Stars: *** out of 4
Summary: Adrenaline soaked, fist-pumping action, and a decent moral argument, as well.
Review: Ray Harryhausen, stop-motion maestro, provided the effects for the original 1981 ‘Clash of the Titans’, and behold, it was very good, in an ’80s cheese kinda way. It really wasn’t that great, though, and so it was one of those properties that more or less deserved a remake. The opportunity was there to take the mythology-blending concept of the original and infuse it with a stronger story and better characters. To my surprise, the new movie does just that — if not totally to the extent it could have.
It’s a tighter, leaner affair. Instead of humanity simply bowing to the whims of the famously capricious and arbitrary Greek deities, as in the ’81 film, here they reflect the real world 21st century resurgence of humanism and rebellion against the religious norms of the past. The citizens of the city of Argos are waging an all-out war on the gods, mirroring the overthrow of the Titans by the gods themselves in the distant history, as told in the stars. The Olympians control the good and bad fortunes of humanity, and to the people of Argos, it has become apparent that they have become a liability to the socially evolving race. As people get more powerful and intelligent on a personal and societal scale, what need have they of the mercy and favor of the dangerously fickle gods? Boiling down this cosmic struggle into one man, of course, is the protagonist, Perseus (Sam Worthington), who discovers he is the half-human son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), and watched over by the ageless, knowledgeable and sexy-cute Io (Gemma Arterton). There’s nothing particularly Oscar-winning about these performances, or by the rest of the large and very fun supporting cast (including Ralph Fiennes as the villainous Hades), but they fit perfectly with tongue-in-cheek and grandiose nature of the material. The action is all fantastic, of course, but what makes it awesome is how enthusiastically played everybody is. No one seems the least bit bored, here.
The great moral statement made by the new ‘Clash’ is the conclusion of Perseus’ story arc, and what separates him from his morally schizophrenic father: Simple humility is the correct response to power. The gods failed to be better than the dangerous Titans because they saw power as entitlement and superiority rather than a burden or call to serve. Perseus, the movie seems to say, is what we ought to expect from both the divine and mankind. “We fight and we die for each other, not for you,” Perseus tells Zeus. Which, of course, encapsulates the good of humanism, which when properly understood, is in no way antithetical to Christian theology. “God became man,” says Christian St. Athanasius, “So that man may become god.” Christ, like Perseus in ‘Clash’, chose to live and die as a man rather than as God, and in doing so elevated mankind beyond our comprehension. The Christian God is nothing like the domineering Zeus. Jesus has nothing to prove, except His love, and humbles Himself to achieve that end.
‘Clash’ is a rip-roaring yarn, and great entertainment. Go see it.