Clash of the Titans (UK - BD)
Chris takes a look at the Blu-ray release of the recent remake of the 80s feature...
The film opens with narration that explains how three Olympian brothers—Zeus, Poseidon and Hades—battled and defeated the Titans. After the Titans' defeat Zeus becomes ruler of the heavens and creates humankind to worship the gods, while Poseidon becomes ruler of the seas. However, fearful of Hades’ terrifying creation, the Kraken, Zeus deceives his brother into becoming ruler of the Underworld, condemning him to an existence of eternal darkness.
Aeons later a fisherman named Spyros discovers a coffin adrift at sea containing the body of a young woman and her infant child. Spyros decides to raise the boy as his own and names him Perseus. Many years later Perseus and his family witness a group of soldiers from Argos declaring war against the gods by destroying a statue of Zeus. Suddenly Hades appears as a swarm of harpies and massacres the soldiers before destroying Spyros' fishing boat killing everyone except Perseus, who is taken back to Argos to face the court of King Kepheus and Queen Cassiopeia.
At the court Perseus witnesses the King and Queen foolishly comparing themselves and their daughter, Andromeda, to the gods. After convincing Zeus to let him punish Argos for its blasphemy, Hades appears in the courtroom and demands that Andromeda be sacrificed to the Kraken in ten days lest Argos be destroyed. Hades also identifies Perseus as a demigod; a son of Zeus himself. The King begs Perseus to undertake a perilous journey to discover a way to defeat the Kraken and save Andromeda, which Perseus accepts in order to exact his revenge against the gods who killed his family. He is joined on his journey by a number of the King’s guards, including their fearsome commander Draco, a couple of hunters, and a beautiful and mysterious young woman called Io, who claims to have been watching over him since birth…
Okay, that’s enough about the plot. What I really care about is how well Louis Leterrier’s reimagining holds up against the 1981 Desmond Davis movie. Now I don’t mind positive changes in remakes (John Carpenter’s The Thing is a good example), but change just for change’s sake seldom leads to good things. It’s unfortunate then that Leterrier has changed virtually everything, up to and beyond the point of reason. In the original the focus was Zeus' compassion for his son Perseus, whom he aided in his quest to save his love, Andromeda, from the Kraken. In this version the focus shifts to Zeus' war with humanity and Hades' plot to conquer Olympus, with the love story replaced by one of vengeance. Not only does this deviate from mythology, it also robs the film of its light-hearted tone and sends it down a much darker path. This would be all well and good if it paid off at the end, but it doesn’t. Another bothersome side-effect of changing the thrust of the story is that much of the questing aspect has been removed, so in order to make sense the film relies on a series of silly contrivances rather than allowing the plot to develop organically. In the 1981 Davis feature Perseus actually seeks out and tames Pegasus, but the remake shoehorns the winged horse into events like some kind of equine deus-ex machina simply because his presence is required at the finale, and this is just one of numerous examples.
Now only the most rose-tinted spectacle wearing of individuals would claim that the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans is without fault, but its hammy performances and naive charm at least make it fun to watch. It has the benefit of some glorious stop-motion effects courtesy of Ray Harryhausen, whose Medusa still ranks as one of my favourite movie monsters, and it also has a sense of humour. Unfortunately this remake takes itself so bloody seriously that it’s just a bore to watch, leaping from one set-piece to the next with very little of substance to connect the dots. That wouldn’t be too bad if the set-pieces were particularly special, but there’s nothing here that audiences haven’t seen done better elsewhere. The fight with the giant scorpions (complete with bullet time effects) could be from any number of movies, and the showdown with Medusa lacks the suspense of the original. It doesn’t help that Worthington’s performance is astonishingly ridged, and I remain unconvinced of his power as a leading man. His chemistry with Gemma Arterton is also non-existent, and I found her performance almost as one-note as his. In fact, only Ralph Fiennes and Mads Mikkelsen distinguish themselves (Liam Neeson doesn’t really have enough to do).
While true that the effects in this film are more advanced than anything in the 1981 version, they lack the physical weight of the stop-motion creatures and their design leaves a lot to be desired—the giant scorpions are so big it’s laughable, Medusa looks like something from a God of War cut-scene, and the Kraken would be more at home stomping New York City in Cloverfield 2 or destroying humanity in Gears of War. Pegasus—sorry, the Pegasus, as they insist of calling it—does look more convincing in flight than the older version, but that’s about the only positive thing I have to say. (They also made him black for some inexplicable reason.) To be perfectly honest the only thing that engendered any sort of warmth on my part was the silly reference to Bobo the owl, which itself seemed an odd thing to include in a film so obviously trying to distance itself from the original. Unfortunately while it’s clear that the filmmakers were going for ‘epic’ the end result is actually more’ epic fail’...
