Thursday, April 15, 2010

Where Ignorant Titans Clash By Night

I don't frequently agree with Anthony Lane's film reviews, but he hits the target with his review of Clash of the Titans, which concludes:
[W]hat is at stake here is not an enlightening quest, or a Homeric journey, but a series of levels, each one tougher than the last. That is why I am, in all honesty, reviewing “Clash of the Titans” three months too soon. On July 10th, it will be released on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and only then, I feel, will it truly come into its own. The film, diverting but far from Titanic, is no more than a task to be completed along the way.
I gather it is only from a fear of repetition that this insight is not applied more widely -- there are large numbers of films that make sense only when seen as the extended trailer for the inevitable video game version, and the remake of Clash of the Titans is certainly an instance.

It also exhibits the tendency of violent action films to include humanoid characters who aren't quite human, especially not quite human in the synchronization between lip movements and vocalizations. This is a boon to video game developers and to foreign distributors who will need to dub in voices from other languages. A trifecta is achieved in the film's Djinn character, who in addition to bringing the two advantages mentioned above, represents a multi-cultural bone thrown to the Middle-Eastern audiences. Apart from the story's need to charm giant scorpions, which is apparently a talent known to Djinn, the onus is on the skeptic to otherwise account for the insertion of this character.

Not so its noble antecedent, the 1981 version starring the thinly muscled Harry Hamlin and even more thinly muscled Burgess Meredith, as well as an evidently financially strapped Sir Lawrence Olivier. Because I genuinely love the 1981 version even as I have no trouble enumerating its flaws, I can't bring myself to loathe the version now playing in cinemas, even in 3-D for some reason. I saw the 2-D version, and that's as many dimensions as anyone should enter the theater expecting.

It's terrible but good, in the way of your granny's home-made pickled cucumbers: if you somehow came to love them as a child -- say, by being all but force-fed them hundreds of times -- you'll always cherish them, and all mushy, unevenly-colored pickled cucumbers you encounter thereafter.

The remake is something like that: a wretched pickle you can't stop eating.

No comments: