Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Mishmash of the Cretins: Director's Cut

Hades, I don't even think I have them all. Still...

- I can't let this pass. One of the first taglines, used in posters and trailers, was
Are you kidding me? That's the best you can do? A multi-million advertising budget, and you simply swap the order of the noun and verb in the title? That's scandalous. I can scarcely believe it. Who's running the promotion, the Redundancy Department of Redundancy? They updated it to the less redundant, but no less boring "The Clash Begins." That's not really better. It still has two of the four words of the title in it. Hell, I'll throw some out there that they should've gone with:
Ok, they're still horrible, but at least they have the charm of puns. Puns are the only form of comedy which are funniest when they're really bad.

- The introduction sequence was awesome. Basically the backstory was presented in the form of constellations and nebulae, in smoky, indistinct forms against the stars. It was beautiful, which just adds to my frustration with the film. How DARE they squander such a great opening?

- The gods are useless. They had an awesome idea in making the floor like a massive map of the world, with a cool SF-ish look for Olympus, and they make the gods look like renegades from an '80s video? Why does Poseidon have eyeliner? Why does Apollo look like he's wrapped in tinfoil? In an age of CGI, there is no excuse to not go for broke. Think of a Poseidon who looks like he commands the freaking ocean: an Ares who looks like the master of war, bloodlust and slaughter: an Apollo who looks like the sort of shining, infeasibly handsome being who'd pull the sun with a chariot: a Zeus who looks like he could wrench thunder from the clouds and cast lightning to earth: an Aphrodite who'd have every adult male (and female) in the audience crossing their legs simultaneously. Something like what they did with Doctor Manhattan in Watchmen, but up to 11. NOT these refugees from an Adam Ant concert. No excuses.

- If you'll forgive me for being the guy who brings up historical inaccuracy in fantasy movies - that's right, one of those - the idea of a man having a shorn head in a Greek setting is a very profound statement on social status. The ancient Greeks loved their hair: oiling it, perfuming it, styling it. It was a symbol of manliness. One of the few groups in Ancient Greece to have shaven heads were slaves--this way, one could handily identify a runaway slave, since it would take time for hair to grow back. To depict Perseus with a shaven head could have been a pretty powerful statement on the film's part, a son of Zeus shorn like a slave, perhaps an attempt to consciously divorce himself from his noble heritage... that is, if the film gave any indication of knowing or caring about such matters. The film sure doesn't make anything of the weird situation that Perseus seemed to be the only Greek in the whole film with such a haircut.
- Good lord, Polly Walker was delicious. She's one of the reasons I watched Rome. I just wish her Cassiopeia wasn't so incredibly, unreasonably stupid. "What, are we supposed to be skeered of the gods? Should we be shivering in fear? Should we be soiling our undies in terror?" Short answer, YES. Long answer, YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSS.

- Mads Mikkelsen's accept really bothered me in the first few scenes he was in. It's weird enough to have Queen's English, Ozzie and Irish accents in the film, then to suddenly have Danish thrown into the mix. He was also needlessly brutish in his introductory scenes: if I didn't hate Sam Worthingtron 1.0, I would've been bothered by his attempts to torture him. However, as the film progressed, I started to warm to him. His death scene is easily the best scene in the whole film, tying together everything about the character for one final, defiant shot. I really wish this was a better film, where this great moment would've been in good company with others.

- According to the original cut, Perseus' gang had little character moments, presumably also naming them, so that we can care a bit. Chud says there's "terrible logic," but I sure can't tell what that logic is. John Leterrier is looking like a complete wimp to the studios, what with his acquiescing in The Incredible Hulk and now this. Apart from Mikkelsen's Draco - the only character in the troupe to get a name when he appears - I can only remember Paddy (Liam Cunningham), Jock (Rory McCann), the two comic relief, the young guy with a name something ending in "issius"... and I know there were at least two others, but damn if I can remember them. It's truly depressing that the comic relief are the only survivors of Perseus' original team.

- What in Kronos was with Acrisius? Jason Flemyng is credited with two roles in the trailer: Acrisius and Calibos, at separate points, though he's never referred to as the latter. The credits seem to treat them as separate characters, and even though there's lots of implications that Calibos is indeed Acrisius (such as the point where he "morphs" back into his earlier form) it's never made explicit, and they never do anything with it either. Which makes me wonder what the bloody point was. Yet another character that really needed some characterization that never got any.

