Clash of the Titans: Epic Fail

I recently went to watch Clash of the Titans in 3D. In addition to the epic fail of the 3D format (it barely looked 3D, and the moments that could have been amazing in 3D–such as Pegasus flying towards the screen, or the Kraken thrashing about–were flat and uninspiring), the movie itself was an abysmal representation of Greek myth as well as the 1981 version.

Let me preface by saying, I adore the 1981 version of this movie. As one of the last stop-motion movies, it is cheesy, yes, but it has some brilliant moments depicting the struggle between man and gods and well as between the gods themselves. Additionally, I will acknowledge up front that Greek myths are… less than kind in their depiction of women. MANY women in Greek myth suffer–they are raped, they are cursed, they are literally morphed into various animal and plant-life at the whim of the gods (tho not always the male gods–but more on that in a second). That being said, this modern movie version of the tale of Perseus and Andomeda takes all that is potentially good within the myth and destroys it in this vapid and masochist retelling.

The first thing I noticed in this movie was the LACK of women. While I held no expectation of this remake following the original movie to a “T,” I did expect some adherence to the myths surrounding the story of Perseus which include many different women. However, within the first 30 to 40 minutes of this movie, all traces of women (mortal or god-like) have been erased and by the end of the movie, all traces of women (mortal or god-like) have been so marginalized it made my head spin. Lets start with one of the main characters of the myth, Andromeda. In the myth (and I’m paraphrasing heavily here in the interest of space and readability) Andromeda is a kind and caring virgin who is chained to a rock as fodder for a sea monster (probably the kraken) to punish her mother, Cassiopeia, for bragging of Andromeda’s loveliness and boasting that her daughter was more fair than the Neredies (minor godlings–sea nymphs). In the 1981 movie, Andromeda is a major figure, her (potential) sacrifice a huge moment within the movie. 2010 version: Andomeda is sidelined, the relationship that develops in the myths between her and Perseus is usurped by Io (who is, coincidentally, the only female in the movie to have multiple scenes in the movie some of which she actually has some sort of agency), and her one “shinging” moment–the moment in which she bravely faces the kraken–is usurped by a CGI monster. In the myth and 1981 version of the movie, as a side note, the two other major female players in Andromeda’s story (Thetis, a sea nymph, and Cassiopeia, Andromeda’s mother) are NOT present (as in the case of the former) or quickly offed (as in the case of the later). Cassiopeia, conincidentally, in mythology is a some-what powerful female ruler, thought not without faults (she is a braggart, after all). In this movie version, she’s sidelined and then summarily dismissed from the movie when Hades appears and, as punishment for her bragging, reaches out, touches the vain queen, and reduces her to a mummified corpse.

Other mortal women fair even worse–Danea, Perseus’ mother–is a “serene” and smiling corpse inside her sarcophagus fished out of the sea by a lowly fisherman, clasping her pink and healthy baby to her chest. Later in the movie, when Io recounts Perseus’ story to him, Danea is depicted as a wanton woman who unwittingly has sex with Zeus (as punishment for her husband, Zeus takes his form and slips into their bedroom, has sex with and impregnates Danae), and then is murdered by her husband as retribution (I believe her husband calls out to Zeus at one point, telling him that he can reclaim his “whore” or something to that effect). So here’s a woman, who in mythology and Greek epics is often considered the founder of a major city (forget which), reduced to a dead smiling corpse that’s been labeled a whore.

Then there are the demi-goddesses. Io fares some-what well (even though her character is a figment of the writer’s imagination as Io in Greek mythology was a follower of Hera whom Hera attempted to protect from Zeus to no avail, and in “histories” such as those written by Herodotus, is a princess who is captured by the Phoneticians and goes on to become an Egyptian Queen). She’s a girl with some moves, can hold her own against scary “monsters,” needs very little rescuing (there’s only one scene in which Perseus comes to her rescue and its more of a saving a comrade in arms vs. saving a damsel in distress moment as both are in the heat of battle), and even teaches Perseus some moves he uses to defeat Medusa. She is, however, a “reward” for Perseus’ job well done at the end of the movie as Zeus brings her back from the dead as a companion for his demi-god son.

The Stygian Witches, I will admit, confused me a bit. I couldn’t tell if they were knock-offs of the fates (they do tell Perseus’ his future). However, it seems the writers (or whomever) decided to mash the Stygian Witches together with the Maenads, women followers of Dionysus who drank and danced themselves into a cannibalistic frenzy as these 2010 movie version witches attempt to eat one of Perseus’ young companions. I don’t even know where to BEGIN to deconstruct that one.

