Clash of the Titans Blu-ray Review
Studio Name: Warner Bros. (Legendary Pictures)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Disc/Transfer Information: 1080p High Definition 16X9 2.4:1 (2.40:1); Region 1 (U.S.)
Tested Audio Track: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring Cast: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
RELEASE THE CRAKEN!
For a film which came and went from the theaters faster than clothes drop off a stripper in a VIP room, Louis Leterrier’s Clash of the Titans remake boasted a pretty serious cast – attempting to suspend disbelief and buy Liam Neeson as the legendary god Zeus is a completely different story. What we have here was a solid effort from the man who brought us the re-energized Incredible Hulk, making up for the CGI-coated Ang Lee version, and here Leterrier does for the original Harry Hamlin freeze-frame-like Clash what Wolfgang Petersen did for Poseidon Adventure. I recall really wanting to see this in theaters – the trailers suggested an over-the-top albeit CGI-infested retelling of the almost forgotten Clash of the Titans, which to me was always an underrated fantasy picture – the idea of the legendary mythological gods battling a mere mortal in an epic journey was always spellbinding to me, and I can recall in my youth when catching the original on broadcast television how it never really received the respect it was due. The problem with that picture, as everyone can recall, is that even back then, the effects and stop-action “stunts” involving the creature battle sequences seemed hokey and just ridiculously silly – even beyond perhaps any Godzilla production we had ever seen. Today, watching the clips of the original film on a trailer for the Blu-ray before the remake begins on its BD, the effect is even more jarring and laughable. Some fans argue that was the charm of Clash of the Titans, and I can certainly see that as I am one of those Star Trek fans who feel the original episodes play better without the added effects work recently slathered on by Paramount, but let’s just say for Clash of the Titans, this remake certainly makes things more entertaining.
I have never been much of an advocate of remakes; in my humble opinion, they never nearly hit the mark set by their original brethren, and the results are often horrific in execution. Over the last decade, we have seen an absolute explosion in the trend of Hollywood remakes, some saying this being a result of the lack of creativity for new motion picture concepts. For what it’s worth, I feel projects such as John Carpenter’s Halloween should never have been remade, nor should A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th. There’s a gaggle of titles we could discuss ad nauseum here which have come and gone through the remake chamber, but suffice to say, some of the better ones include Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, Alexander Aja’s The Hills Have Eyes, Man On Fire, The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 and perhaps Martin Scorsese’s retelling of Cape Fear. There’s also House on Haunted Hill, The Haunting and some others which escape me right now. Amongst the absolute worst are The Amityville Horror (which disgraced the Lutz and DeFeo family names forever), the Paris Hilton joke that was House of Wax (what a slap in the face to Vincent Price and his timeless, awesome performance in the original) and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre including its ridiculously cheesy, commercially-driven and unnecessary prequel “reboots.” There’s a rumor floating around that they’re pondering an Exorcist remake – with this being one of my favorite films of all time, I will seriously have to consider moving beyond this hobby and finding another if this actually goes to production…
Somewhere in the middle were decent attempts including Friday the 13th (although no one will come close to Paramount’s original franchise and the magic those films carried for Jason fans) and maybe the recent Crazies, which attempted to re-tell the George Romero classic but ended up for the most part flat and lifeless. There was also the recent Wolfman remake, which wasn’t too bad, but also ended up feeling a bit forgettable even with Anthony Hopkins on the roster. But then there was Louis Leterrier and his attempt to update and modernize the campy but cool Clash of the Titans – for the most part, he indeed succeeded, but the film still feels a bit “unfinished” and unpolished despite its wildly eye-opening CGI setpieces.