- When we meet Io, she mentions her agelessness, and the anguish of watching her loved ones die while she remains. One would think that her eventual death would be a poignant release (even if I don't know how she can be ageless and, by implication, immortal, when Calibos kills her.) We also see Perseus' adopted family, including his young sister, being killed by Hades for the crime of bearing witness to his power. At the end of the film, Perseus wants nothing more than to live his life like his adopted father: a fisherman. Zeus then promises that he wouldn't leave him on his own... and he resurrects Io. Io, the same woman who'd been lamenting about how she couldn't die. Instead of, oh, I don't know, his family who were wrongfully murdered by Hades?!? Poor Pete Postlethwaite can't catch a break.
- Speaking of Io, at least the sex in this film is suitably Greek Mythological. Io claims to have watch Perseus growing up since he was a baby... and then grows up to become his lover. Kinda like your mother's best friend who bathed you, clothed you and changed your nappies becoming your wife. A bit weird to modern sensibilities, but par for the course in pre-20th Century periods. Then we have Zeus raping Perseus' mother in the guise of Acrisius. A shame they couldn't have stuck to the coolest aspects of Greek Myth.

- Seriously, what was wrong with Dioskilos and the Vulture? They were cool. Heck, you already have Hades in the film, why couldn't they have him sic Cerberus on Perseus at some point? In fact, Cerberus guards the gates of the Underworld - perfect opportunity for another fight scene! Why are the Suicide Bomber Djinn and Harry Potter harpies better than a freaking two-or-three-headed dog and vast predatory birds?

- "No man has ever ridden the Pegasus" would've been more potent if the film hadn't spent the previous half hour constantly harping on how Perseus isn't a man. Come on, guys.

- The production designers have a serious Silent Hill fetish: the Stygian Witches and Charon look like they should be in one of those games instead of Greek Mythology. I guess they didn't want to tread on God of War's toes or something.

- If the Stygian Witches can't see without the eye, how could they know that Perseus was holding the eye over the precipice? If they could see normally but still needed the eye for clairvoyance, then why did they act like they were seeing with the eye in their introduction? Most infuriating of all, if they could see, why did they scramble about for the eye like they were searching for a contact lense in the dark when Perseus tossed it into a corner, even though it was literally inches in front of them? Make up your damn minds, Witchies.
- Zeus gives Perseus only one coin with which to bribe Charon. As opposed to the traditional two, one over each eye. Which is demonstrated in the very film only a few scenes earlier. Why? Was this a special Coin of the Gods worth the price of two? Was it a special Hades-Dollar you can only spend in the Underworld? Would it have killed them to mention this?

- As they come to the underworld, the Djinn flings the coin into the Styx. And it works, by summoning him. WHAT!?! That's so counter-intuitive it's hurting my brain. I thought the point was to bribe the ferryman! When shades come to the Underworld, how in Hades are they supposed to know not to wait for an inordinate time expecting to hand the coin over to Charon, but to fling it into the River Styx in order to call him over? It is the opposite of every natural instinct one would have in a transportation transaction! And for what, so we could get a kewl CGI coin flipping across the black water of the Styx that would look nice in 3D, except it wasn't FILMED in 3D anyway!?! It's... it's crazy, is what it is.

- Why is Medusa in the Underworld, exactly? Originally, Medusa lived among the living. How did all those other young heroes get to her temple, unless they willingly went to the Underworld - in which case, why doesn't everybody go there to visit their dead relatives? Were they already dead? If that's the case, how could they be turned to stone when they're already dead!?!

- I'm going to rant a bit more about Medusa. In the original film (AFAICR) Medusa was beautiful, but also arrogant and conceited. She lay with Poseidon in Athena's temple, and considered herself more beautiful than the Virgin Goddess. This meant Athena's curse would've robbed her of her beauty, but it would be poetic justice for a vain woman. Thus, seeing her face twisted and rendered hideous, she would be warped by resentment and hatred, becoming nothing less than a monster. Hence how she ended up in Clash of the Titans: an imperious, formerly beautiful women whose mind is as monstrous as her face. That was fine. We had a motivation for Medusa being a dangerous monster, as well as a reason that Perseus couldn't reason with her.

Now, let's say they went with the "she's beautiful, but looking at her face turns you to stone" route. The way Io describes Medusa's story in the film, she's a complete victim of the gods' pettiness. She was raped by Poseidon in Athena's temple, and because Athena couldn't take on one of the elder gods, the goddess punished her, by giving her snakey hair and making sure no man could witness her beauty again. This could've led to a really cool spin on the myth: instead of making her a monster to be killed, turn her into a figure to be pitied. This makes her a really interesting, sad figure: she thus built up this reputation of monstrousness not because she was a monster, but because she didn't want to kill anyone. Sadly, all the would-be heroes looking to claim her head and the glory & power that would bring stand silent, monuments to sadness, the only things human keeping her company.
Now, what if Perseus felt that sadness within her, and rather than try to kill her... try to talk to her? Sure, there'd still be the tense action scene, since Medusa's so used to men coming after her for her head. She snarls, stalking Perseus' men, bringing them down one by one, each gaze revealing her beautiful face twisted by unimaginable pain. Eventually, Perseus is all that remains, until he hits a crippling bow, leaving Medusa helpless. Yet as he looks in the shield's reflection for the killing blow... he stays his hand.
Medusa is weeping. In stuttering, gutteral words, the kind that happens when someone attempts to speak after spending centuries without communication, she tells Perseus to end it. But Perseus wants to talk. After centuries of fighting off those wanting to cleave off her head, finally somebody simply wants to talk to her. Perhaps she is tired of living like this, but knowing the evil that could be done with her power, she could not risk letting it fall into the wrong hands. Perseus suggests she could come with him to face the Kraken, but she is tired of living, and would not risk anyone else's life, since even a stray glance would be enough. Perseus' cause is noble and heroic: perhaps if he, a Demigod, kept her head, he could ensure it would never be used for evil. Thus, Perseus' slaying of Medusa is as much an act of mercy as it is heroism.
But no, instead of something that could've challenged the audience's preconceptions, we went with "she's an evil monster, but instead of making her ugly, let's make her hawt! There aren't enough hot chicks in this film anyway!" Apparently, she was going to look more serpentine, but somebody said she looked too much like Voldemort. And then, apparently, they gave up... since there's no way to give someone snake-like features without ending up resembling Voldemort, apparently.

