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.