Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Clash of the Titans (1981, 2010)

Double Feature!

Clash of the Titans (1981)

I can't talk about monsters all month and NOT pop in the stop motion masterpiece of Clash of the Titans.

If you come to this blog I have no doubt you know this move and this story.  So instead lets talk about the production.  Let's get good look at the casting for the gods. Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera, Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, Maggie Smith as Thetis. Seriously these WERE the gods in 1981. Add in relatively unknown (pre L.A. Law) Harry Hamlin as Perseus and the captivating Judi Bowker as Andromeda then our cast is set.  Throw in some Burgess Meredith for comic relief and a bunch of Ray Harryhausen stop motion creatures and you have a classic.

I am not sure if Medusa was ever depicted as a half snake-woman before this movie, but she sure was after it.  Maybe more so than anything outside of Tolkien has left it's stamp on D&D more than the Greek myths and no movie did as much as Clash of the Titans.  Even people that have never seen the movie know "release the Kraken!"

The film almost has a Disney quality to it with it's score and cinematography. Cinematographer Ted Moore had worked on a lot of 70s Bond films and two of the Sinbad movies, the spiritual forefathers to this one.

Re-watching now (and again) the story holds up and the special effects are more charming than dated. Even Bubo was less annoying in reality than in memory. 

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Ok. The Greek myths endure because they are stories that can be told and retold again and again.  A remake then should always be welcome.  And on paper this one sounds good.  First lets look at our Gods again. Liam Neeson as Zeus, ok do we even care who else is playing the gods at this point?  Ralph "Voldemort" Fiennes as Hades.  Luke Evans (Dracula Unbound, The Hobbit) as Apollo, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine, Game of Thrones) as Hermes. Ok so, this is all good.  Sam Worthington as Perseus. Ok a good actor, but lacks a certain Harry Hamlin-ness. Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, also good.

Plus we know the special effects were going to be better since this was the new age of CGI.

And...yet it all falls so flat.  Zues' "release the Kracken" doesn't have Sir Laurence Olivier's gravitas and we know Liam Neeson can deliver a line.  Hades...exactly WHY was Hades here anyway? The rest of the gods were blink an you miss them.

The Kracken was underwhelming, but still fun.  Medusa, well. Actually I liked this one. While the first medusa was a spectacle of stop motion puppetry the new one with the face of supermodel Natalia Vodianova seemed more human. It also was one of the first certainly not the last time the story made you feel properly sad for Medusa.  But that is topic for another day really.

The movie is all glitz and spectacle and no heart.  The sign where they toss Bubo from the original movie aside might have felt funny, but it is a good example of the entire film.

Still for a popcorn flick it is fun.  You can even see this as a prequel of sorts to the Greek gods in Wonder Woman.


Game Material

Pretty much the entire movie to be honest. The original is so deeply imbedded into the DNA of 80s roleplaying it would be hard to tease out today what came from the Greek myths before this movie vs. after.


Dick McGee said...

"Plus we know the special effects were going to be better since this was the new age of CGI."

The assumption that lackluster CGI is somehow guaranteed to be better than the work of a master of stop motion animation is demonstrably wrong, especially late in Harryhausen's career when he's had decades to refine his art - and better camera tech to work with as well.

JB said...

I love Clash of the Titans and consider it a “classic” and the pinnacle of Harryhausen’s work. I make a point of showing it to all youngsters I encounter with even a passing interest in fantasy. It is a great introduction to Greek mythology.

On the other hand, I have few words to describe my loathing for the remake. It is so very, very bad in so many, many ways. The ugliest abomination I have ever viewed...and I watched Highlander 2 in the theater and saw first-hand how an inept filmmaker can destroy a legacy. Just a true piece of shit.

Aaron said...

I watched the original Clash of the Titans on repeat as a kid. Andromeda may have been one of my earliest crushes. I was excited about the remake when it was released, but I remember being a little disappointed. I was even more underwhelmed by Wrath of the Titans...

D. James said...

Great post - I recently blogged about my memories, seeing the 1981 version in theatre:

By the way, Ursula Andress apparently seduced Harry Hamlin, in true Aprhodite-style:
"He said she called him and said, 'Harry, come to my room.' And so he did, at 28 years old, he went in and she got pregnant that night," said Rinna. "And that was that, at 44. First time."


GeoffN. said...

The 2010 Clash of the Titans solidified my definition of the sub-genre "Frat Boy Fantasy" that seemed to really arise in the first decade or so of the 21st century. 300 was the first movie I recall seeing that I felt fit this mode, though I actually enjoyed watching it. The Immortals, the 2011 Conan, and the remake of Clash of the Titans also fit firmly into this category. It's fantasy that is accessible for people who are afraid of looking/feeling like dorks. It's often highly stylized yet attempts to be gritty and "realistic" at the same time? I remember when the Bubo scene happened in Clash, and feeling like it just intentionally spit on the source material and stole its milk money.