Lastly, Medusa. The mythological Medusa’s story is, in itself problematic as there are many different origins. Some stories say that Medusa born hideous, other say that she was cursed by Athena. The later versions of this story range from a vain princess/acolyte of Athena saying she (or, in some versions, her hair) was lovelier than the goddess her self while other versions say that Medusa “lay” with Poseidon inside Athena’s temple and, as Athena was a steadfast virgin, this angered the goddess so she turned Medusa into a hideous creature. Either way, in the movie version (again, 2010), Io tells tells Medusa’s story, indicating that Medusa was raped and during this act of rape, called out to Athena for help. Rather than help the poor maiden, a disgusted Athena turned her into the snake-haired, stone-turning creature of mythology. Just so we’re clear on this, the Goddess of Wisdom saw fit to punish a woman for something she had no control over. What the what? To complicate matters further, the Medusa is visually a beautiful and alluring woman until one of the men folk is within her grasp and zap zowie! She’s a hideous, shrieking creature. She alternates between the beguiling and alluring facade and her inner shrew throughout the entire scene. She laughs and giggles like a little girl, enticing the men further into her lair, and the morphs into their worst nightmare (a woman scorned) and turns then to stone. Again, I say, what the what? Ironically, the only time Medusa isn’t CGIed into either a hyper sensual/sexual creature (she’s shades of green and part snake/has a snakes tail, but is all woman from the waist up with only her breasts covered in, yeah, you guessed it, snakeskin) or a shrieking beast is when her head is lopped off… then she suddenly morphs into a flesh-toned head with limp snakes for hair.

Lastly, lets look at who is OMITTED COMPLETELY from this movie: Aphrodite, Hera, Aura (or Diana), Thetis, Athena. Bubo. The goddess are shone only in panoramic shots of Olympus, Thetis has disappeared altogether (her son, rather than being the intended of Andromeda, becomes the cuckholded husband of Danae who, in turn becomes the pawn of Hades). Hera, who (in the 1981 version) often acted as a counter to Zesus’ maneuverings, is completely absent. Athena, who in the original movie gave Perseus his perhaps most useful tool, a clockwork owl named Bubo (the owl is a representation of Athena’s wisdom, in the original Zeus commanded that she give up the original Bubo, and reluctant to do so, Athena fashioned a second Bubo for Perseus. It is this silver and gold Bubo that actually pull’s Perseus’ tush out of the fire more than once), is dismissed COMPLETELY from the movie. While gearing up for battle, someone pulls Bubo from a closet (or bag or something) and asks what it is, he’s told to “forget about it.”

At the end of the day, after the removal of the nuances of power struggle between man and gods, men, and male and female (on the divine as well as mortal level), what we’re left with is one big macho fest. Perseus is determined to beat the kraken as a “man” but ultimately has to use the gift given him (a shiny magical sword from Zeus) as well as the Medusa’s head (women power gone amok and awry) to defeat the beast. He saves the girl, gives up a kingdom (tho he does leave it in the capable hands of Andromeda), and reaps his reward (Io back from the dead). To further complicate things, this story lacks development and drive. Perseus starts off as a nobler than thou characters, does not encounter any crisis beyond the physical (oh hey, big scorpions. *hacks with sword, hacks with sword*), encounters no temptation, and as such has no room to grow. He steadfastly refuses to give up on the mortal realm and become a god (Zeus offers twice), yet doesn’t hold kinship with any of the mortals. He is, in a word, boring. Draco, his second in command, had more vigor, vim, and development than Perseus’ little finger.

Lastly, and this one snuck in there as a total “did they really just do that?” moment. There are these characters which they call “Jinn” as in the Middle Easter concept of genie. These Jinn “look” Middle Easter–they have long flowly robes and turbans–they “sound” Middle Easter as they speak in gibberish that only Io, as a demi-goddess, can translate, and they blow people up like Middle Easterners do. (Yeah, I went there.) In the penultimate moment during the fight with Medusa, the Jinn opens his robe to show a blue beating heart and guttarly utters “Together” before blowing himself and part of Medusa to bits.

So, between the erasure of women, the namby-pamby hero, and the stereotyping of the other, this “epic” is an epic fail.

Comments

  1. says

    Wow, Tina’s back! :D Yay!

    Let me get this straight: we have a concrete example of Hollywood filmmakers sitting down, looking at a 1981 movie and the much older Greek myths from whence it came, frowning, scratching their heads and saying, “This isn’t sexist enough. I think we can lose most of these hos and bitches.”

