Movie Review - 'Clash of the Titans' - Back In The Day, When 'Titans' Were Titans An Australian ninja of a Perseus tries to save humanity from the wrath of a high-Brit Hades and an apparently Irish Zeus. If you thought this Clash couldn't possibly be any campier than the 1981 original, think again.
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Back In The Day, When 'Titans' Were Titans

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Back In The Day, When 'Titans' Were Titans

Review

Movies

Back In The Day, When 'Titans' Were Titans

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

In 1981, "Clash of the Titans" blended Greek mythology with time-honored special effects, the latter provided by the master of stop-motion animation, Ray Harryhausen.

But today, technological advances make that movie look quaint. So Hollywood is having another go.

Bob Mondello says in the new "Clash of the Titans," the effects are indeed special, but thats not always a good thing.

BOB MONDELLO: These days, when a story is as old as time, we ask that our effects be up-to-the-minute.

(Soundbite of film, "Clash of the Titans")

Mr. LIAM NEESAN (Actor): (As Zeus) Release the Kraken.

(Soundbite of music)

MONDELLO: Digitized monsters emerging from the briny deep as orchestras thunder and cameras swoop through three dimensions, even if the 3-D has to be grafted on after the fact, as it is here.

But it wasn't always like that. Back in 1981 - which was, remember, four years after "Star Wars" came out - the notion was that a classic story called for classic everything.

So in addition to the stop-motion effects that Ray Harryhausen had been perfecting for some four decades, the original "Clash of the Titans" had an all-purpose sword-and-sandals script: mortals offending and then having to fight with the gods and an Olympus populated by the gods of the British stage, headed by Laurence Olivier, whose Zeus was, pretty literally acting up a storm.

(Soundbite of film, "Clash of the Titans")

Mr. LAURENCE OLIVIER (Actor): (As Zeus) I command you to let loose the last of the Titans. Let loose the Kraken.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. OLIVIER: (As Zeus) The kingdom of Acrisius must be destroyed.

MONDELLO: All very impressive in its stately way, a little ballast for the rather silly action sequences, where Harry Hamlin's Perseus would be engaging in pitched battles with a slew of jerky but persuasively physical monsters.

The new "Clash" largely does away with the stately stuff in favor of more clashing. Clashing accents, for instance, between Liam Neeson's Irish Zeus and Sam Worthington's Australian Perseus.

(Soundbite of film, "Clash of the Titans")

Mr. NEESON: (As Zeus) Your blood is mine, Perseus, and that makes you a god.

Mr. SAM WORTHINGTON (Actor): (As Perseus) I'd rather die in the mud with those men than live forever as a god.

Mr. NEESON: (As Zeus) You foolish boy.

MONDELLO: Also clashing acting styles, since Perseus is now something of a martial-arts expert, and of course, the digital clashing you've come for. Battles with giant scorpions now go on for days. Medusa does her slithering not in a torch-lit temple, but high above a fiery pit of molten lava.

Everything's bigger and louder and faster. And if much of the action is therefore incoherent, the crowd that loves "Transformers" is going to be cool enough with that.

They may be less cool with the fact that shelling out an extra couple of bucks to see "Clash of the Titans" in 3-D actually makes the experience less enjoyable. The film was shot in 2-D, then digitally altered to push the foreground figures further forward, and the effect is pretty strange, sort of like a pop-up book.

In other words, though the whole rationale for remaking "Clash of the Titans" was that after 29 years of technological improvements meant it could now be more realistic, by backing into a technology that suddenly got trendy again, 3-D, the producers essentially undo that advantage and make the film look artificial again. The gods are no doubt amused.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(Soundbite of music)

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This is NPR.

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