its independent film community and, lately, for the TV series Portlandia, which Mark notes is about half-true, but to protect confidential sources he won’t say which half.

7 Comments on Clash of the Titans 3D (2010) -vs- Clash of the Titans (1981)

  1. I like the unassuming hero rather than the brutish dude that feels the need to scream every line of dialogue.Cheers for the review.

  2. The new 3D one just cashes in on the cotails of Avatar, Alice in Wonderland, even How to train a Dragon. The action was fast, furious, and was what any young audience would sthrive for in an action film. Was it epic? No, not really. Forgetable? Preety much. Worth the money on 3D? No.
    There was no sense of urgency, fear, awe, or even myth. The old one had all of those. Sure it wasnt fast paced with action been thrown into your face (purposely) but it had a magical sense to it. Even though we all KNEW the creatures were fake, we still stayed glued to see the outcome. Even though Medusa herself was slow as molasses… we cringed and feared for Perseus as he was alone in her den in near darkness… all of wondering how the hell he was going to defeat her. But in the new movie we already knew he would win in some flashy way, he was too badass not to lose.
    But if you havent seen the old one, the new one is worth the while… but in 2D.

  3. I’m sorry, but the new Clash of the Titans was awful. At least the original was closer to the original greek myth than this one.
    The folks involved in this movie should read up on their greek mythology. There is so much in the original story of Perseus, that could have been used in this movie, and still stay true to the Myth.
    Well, I guess I should be expecting a 3D remake of “The Passion of the christ” with an entirely different ending.

  4. Thanks, Mark, I just got back from viewing it in 2-D, and glad I did it that way, as per your suggestion. Someone needs to teach these youngsters how to point the tongue until it lightly touches the cheek. Only Liam ‘Release the Kraken!’ Neeson knows how it’s done, no surprise. He looked like he had a ball playing God (Olivier, not Zeus). I feel so bad for him that the fate his character suffered in “Love Actually” he is now suffering. Sometimes life shouldn’t imitate art. Anyway, overall I thought this new ‘Clash’ was fun, and not too FX-heavy. I did cringe at Ralph Fiennes, his Hades a tad too close to He-who-shall-not-be-imitated. He even had a line about gaining more power back on earth! When he declaimed it in the same voice he uses for V—–, I expected to look behind him and see a Quiddich match in progress.

  5. I don’t want to see any 3-D movies–I have enough trouble seeing with my own progressive glasses. Good comment–see it in 2-D–so it will be done.
    Merilee Sommers

  6. Jay,
    Thanks for your note. I couldn’t say it better myself — and I tried!

  7. As a Harryhausen disciple who’s seen “Jason and the Argonauts” about forty times, I’ll definitely check this out. I’d rather see a re-make of something cheesy like this than something really good, like the near-perfect “Bad News Bears.” What was the point of that mess? The worst bit from the original “Clash of the Titans” was that annoying mechanical owl, a lame attempt to cash in on the popularity of “Star Wars'” R2-D2. But you’re right, Mark, the rest is still fun. Hey, Harry Hamlin, I didn’t know ancient Greece had blow dryers!

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