    We always suspected. ;)

  2. Maria says

    I was SO MAD at how stupid this movie was, particularly re: Io. I actually don’t think they gave her a lot of agency — her bolo looked like it was actually her hair thing, since after that her hair was always down, and she didn’t actually SAVE herself — she just momentarily failed to die. Plus, her “training” scene with Perseus was set up cinematically as extended foreplay. I also question the elements of consent present in her “return” to Perseus at the end, since hadn’t Zeus been the god who’d attempted to rape her, then cursed her with agelessness. Does him GIVING her to his son make that okay? It certainly reminds you that she’s an object only valuable for her ability to please men’s desires. Seriously, I cannot believe that the god who attempted to rape her brought her back to life to give to his son and that’s the happy ending. SERIOUSLY???

    Andromeda just annoyed me — how much more awesome would it be to have a service-minded princess willing to die for her city if she was shown as being a wise ruler instead of just a nice girl? I’d’ve liked to see her do more than just distribute bread to women and the poor, particularly since this was meant to contrast to her vainglorious mother, vs her arrogant father. BAD WOMEN SERVE THEMSELVES, GOOD WOMEN SERVE OTHERS ad nauseum.

    I… I… I… I’m amazed that SPARTACUS BLOOD AND SAND is a little less fail than this.

  3. Julie says

    Oh no. I was so excited to see this movie (a lot more than the Alice in Wonderland redo).

    *sniffles* I guess I’ll have to make do with my Harryhausen DVD.

  4. Anemone says

    How did Io end up in the saga of Perseus and Andromeda? I had to go to Wikipedia to refresh my knowledge of this story.

    One of the things I hate about screenwriting as it’s taught now, is that it seems to be more important to hit all the right points in the story than it is to tell a story with integrity, not to mention originality. Of course, a truly good writer could do all of the above, but I don’t claim to be that.

    This myth was originally an origin story for the founder of Mycenae. Did they even mention that town at all?

  5. Scarlett says

    I lost interest within about five seconds of the trailer.Hollywood’s take an ancient mythology? Rarely going to be good.

  6. says

    Maria: I totally get what you’re saying.

    Anenome: Screenwriting is tricky. Part of my MFA is in Screenwriting and while we were taught about rising and falling action, my professor acknowledged that the truly “good” stories rarely make it to the movies these days for the simple fact that far too few people actually pay to go to the movies with the intent to watch a story unfold. Simply put, he told us, they want the SFX. Truth be told, I went to this movie for the SFX–I wanted to see cool things happen in 3D. I acknowledged up front (to myself) that this was a SFX driven movie and I should expect too much of the story (I should also divulge I’m currently in India and movies are $3 a pop here, so I go frequently vs. at home where they’re $10 and I have netflix and can pick and choose). However, I was stunned by how much of a lack of story there was in this and how twisted the story became.

  7. says

    Re: the screenwriting. Is there something about SFX that precludes good storytelling? Because I don’t see why you can’t have both, and yet one could certainly get the impression they’re mutually exclusive from the majority of SFX blockbusters out there.

    And no, before anyone asks: “good storytelling” does not mean long-winded dialog scenes, which would detract from the pace of a formula SFX blockbuster. Think how much the rather lengthy “cantina scene” in the first Star Wars movie reveals about Obi-Wan, Han, Luke and the culture they’re living in. It’s full of dazzling, captivating spectacle, and no one would argue that story is much more than an SFX spectacle, and yet it’s setting up so much that’s essential to later events.

  8. says

    Jennifer: David Foster Wallace once wrote quite harshly about Terminator 2 that the bigger the effects get, the more the studio needs to play it safe in all other regards, which means the effects get more important and, again, story and characters suffer, and so on. He called it F/X porn. And while I disagree with his assessment of T2, I can’t really disagree with that reasoning.

    Though, of course, normally these things shouldn’t preclude one another.

  9. Patrick says

    I was actually going to offer up Terminator 2 as an example of another movie which combines good storytelling and good F/X. One of the major reasons why I consider T2 (and Aliens) much better James Cameron films than Avatar (spectacular F/X, poor story, plenty of other flaws).

    I’m disappointed to hear this about the Clash of the Titans remake. Even with all its cheesiness and divergence from Greek myth (A kraken? Really?), I adore the original.

