Saturday, April 17, 2010

Clash of the Titans - 1981 vs. 2010

The other night I went to see the new Clash of the Titans movie with Sam Worthington in the lead role as Perseus, son of Zeus and Danae. Now, this is a story that I have really held dear for most of my life, having begged my father to take me back to the theatre to see the original movie four times when I was a kid.
I can still recall quite vividly how I felt seeing the flick in 1981 at the theatre in Devonshire Mall in Windsor so very long ago. From the moment Acrisius casts the coffin (for lack of a better word) into the sea I was bewitched with a sense of something ancient, magical. The Gods, the moon, the weapons of 'divine temper', all of it. Wonderful. I was scared to death of the scenes with Medusa and Calibos, well he was just a nightmarish figure that added to the mystery of it all. Pegasus is still the best - who doesn't want a winged horse?

So, how does Clash of the Titans 2010 stand up to the old one? Well, I'm not one to automatically opt for an older version of something just because it is the original (such as many folks do for something like Star Wars). In fact, these two versions of this ancient tale are quite different from each other but stand well side by side.

Clash of the Titans 2010 has been updated with loads of CGI and a few new characters such as Draco and Io (Goddess of the Dawn) and Hades (God of the Underworld). Things have also been bloodied quite a bit so this will not be a good idea for a six year old kid. On the upside, the female characters are stronger, Sam Worthington does a surprsingly good job as Perseus and the beasts are all amazing, especially Pegasus (still my favourite).

There are some things I did not like, however. Sometimes, the statement that 'less is more' is true and it is just so in this case. In the original movie, the music was not littered and driven throughout the movie as it is in the new one. One scene where I found this particularly annoying is the Medusa scene. The original was terrifying just because your senses were on edge - almost no music and the only sounds were Medusa's rattling tail, Perseus' laboured breathing and a few hissing arrows. That made for a very intense, dramatic scene. In the new film, there is just too much going on with all the action blanketed in non-stop, driving music.

As I have said in my previous post on 'Hollywood Historicals' however, if a movie generates interest in something, even if it is causing one young person to pick up a book of Greek Mythology and read a bit, that is truly a good thing. I'm sure Clash of the Titans 2010 will have achieved this. Sure, things have changed (the Gods wear shiny armour and Argos is a city packed onto a seaside mountain) but if these tales are to remain timeless, they need to be made current for new audiences and I can find no fault in that. Better an updated, different version of a classic than that very classic turning to dust in the wind.

In short, I love the original Clash of the Titans and highly enjoyed the new one. Both are works of art that succeed in transporting the viewer and bringing to life an ancient world of gods, heroes and magnificent creatures. It all fires the imagination. May there be many more such works!

photo: Relief of Pegasus at the Temple of Peace, Thurburbo Majus, Tunisia
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