Film Review: Clash of the Titans

Perseus Releases Andromeda by Joachim Wtewael, 1611

Release the Kraken! Perseus Releases Andromeda, by Dutch painter and engraver Joachim Wtewael, 1611.

The trailers for the latest box office hit Clash of the Titans leave no doubt that this is a monster FX movie, so I went with no expectations that there would be any real Greek mythology in it. But I wanted to find out just how bad it would be.

In fact, it didn’t deviate from “the book” any worse than films based on popular novels. There’s enough real mythology in it that it might create a renaissance in classical studies, especially among young people. And, in fairness, the film wasn’t intended as a true rendition of Greek mythology but as a remake of the 1981 classic by the same name.

The plot is loosely based on the myth of Perseus, the son of Zeus (Roman Jupiter) by a mortal woman. Technically, that makes him a demigod, of which there are many in mythology thanks to the philandering of the Olympian gods.

According to mythology, Perseus’s mother was a princess of the Danaans, who inhabited much of southern Greece at the end of the Bronze Age and were among the last goddess-oriented cultures in ancient civilization. Her father, in response to a prophecy that the child would grow up and kill him, has him thrown into the sea in a box. He survives and becomes king and founder of Mycenae after rescuing Andromeda, an Ethiopian princess, from being sacrificed to the sea monster Cetus. It’s a classic hero’s journey, requiring superhuman feats such as slaying the Medusa, whose head he gives as a sacrifice to Athena. The goddess of wisdom shows up often in Greek mythology as a guide to heroes.

In Clash of the Titans, Perseus gets sucked into a three-way battle between Zeus (Liam Neeson in natty sparkling armor), Hades (Roman Pluto, played by Ralph Fiennes), and the inhabitants of Argos, who decide they no longer wish to be subject to the whims of the gods and declare war against Olympus. Perseus is played by British actor Sam Worthington, whose buzz cut and olive-drab shirt make him look more like he belongs in a television commercial for the United States Marines. Then, he just played one in another FX blockbuster.

His helper is not Athena but Io (Gemma Arterton), a sexy guardian spirit who ends up as his love interest, but there’s no real love story. There is only passing mention of the Titans, a race of elder gods who were overthrown by their children, Zeus and the Olympians.

How it all ties into astrology is hinted at in the opening lines of the film as a narrator tells us that this story is far older than man and written in the stars. True enough. Perseus, Andromeda, and Pegasus are among the 88 named constellations, along with Cetus. However, in Titans, the monster isn’t Cetus but the dreaded Kraken (didn’t we just see him in Pirates of the Caribbean?), allowing Neeson to utter the best and silliest line of the film, “Release the Kraken!” “Release Cetus” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.

It also was fun to see giant scorpions rising out of the blood of Calibos, sent from the underworld by Hades to kill Perseus. It’s so perfectly Plutonian!

As for the special effects, they’re not extraordinary by today’s standards, but some of them are stunning — the Pegasus is truly wondrous. The line between imagination and reality is getting thinner and thinner, and that is some kind of powerful magic. It has been my hope since the beginning of digitized filmmaking that someone would create a film filled not with terrifying monsters to fuel our fear but with higher beings and beautiful places to fuel our sense of what’s possible.

Most of all, I was intrigued by the theme of a new order overthrowing the old order. That is the way of the cosmos, and I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this film has been released just as we’re experiencing a major shift in cosmic energies. In effect, we all have the opportunity to be heroes by aligning with the forces of life, love, and freedom.

Aquarius, the sign of astrologyPat

Clash of the Titans, opens April 2, 2010
Production: Warner Bros., in association with Legendary Pictures
Cast: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos, Jason Flemyng, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
Director: Louis Leterrier
Screenwriters: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, based on the 1981 script by Beverley Cross
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Kevin De La Noy
Rated PG-13, 106 minutes