  10. says

    that the bigger the effects get, the more the studio needs to play it safe in all other regards, which means the effects get more important and, again, story and characters suffer

    Yes, but how precisely is good story risky? I know they think they need to play into cultural stereotypes and stick to the formula, but T2 is actually a great example of what I’m talking about: not only is the story pretty interesting, but we get our first muscle-bound heroine and a brilliant scientist who just happens to be black. Speed passed the Bechdel test, had lots of little flashes of character insights via Joss Whedon’s polish, and surpassed everybody’s expectations. SW and LoTR may be derivative as hell, but when you cut and paste from good stuff, you get a good story. Also, Alien. And the first two Matrix movies blew minds not just because of the SFX, but because of the very idea that reality isn’t real.

    Those are some of the blockbusters that shaped the genre. They are all very formula, and yet they all have better than average stories and/or characters, and several of them even defy a stereotype or two.

    I think the reason they don’t want better writing is that it would set a higher standard in the audience’s mind and then good screenwriters could command a much higher chunk of the $ action than the pittance they get, relative to everybody else whose name appears above the line.

  11. says

    I think put it that way, the reason they don’t want better writing is because they don’t need it. People go see movies with bad stories all the time (see Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and 3). And even if you try for a good story, you might still fail (I would generously ascribe this to Matrix 2 and 3) – so why risk it? Just make the effects more expensive.

  12. says

    The whole movie’s with SFX and poor story vs. movies with stellar story and stellar SFX is due to who shells out the most money (according to statistics–which are subject to a bit of leeriness): young males. Truth be told, if I were a young male and I read this statistic, I’d be offended because this statistic pretty much says I don’t care about story. But then again, why ARE they the individuals that buy the most tickets? Is it because of the special effect? Its also possible to argue that these movies that have SFX AND story walk a very fine line. I remember, for example, when the Star Wars movies were remade and re-mastered–they added scenes and SFX that I HATED, absolutely HATED, just because they could. And I think that’s the way movies are headed. When I watched Avatar, I thought, “Ok, visually stunning movie. But this SO would have made a better book!” for the simple reason Avatar got caught up in its own SFX. When I watched Matrix 2 & 3 (sorry, gotta differ my opinion here) I remember thinking “Wow, they TOTALLY gave up the story in an effort to best The Matrix!” SFX used to enhance the story (such as the cantina scene in SW) are great. But SFX that take over the story are not.

  13. Izzy says

    I agree except insofar as Perseus starts as “nobler than thou”: he starts as, and continues as, kind of a douche in my opinion. Admittedly, the Angry Young Anti-Theist Dude is not my favorite archetype, but he basically wanders around Argos scowling, is willing to let the city die until Io suggests that he can get his vengeance on, and does, indeed, get more than a few of his compatriots killed because of his God/Daddy Issues. Haaaaate.

  14. says

    That does sound really, really horrible. The first time I saw the commercial, I wavered between uninterested (Oh… “English accent = good guys” + uninspired acting.) to interested (SHINY ARMOR GNEEEE!) to uninterested again (…It’s a Kraken?). Really glad I didn’t see this, especially with my very excited father, who can also be a macho pig. And now I know to stick with Harryhausen and books!

    And while I’ll be the first to admit, big chunks of Greco-Roman mythology lean heavily toward “Well, everybody’s kind of horrible people, and sometimes make dumbassed decisions, but superpowered horrible people making dumbassed decisions would really explain everything,” even aside from the inherent comedy in all of that, they knew how to tell a story. I mean, when people aren’t rewriting the mythology to make Zeus a good-guy and Hera SUPAR EVIL, or to have both of them working together, you sometimes get a chance to see that Zeus was the biggest douche. OF ALL TIME! /interruptingkanye Which would be consistent with the whole “I WILL HAVE IO” “OKAY WELL THEN I WILL DECIDE IO’S FATE AND MY SON WILL HAVE HER.” But I don’t think that’s what the cast/crew was really going for…

    I continue to be amazed, not at unoriginality of screenplays, but the butchering of perfectly good source material. I mean, come on! *gestures to mythology books* It doesn’t take originality. EVERYTHING IS WRITTEN DOWN FOR YOU. Some translations I’ve read could be copied word-for-word into a script and put on a screen, and they would be lightyears ahead of most movies that are churned out every. Year. Still, that’s typical. I’ve just come to expect incredibly diluted mythology in all of my mythology-based Hollywood-developed entertainments, and while that means I’m frequently disgusted, I’m seldom disappointed. Sadfais?

    That said: I am happy that “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (or, as I refer to it in my head, “The Spartacus and Xena Adventure Hour”) is actually… good? Or maybe just better than this, I don’t know. Low bar, and all that; it’s why I haven’t been downloading/watching. Just entertaining myself thinking of Xena and Spartacus (and Bubo!) fighting while the gods place bets and tell each other to stop looking at me, and to get off my side, etc. etc.

