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Crass of the Titans 

The first version, even with Laurence Olivier, was awful. Why did they think they could do any better?

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I decided to do some prep work before seeing the big-budget 3D remake of the quasi-iconic 1981 film Clash of the Titans. (No, I didn’t call my drug dealer.) I watched the original, on YouTube, in 10-minute segments. Oh, those crazy Greek gods! Fighting among one other over petty issues, then coming down to Earth to bed beautiful humans and have illegitimate sons, then wiping out entire cities with a simple command to “Release the Kraken!”

The retelling of the story of Perseus was a truly odd mix of stop-motion visual effects (courtesy of real-life wizard Ray Harryhausen) and seemingly endless sequences in which characters pretty much stared at each other. It was a movie for the kiddies, since there was a cute (read: annoying) little mechanical owl flitting around, saving the day, but it also featured a couple of buxom beauties wandering around with their togas hanging at half mast, and their breasts on full display ... in Dynamation!

It’s an awful movie, slow and clunky, and neither good nor bad enough to be labeled “so bad it’s good.”

What about the new one? Hell, it doesn’t even have nudity!

Perseus (Sam Worthington) is back, front and center, the bastard son of the randy Zeus (Liam Neeson), who has enough trouble ruling the heavens, and then doesn’t even have the courtesy to practice safe sex when he descends upon the dirty, teeming streets of Greece.

But there are all kinds of other problems, both below and above. The power-mad king and queen of Argos have decided to go to war with the gods because “they need us to worship them.” Zeus’ bad-boy brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) is sick of hearing mere humans mouth off at him and his fellow gods, so he convinces Zeus to let him utter that Kraken phrase — unless, of course, the beautiful Andromeda (a frowning Alexa Davalos) is tied up just like Fay Wray in King Kong and sacrificed to the Kraken, which is described as “a colossal elemental beast.”

All of this occurs well before we meet up with angry and ugly Acrisius, who has had his name legally changed to Calibos (Jason Flemyng), or the tall black and blue Djin who might as well be the film’s resident Wookie, or the winged horse Pegasus (who is inexplicably black instead of white), or the cyclone of giant scorpions that turn out to be both vicious killing machines and excellent means of transportation across the desert.

Worthington, who first made a name for himself as Marcus Wright in Terminator Salvation, then gained real star power as Jake Sully in Avatar, goes the square-jawed dullard route this time as Perseus. There’s very little emotion on his face. Yet there’s far too much of it in Fiennes’ ridiculously ramped-up performance, with almost every appearance having him burst out of a dark, roiling cloud. Neeson, sporting a dark Moses beard, seems to be embarrassed by his feeble dialogue and someone’s decision to make him a weak-willed Zeus.

The worst part is that in this new world of dazzling 3D moviemaking, the shoddy use of 3D here is just distracting. It makes many of the male characters look like their hair is partly detached from their heads, and most of what should have been breathtaking depth-of-field shots are flattened out.

By the time snake-headed Medusa (Natalia Vodianova) makes her slithery appearance, it’s clear that that only she can bring the film out of its doldrums. There is one splash of humor (though only fans of the original will get it). It’s a cameo by that silly little owl that makes for a laugh-out-loud moment. Other than that, the sound most viewers will make is a groan.


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