Working off the story from the original but having some minor tweaks here and there applied by the remake’s filmmaking and writing crews, this new version of Clash has Sam Worthington in Harry Hamlin’s role as Perseus – instead of Hamlin’s long locks, we have Worthington’s shaved melon, sporting a look similar to Christian Bale’s in the last Terminator. A very interesting pre-film introduction sequence has a voiceover by the delightfully pretty and upcoming Gemma Arterton (who played “Fields” in Quantum of Solace and who stars in the new Prince of Persia as well) who, as the screen fills with a blanket of stars and constellations, tells of the legend of the ancient gods and how man revolted against them. This sequence was similar to the Mummy films with regard to the pre-narration by a female voice, which always seems to be effective – it even worked with Jamie Lee Curtis’ voiceover in the opening of John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. Arterton goes on to portray a kind of guiding protector in the film to Worthington’s Perseus, guiding him along his upcoming journey to battle the gods that killed his stepfather.
That brings me to the way in which the plot is set up – we learn from Arterton’s narration that into this ancient world of man and gods a child was born…a child that would change the history of mankind forever. As we see a woman in a small coffin floating in the sea, clutching a newborn baby in her arms, the film begins to explore the origins of Perseus and how he came to be “adopted” by a fisherman and his wife. By the time Perseus is a young man, soldiers on the hilltop of a village are witnessed by Perseus and his family breaking off and destroying a statue of the god Zeus, throwing it into the ocean. It seems this was the point in history when mankind stopped worshipping the gods, feeling their worship of them was no longer warranted. The gods, of course, feeding off the worship of mortals, feel differently. This brings about the appearance of the god Hades (Ralph Fiennes in a CGI-dominated role), brother of Zeus, who bursts from the sea and destroys Perseus’ fishing boat along with his adoptive parents. Thus the revenge fantasy begins.
We are treated to some wildly creative Mount Olympus CGI shots, where we bear witness to the roundtable of gods including Poseidon and other recognizable notables discussing the future of man and their lack of respect for the godly beings. At the head of this meeting is of course Zeus, played by a CGI-shared Liam Neeson. I don’t quite know how I feel about Neeson playing the legendary supergod, as all too often, his traditional accent and voice slip through the Zeus performance, and immediately remind you of Batman Begins or even Taken. Neeson, while a great actor, has a voice you cannot mistake anywhere, and at times, you just don’t buy him as Zeus in his new, updated silvery/white costume reminiscent of Superman’s parents’ getups on Krypton. Still, the choice for this computer-enhanced role could have been much worse. Fiennes as Hades is particularly menacing, as he has fun sharing the CGI efforts as the dark-spirited god from the underworld bent on terrorizing man for their refusal of worship. In a bit of a confusing, rushed aspect of the film, Worthington’s Perseus, now a good 12 years older and still mourning the death of his adoptive parents at sea, is wrangled up by some ancient soldiers to be brought before the king and queen of this village. We really don’t understand or know how he got on the streets of this village to be taken by the soldiers, and the only thing we can deduce is that he has spent many years without a home and wandering the alleyways of this ancient world. The setpieces and costuming in these village sequences are reminiscent of Gladiator, most notably in the soldiers’ outfits and armory. Once in front of the king’s busy court, Perseus listens to the announcements of the king and queen with regard to this world’s refusal to worship Zeus and the gods any longer. When the queen begins singling out their daughter, Andromeda, comparing her beauty to a god, a sweeping black sand swirls into the court, sucking in the king’s soldiers and wreaking havoc amongst everyone present. The sand becomes the form of Hades, and thus the gods’ plans are laid out for those refusing to worship them. In a matter of days, Hades will unleash the Kraken creature (a bit different from its take in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film) to destroy this entire village for their refusal to recognize the gods now unless they sacrifice Andromeda. Turning to Perseus before he transforms into the sand once again, Hades makes a comment regarding him being the son of Zeus.