- Why did the idiot trailers reveal the Kraken!?! They never revealed the monster in Cloverfield. That's because part of the draw of the film is to see what the monster looks like! You'd think the money-men in charge would've realised that it would be more tantalizing to not show the Kraken? Might as well have shown the sled in previews for Citizen Kane. Then again, trailers seem to do this all the time. Who could forget The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which completely ruins the surprise of Gandalf's return, and the mystery and menace of the White Wizard was completely thwarted. Way to go, guys.
- Also, the people of Argos had ten days to prepare. Now, if I were King Cepheus... well, first of all I wouldn't actively taunt the gods like a prat. But if I were put in the position that if I didn't sacrifice my hot daughter, an unstoppable sea monster would lay waste to my city... I'd just evacuate. OK, OK, if I had all that but wasn't allowed to leave due to whatever, and I was feeling rebellious against the gods, and I was set on not sacrificing my daughter for as long as possible to let Perseus return, I sure wouldn't just sit on my hands and wait like a chump.
You know what I'd be doing? I'd be moving the people as far away from the harbour as I could. I'd be building a huge dam to protect against the inevitable wave the Kraken's mere approach would produce, as well as providing a temporary barrier to the Kraken. I'd have my men constructing ballistae, lithoboloses, borrow a couple of Archimedean-style port defenses like his claw, squadrons of archers aiming for the eyes, rockfall traps on the cliffs surrounding the harbour, send the ships on kamekaze runs - anything to distract and irritate the Kraken, to buy as much time for Andromeda as possible.
And you know what? Even if it'd be futile, at least it would be something. You want to defy the gods despite the futility of the endeavour? Act like it. Give 'em Hades. Even if the Kraken swats your finest soldiers and war machines as he would flies, go down fighting, not like a wimp. At the very least, it'd make for a better action scene. Half of what makes a Godzilla film so fun is seeing the puny human military flinging everything they have at the titular monster to no avail, and watching with morbid glee as it swipes all their power away. An ancient Greek version of a Godzilla movie could've made up the entire final half hour, or even forty-five minutes.
- Even though they made substantial changes to the original, they didn't change the one thing that they needed to - have titans clash. In a film called Clash of the Titans, it's very irritating to note that we don't actually see any titans clashing.


If anyone needs me, I'll be in the Angry Dome.


  1. I see most of your points, and on reflection I agree with them.

    However, I must admit I enjoyed the new Clash of the Titans. I always felt that the SFX in the original were never really up to scratch! This one corrected all that with fairly stunning visuals.

    I don't think I would feel that same about a remake of Jason and the Argonauts, which assuming the success of CotT, will no doubt be on the cards, as it was pretty much perfect the first time!

    I think over the long history of films based on Greek mythology, there have rarely been accurate translations to film. You just have to accept that film producers feel they know what their modern audience wants and how it differes from the original myths. I suppose the same could be said of REH adaptions!

  2. Regardless-I still want to see it.

    Haven't yet, but I want too one of these days.

  3. David D: I personally thought the effects in the original were about as good as could be expected in the time period. The stop-motion was as believable as it was in Return of the Jedi, Dragonslayer, Robocop, The Terminator, and other films utilizing the effect, IMO.

    Having said that, I definitely see the appeal in doing an update with modern special effects, and for the most part, CotT2010 was pretty competent. I just wish they hadn't made it so incredibly stupid.

    I can understand the lack of fidelity to some of the finer points of history and mythology, but this film misses the basic stuff that the average filmgoer would notice. Perseus' buzzcut being one: when's the last time you saw a Greek statue, vase or mural depicting a shorn hero?

    I'd also accept the differences if they at least showed a measure of intelligent reasoning behind the change. I don't think any of the changes made here did that.

    David J: Well, don't say I didn't warn ya!

  4. Oh boy am I glad that I missed this one. The trailer told me everything I needed to know about what to expect: "God of War: The Not-Quite Movie".

  5. Honestly, I'd prefer God of War over this mess, and I'm not particularly fond of it either.