Tuesday, April 6, 2010

He'd never fought a puppet that big before

Clash of the Titans grossed over $60M in the United States in the handful of days since last Friday's release. This is to be expected, since it's the only blockbuster effects-driven action film playing. Oh, and our civilization is disintegrating at an astonishing rate; that may explain at least 20 million of those dollars. Twelve of them were mine--or at least, I accounted for them. Last Friday the suits took us out to Clash and this time they actually paid for tickets to a movie we were required to see. I'm not complaining since free things are, tautologically, free. We had to pay for popcorn. It's not a perfect world.

The movie is...well, it's a movie. Actors deliver lines on camera and at the end this big turtle with sharp teeth pops out of the water and Jake Sully has to kill it with a CGI Medusa head. Oh, fuck you, I'm not throwing up a spoiler warning for things they show in the trailer (which, these days, is essentially everything). Also, this is a remake of a 30-year-old classic that all people of good taste should have seen. If you didn't, it's probably because Power Rangers and shit like that rotted your brain as a child. In my day, we watched The Disney Channel because Nickelodeon had no good programming (this was prior to the rollout of the Ren & Stimpy/Rugrats/Doug lineup). And The Disney Channel, in the days before it became a vehicle to make childrens' junk tingle, showed Harryhausen films like Clash and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. Not that there's anything wrong with making childrens' junk tingle--I understand the Catholic Church has done a bustling trade in it for about a thousand years.

The new version of Clash is not un-watchable. This is because the parts that might make it so are stupid enough that they're actually funny. The plot holes are enormous, glaring and immediately obvious so there's no risk of you taking the movie seriously at any point. The funny thing is, this remake might have actually had a chance if they'd gone campy with it. The jokes in the film, such as they are, actually made me laugh. When they pay homage to the original with camp it works...so of course the studio went in the exact opposite direction and 95% of the scenes are totally straight-faced. It's something of a tragedy. Anyway, despite the skull-imploding nature of certain scenes and the seizure-inducing nature of Liam Neeson's shiny armor, I learned a few things. I'd like to share them with you.

Nymphs are total prudes
Io is a major character in this movie. The term "major character" is difficult to apply here, since characters fall in and out of the story constantly. Aside from Perseus Sully, everyone is expendable and exists only to satisfy the immediate needs of whatever scene you're watching. Io is supposedly a woman who spurned a God's advances and was "punished" with eternal life. Nevertheless, she's...like...allied with the Gods in some way? I guess? She provides lots of exposition, and because exposition is awesome she gets to be in a lot of scenes. Because she's in more scenes than any other female character, she gets to be the lead and have a romantic sub-plot with Perseus. This sub-plot takes place almost entirely in one scene, where she's sparring with Perseus in a boat and he falls on top of her and gets a boner. In his defense, he's spent his entire life fishing on a deserted island. She admonishes him with an awkward euphemistic line (which I will not spoil--suffice it to say, we use it at work in inappropriate contexts) and I guess they're in love after? Everything I know about relationships I learned from movies, so you'll forgive me for assuming that a handful of shared experiences and one awkward boner add up to wuv, twue wuv.

Anyway, Io is the biggest prude of a nymph you ever saw and I don't understand why. Have you ever read Greek mythology? Gods, mortals, demigods and nymphs were all plowing each other with abandon. We're going to place a frame of latter-day Wasilla morality on stories thousands of years old? (Editor's note: Wasilla was probably a poor choice. They fuckin' bitches wit no rubbaz.) I looked Io up; she totally banged Zeus. "Spurned a God's advances," my ass. Perseus doesn't know it, but he ends up with his dad's spoiled leavings. The great triumvirate of "cleaning up for Dad" consists of Perseus, Oedipus and Indiana Jones.

Thirty years of technology has made movies worse
I watched the 1981 original two days later, having seen it many times before. The claymation has aged badly, but you know what? They have excellent actors delivering dialogue that is at times poetic. In the remake, Liam Neeson plays Zeus. He plays Zeus clad in aluminum foil, illuminated by very bright lights and shot in soft focus. It's like having really dry contacts; it makes your eyeballs itch. I don't want my eyeballs to itch because of a movie. You might say I pay $11 for the privilege of not having my eyeballs itch. But that said, you know who plays Zeus in the original. Lawrence fucking Olivier. A young(er) and slightly foxy Maggie Smith plays the villainous Thetis. There are boobies (not Maggie Smith's) and everything flows along nicely. The effects are at times laughably bad, but at least these guys knew how to make movies.

Sam Worthington needs a change of pace
Don't misunderstand--I think the guy's decent at what he does and he can carry scenes. But the parallels between Avatar and Clash 2010 are uncanny.
*Worthington plays an ignorant doofus who stumbles into enormous powers.
*Both films contain people who are blue for no reason.
*Worthington gets to tag ladies with whom he has erotically wrassled. They don't like him much at first, but his boyish charm and rugged good looks win them over in time. Immortal water nymphs aren't much different from 10-foot-tall blue ladies, it turns out.
*Worthington rides a hitherto-unconquered flying mount into battle in the climactic scene.
*Sub-plots and side characters enter and exit both films without explanation or resolution. The jealous dorky scientist? He spends 24% of Avatar being relevant. As I've said, in Clash it's unclear which characters aside from Perseus we are ever supposed to care about.

The character of Perseus, I will concede, differs in superficial ways from "Jakesulee." His legs work. Worthington's Australian accent, which reared its ugly(sexy) head from time to time in Avatar, is consistent here. Whereas Jakesulee smiled and laughed and was likeable, Perseus is never anything but a brooding grouch. He does for smiles what Kurt Russell did for spoken lines in Soldier. Don't watch Soldier; suffice it to say that "I'm going to kill them all, sir" is Russell's big soliloquy.

At the end of the day, the Kraken is pretty cool. The scorpions are pretty cool. The folks who did the visuals are obviously very good at their jobs, and my hat is off to them. THAT SAID, did the Kraken's head really need to come out of a giant foreskin? The parts of the movie where people talk are worthless--as my friend Drew said, "Every line of dialogue exists to explain the previous line." But it is laughably bad. It's the sort of movie you'd want to see in a rowdy theater, if possible. I predict a Rifftrax gem, and a running diary unless I get too famous for this lame-ass blog. Given that entering "I Drop Things blog" into Google doesn't turn up this site until the second page, I'm not too worried about it.

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