As Perseus is locked up and suspected of being a “demy-god” (as the son of Zeus), Arterton’s character arrives in his cell and tells him the story of his history. According to her, Perseus was born the bastard son of the god Zeus when Zeus disguised himself as a king and slept with the king’s gorgeous blonde wife in payback for the king and his people refusing to show homage to the gods. Perseus was born of this mating, thus being half man half god, and while the king slaughtered his wife out of rage and threw her body in the sea with the child she bore from Zeus, the child survived and grew up to become Perseus. According to Arterton’s character, his destiny is to defeat the gods one by one and save man from their clutches. However, Perseus only wants bloody revenge on the god that killed the only man he considers his father – the adoptive fisherman from the beginning of the film. Worthington plays the anger-ridden Perseus extremely well-oiled and believably, and it brings a much-needed zap of modernism to Hamlin’s original portrayal.
The first order of business is to team up with the king’s soldiers in going after Hades and whatever otherworldly creatures get in their way. In to the story comes Mads Mikkelsen – last known for his creepy portrayal of the villain LeChiffre in the James Bond thriller Casino Royale. Mikkelsen, as head of the army, gives Perseus a crash course in sword fighting before their journey begins, but it appears Perseus already has some moves of his own with a sword – as Mikkelsen’s character puts it, “It seems there is a god in you…be sure to bring it.” The first creature they come in contact with is the king from the story Arterton’s character told Perseus about how he came to be born. It seems this king was disfigured from a lighting strike when disrespecting Zeus, turning him into a half man half beast with a venomous bite. In the meantime, Hades has made a deal with this king, telling him to kill Perseus and in return he will kill his brother Zeus for him, in revenge for Zeus sleeping with his now murdered wife. And so the soldiers and Perseus encounter this disfigured king, who battles all of them and ends up being chased to a desert opening where they encounter the gigantic scorpions. Some of the elements here were a bit silly; when this king “creature” has his hand sliced off by Mikkelsen’s character, his blood seeps into the sand and seems to “bring” the giant scorpions. Further, his amputated hand seems to become a creature of its own once it is separated from the body – but it isn’t made clear if this becomes part of the first giant scorpion or what.
The battle sequences between the scorpion creatures and Perseus and the soldiers are overtly exciting enough. Eventually, it is learned that in order to control and ultimately defeat the Kraken, the men must find the mythological Medusa and sever her head off. Their journey takes them to Medusa’s lair, where in a very exciting sequence of the film, the men battle the CGI-created snake woman who turns men into stone with one glance. Medusa, with her cackling laughter and seething snake tail, sure makes many of these soldiers into statues – but you know she doesn’t get Perseus, right?
As the original film suggested, Perseus manages to get Medusa’s head into a bag, and he flies his black Pegasus (as opposed to the white variant from the original) back to the village where Hades has already unleashed the Kraken upon the people – despite Andromeda being tied up as a sacrifice for the creature by the townspeople. Alas, the final battle begins!
Clash of the Titans was great fun – I watched it twice in the time I had the disc as a pre-screen copy. There were some issues, and I wish we could have seen more of the gods in action, like Poseidon, but all in all, this was a great remake effort and it effectively updated the stop-action goofy original (which is still a great fantasy flick by all measures). However, after watching it twice, I really don’t know if it actually warrants a purchase. I need to do some more soul searching on that one and decide.
VIDEO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC LOOK?
Encoded as a widescreen 2.40:1 transfer, Clash of the Titans’ Blu-ray image was largely stellar from beginning to end, befitting a CGI-riddled modern production – especially from a studio like Warner in conjunction with Legendary Pictures (the team responsible for the newer Superman Returns). Details were sharp, and this definitely had a high def look to it, but I couldn’t help but notice a bit of haziness in many sequences. This led to many scenes coming off a bit soft, notably in the dark areas and during the Mount Olympus shots which boasted so much contrast in the white costumes that it almost seemed overblown. This also led to this aforementioned hazy effect in the 1080p encode; difficult interior and effects shots also looked less sharp and detailed, such as the Medusa lair effects, but the sunlit exterior sequences such as the scorpion battles exhibited sparkling clarity and detail.