  15. Elee says

    Actually I planned on seeing Clash of the Titans this weekend, but your take on the movie makes me all depressed. Honestly, I am beginning to tinhat some kind of Hollywood conspiracy about greek myth and greek ancient history, after the fail that was Troy (seriously – llamas?) I hoped so much that at least in a movie based on mythology known for many goddesses, not even minor godlings, but actually important players like Athene or Hera, there would be some good female roles. And re: not needing better stories because viewers are morons and will watch everything – I actually was an avid movie-goer a couple years ago, went every week to watch a movie, sometimes even two times a week. I don’t anymore. I don’t even have a TV, some odd weekend I go to visit my parents brings me enough TV experience to remind why I don’t want to have it again. In the last three years I have watched probably only three films. Maybe I am wrong, but I am pretty sure I am not the only one to feel this way, and if there are more people who react the same way (even if we are’nt counting into the statistics), there must be a constant money drain from new films.

  16. says

    But then again, why ARE they the individuals that buy the most tickets?

    But they’re not. And the idea that they ever truly were has been questioned for over a decade, and not just by me:

    http://thehathorlegacy.com/the-spending-power-of-women/ – links to Business Week and WSJ articles wondering when people in general will figure out women are involved in 80% of all purchases in the US (note the articles are over 10 years old).

    http://articles.latimes.com/1998/jun/26/entertainment/ca-63618 – on how the industry reframed James Cameron’s $200M “chick flick”

  17. Elee says

    If women contibute to the majority or half of the box office results, then a decision not to watch films more or less in general MUST hurt the industry, there is just no other way for money to come in. I know, that the survey questionnaires often dismiss me out of hand, because I (usually) haven’t seen a movie in the last three months, not even asking why or what it would take to get me to see one. But I think an accountant would be interested only in numbers – you invest 300 k and get out only 200 k for a longer period of time and it is all you need to know that something is wrong with your movies. (To determine what is wrong in a way to boost own ego is another matter completely, but still – if one excuse after another fails and the investors start to consider alternate methods like film futures, investors will start to want a bit more explanation than just “Believe me, I know what I am doing”. I think it is at least indicative that something is going to change in the industry).
    On a completely different topic – I am going to call the move “Cash of the Titans”.

  18. says

    Elee, I totally agree and was getting ready to offer the film futures as evidence before I got to the part where you mentioned them. I think it’s telling that while people are citing the reason behind film futures as “private equity money” drying up in the past couple of years, this venture was first proposed by Cantor Fitzgerald back before 9/11 – it got derailed because 9/11 pretty much took out the entire company, and then the boom times provided film with lots of people needing to launder and hide huge amounts of cash from their illegal and semi-legal ventures investors looking for a profit. For a time, it probably provided the profits, too, as everyone was spending spending spending (which makes for less discriminate movie goers). Now that people are tightening their belts, the investors aren’t getting the profit from film or anywhere else they’ve been putting their excess money.

  19. Elee says

    The thing is, I have now more money to my disposal then at the time I was a movie-goer, though I realise that I am an exception rather than the average. If I wanted, I could watch a movie every second day without problems, because now I have a steady job with a governmental institution. Obviously I wouldn’t do it because of the lack of the available time, but still I could support a habit far easier than when I was a student. But while as a teen I watched (and read) everything that caught my attention and was cheap to get by, now my taste is more discriminating, because if I am going to pay money for my entertainment, it better be worth the scarce time I am investing.

  20. Scarlett says

    Heh, one of my new years resolutions was to see 50 new movies this year. The idea was to get me out of the habit of sitting at home and watching the same TV shows on DVD over and over again. But t’s only APril and already I’ve lost interest on account that there’s nothing good showing.

  21. says

    Personally, I only go to the movies once or twice a year at most. Though that’s more because I’m cheap and use torrents as a screening factor before I even rent a DVD.

  22. Scarlett says

    Well there are actually quite a few movies I’m interested in that have been released through the more artsy theatres, but I basically couldn’t be assed going that far and paying that much when I have a chain theatre so close to me that gives me close to half $$ what adult tix in Australia are. So it’ll be a bunch of DVD jobs for me.

  23. says

    What is there to sequel? UGH.

    The stuff! The things! The costumes! The EFFECTS! God, you have no imagination! ;)

    Story (noun, singular): one of those things you find in a building, one stacked upon the next

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