Clash of the Titans arrives on Blu-ray with a 2.40:1 widescreen transfer (1080/24p VC-1). I've read a number of reports about the theatrical version of the film having a soft appearance akin to the sort of filtering that's found on some Blu-ray releases, but I can't remember enough about the screening I attended to confirm or deny this. It’s true that the film is quite soft on occasion, almost as if it was shot digitally, but it hasn’t been completely scrubbed of detail. There’s some nice definition to be found throughout, particularly in facial close-ups, where lines, pores and beads of sweat are all clearly visible. I can’t say that there was a time when I was looking at the screen and thinking ‘that’s been filtered out of existence’, so while detail levels are variable I still think they’re pretty good for the most part.
I can be more confident about the colour palette, which is strong throughout. The locations all look wonderful, be it the earthen tones of the vast deserts, the lush greens of the forests, or the cold, steely greys and blues of the mountains and oceans. The interior of the place of Argos is warm and inviting, while Medusa’s fiery lair looks suitably inhospitable. Flesh tones are also naturalistic, and while black levels and contrast aren’t what I’d call reference they are satisfactory. As you’d expect from such a recent production the print is pristine, with no sign of film artefacts. Digital artefacts aren’t particularly problematic either, and I have a feeling that the minimal ringing I saw was present theatrically (as it is in a lot of films). Although my expectations weren’t particularly high after reading early reviews, I was pleasantly surprised by the film’s visual prowess.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is the definite highlight, offering an aural experience as satisfying as any I've heard in recent times. There’s always something happening, with all five channels utilised to place the viewer firmly in the middle of the action from the outset. There are many discrete effects, particularly during the action scenes, where monsters shriek, howl and slither all around the soundstage courtesy of some impressive steering. Bass is powerful without being overbearing, offering just the right amount of punch to the action scenes (particularly the final showdown with the Kraken). Yet for all this aural pomp and bluster the track also gets the subtleties right, be it gentle winds or the sounds of the forest. I didn’t experience any particularly noteworthy issues with the dialogue save for a few brief instances where voices became slightly indistinct, but this occurred during the heat of battle and could easily be attributed to the sound designers’ intentions. For the rest of the runtime the dialogue is crisp and clear. I don’t think there’s much point trying to fill another paragraph with different superlatives that basically mean the same thing, so I’ll end this section by saying that Clash of the Titans has a soundtrack worthy of any modern blockbuster.
WB Maximum Movie Mode: Unlike previous incarnations of this feature, the director isn't on-hand to walk us through the proceedings. Instead we're treated to a picture-in-picture track featuring interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, pre-viz, focus points, and more. There are often two windows—one for the bonus content and one showing the film—with the size and position of each changing as needed. There are sections where nothing happens for extended periods, during which the film returns to full size, but even so this is a pretty enjoyable addition to the disc.
Focus Points: Although these branching featurettes are available as part of the Maximum Movie Mode, the focus points option allows you to view them without having to watch the whole picture-in-picture track. They afford you the opportunity to learn more about various characters and monsters by pressing enter when an on-screen prompt appears.
Sam Worthington: An Action Hero for the Ages (07:56 HD): This is basically just one big Sam Worthington love-fest, with both cast and crew singing the actor’s praises. It’s great if you’re Sam Worthington.
Alternate Ending (05:23 HD): The alternate ending is actually quite a bit different to the theatrical ending. Perseus pays a visit to Mount Olympus (although the special effects are incomplete) for a brief showdown with Zeus. It’s actually more fitting than the ending used in the completed feature.
Deleted Scenes (18:10 HD): The deleted scenes are a mixed bunch, although the majority are exposition-heavy. There's more screen time for the lesser gods (who were all-but cut from the completed film), more footage showing the fate of Cassiopeia, some dialogue scenes for Peshet ( Skins' Kaya Scodelario), and some alternate takes. There's not really too much to get excited about, but they're worth a run through.
BD-Live: A link to Warner’s online portal is included. At the time of writing only trailers for this and other films are available.
DVD Copy: Although not supplied with my review copy, this is one of Warner’s ‘Multi-Pack’ releases so the retail version will come with a DVD copy of the film for you to watch in another room.
Digital Copy: For the five or six people who actually use them, the retail version will also include a Digital Copy of the film for you to transfer to your computer or portable device of choice.
I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this reimagining of Clash of the Titans, but the end result is lacking in every key area. It’s not very well acted, the action sequences aren’t particularly exciting, the special effects are competent rather than jaw-dropping, and the story just doesn’t do justice to the incredible richness of the source material. However, if you’re one of the people who did enjoy the film—and there were obviously quite a few who did—the Blu-ray shouldn’t disappoint. The video is much better than early US reviews suggested and the audio track is very strong. Hell, even the extras are saved from mediocrity by the picture-in-picture elements. My advice with this one is to proceed with caution unless you loved it at the cinema, especially if you’re a fan of the original movie. However, if you’re in the mood to turn your brain off and watch lots of man-on-monster action this could very well be worth a rental.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 26th July 2010
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Dolby Digital Audio 5.1 German, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish, Dolby Digital 2.0 Descriptive Narration English
Subtitles: English HoH, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, Swedish
Extras: Maximum Movie Mode, Focus Points, Featurette, Alternate Ending, Deleted Scenes, BD-Live
Easter Egg: No
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen
Genre: Action, Adventure and Fantasy
Length: 106 minutes
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