While not bad per se in any sense of the word, Clash of the Titans wasn’t quite reference material in the video department. I was a bit surprised at this, especially coming from Warner. Of course, much of these “issues” could have very well been photographic decisions or stylistic elements for what the filmmakers were going for; many of these decisions – no matter how intentional they are – don’t come out right in the final 1080p encode.
AUDIO QUALITY ANALYSIS: HOW DID THE DISC SOUND?
I believe Dolby TrueHD has gone the way of the Do-Do Bird in terms of Blu-ray audio soundtrack encodes. Just about every new title is coming equipped with a DTS-HD Master Audio mix, no matter the studio or title relevance, and while that’s no problem at all, it does make me a bit curious as to what’s going on these days at Dolby Labs. Nevertheless, the 5.1 Master Audio track in English on the Region 1 Blu-ray of Clash of the Titans was as crunching and tactile in many places as you would expect of a project of this caliber. However, like the video transfer, there was something that was just…well…missing from this audio mix. From the very beginning, on Gemma Arterton’s narration, the overall volume levels were a bit on the low side compared to other Master Audio brain-crunchers I have heard such as the newest Mummy film or The Incredible Hulk. From there on in, the soundtrack is engaging and purposeful, but not actually ridiculously loud (unless you have your system cranked of course) or involving in terms of surround usage. Notable standout moments on the track include the heavy, visceral stomping of the giant scorpions as they attacked the soldiers (which was surprisingly lean on LFE on my setup) and the sequences within Medusa’s lair, where the creature’s rattling tail and chilling laughter could be heard creeping out of each surround channel as she moved around the men. The final Kraken sequence was a wall-rattler though, with thudding LFE as the creature pounded its tentacles through the village, kicking up waves of water. As this destruction sequence developed, you are truly swept into the panic and chaos of the villagers. The final wail of the creature as it looks into Medusa’s bodiless eyes can blow you through your theater’s back wall if your volume is up high enough.
Still, with all this sonic mayhem, I stick to the opinion that the audio could have been slightly better here – as if a couple of decibels were making this track a bit too soft in general, overall output. I realize this sounds contradictory, but I am sure there are some who will concur with my findings as it’s difficult to really put words to.
In the end, an involving action soundtrack that doesn’t quite bring down the house the way the aforementioned Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor or The Incredible Hulk on Blu-ray and in DTS-HD MA does.
Definitely rent this Clash of the Titans on Blu-ray. it’s a great night of family entertainment. If you’re familiar with the original, it does make that one seem very hokey and downright silly in many aspects. As far as remakes go, this was a solid effort in my opinion. As for a buy, I am not sure…I’m still deliberating that one.
Thank you very much for reading.
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Recent Forum Posts:
audiofox, post: 742845
I watched a rental copy of the Blu-ray version last weekend with my wife, who is not a fantasy/sci-fi movie fan, and even she liked it. It definitely has the “Saturday afternoon matinee” feeling of similar movies of my youth (now there's a dated memory) but was an improvement, effects-wise, over the 70s original (and I am a big Ray Harryhausen fan). I agreed with this and other reviews that some of the casting could have been better (Liam Neeson as Zeus was a miss, but Ralph Fiennes as Hades was closer to the mark and Worthington was a more than passable Perseus), but the effects, not the cast, is really the centerpiece of this movie, so the miscasts are easier to overlook than with other movies, IMHO.
Absolutely agreed, 'fox, and thank you for your comments, and for reading!
westcott, post: 742484
Great review Scott. Very well written.
Makes me want to go back and read the books again!
The Illiad and the Odyssey should be required reading IMO.
Thanks so much, westcott! I appreciate the kind words, sir!
I have to ask the reviewer why he didn't put the average audio bit rate (and sampling rate) of the movie into the review. Was this a typical Warner 48/16 or was it 48/24? I know it wasn't 96/24 or 192/24 ‘cause Hollywood doesn’t do that.
I'm just asking. I do appreciate the review.
Makes me want to go back and read the books again!
The Illiad and the Odyssey should be required reading IMO.