KO-ed for having no heart

2010-04-19 00:00

TWO key reasons made me excited to see Clash of the Titans. The first was the great pleasure I had as a child watching the 1981 version and being exposed to the classic hero’s journey.

Here was a story uncomplicated by sub-plots and complex characters. These were archetypes easy to grasp in their goals and intentions. The encounters with monsters were thrilling, in particular Medusa brought to life in what was then the cutting-edge technique of stop motion.

As years went by, though, the film, on repeated viewings, slowly slipped into campness and the technology in comparison to CGI became jokey and amateurish.

Ironically, this solidified its cult status among certain viewers who as children had been enthralled by the magical possibilities of cinema and the hero’s journey.

Now, viewing it every so often on the TCM channel, I feel embarrassed at how easily I had suspended disbelief, and then conversely saddened by the cynicism of adulthood. I hoped a remake would remedy this, even momentarily.

The second reason I was excited to see Clash of the Titans is that the hero’s journey is applicable to all our lives and forms. We set goals and attempt to overcome obstacles. Along the way we meet mentors, allies, guardians, heralds, tricksters and our nemeses in the shadows.

Importantly, though, this journey exists not merely on the surface, but also within our own psychological make-up. As a pure paradigm, the ­hero’s journey attempts to make the inner journey explicit through representations and action.

However, the danger exists that we take this purely at a surface level, as a simple intervention of fate or the hand of a God, a pre-written script where the hero is simply a figurehead moving from heartless battle to heartless battle. This would be like Wizard of Oz, where Dorothy never experiences inner turmoil, or like Robbie Williams attempting to replicate the soul of Frank Sinatra by singing I Did It My Way.

Sadly for me, Clash of the Titans (2010) plays out with technical proficiency, but fails to engage us dramatically. The inner journey is missing.

For those unfamiliar with the story, it involves King Acrisius declaring war on the gods. He enlists the help of a young demi-god in the form of Perseus (Sam Worthington) to defeat the Kraken, a monster threatening the city of Argos.

Of course, Perseus needs to undertake numerous quests to fulfil his destiny. These involve battles against giant scorpions that had me thinking of Transformers, a Medusa that had me thinking of Species and a Kraken that is a doppelgänger for an orc from Lord of the Rings. And all the while, Perseus exhibits the emotions of a cardboard box.

Verdict. Clash of the Titans (2010) is KO-ed for having no heart. Viva 1981!



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