Nov 13, 2015

[Movies] Clash of the Titans (1981)

In my youth I was super into Greek mythology. It was just one of those things that I went through and I'm pretty sure that I wasn't alone in this. So I read different versions of the classic myths and I wondered what sort of stories could be told about such heroes. Many thanks to A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys and Bulfinch's Mythology for highly influencing me in my younger years when it comes to this subject.

Clash of the Titans was pretty much the It Movie when it came to mythology epics back in the day competing closely with the likes of Helen of Troy or something. And while it's not the most amazing movie ever created, it's certainly quite endearing and holds a special place in the hearts of many.

The movie may not be the most accurate tale when you compare it to the original myths, but they certainly rearranged things to be as entertaining as possible. And that's really the Hollywood tradition - play with the story until you get something that shows somehow "better" on-screen.

Synopsis: Clash of the Titans is a 1981 British-American fantasy adventure movie directed by Desmond Davis. The screenplay was written by Beverly Cross and the movie was eventually remade in 2010.

The story begins with King Acrisus of Argos (Donald Houston) imprisons his daughter Danaë (Vida Taylor) because of some petty reason. Because of her beauty, Zeus (Laurence Olivier) impregnates her and eventually mother and child are locked away in a wooden coffin by the King and set adrift. Zeus of course interferes and has Poseidon (Jack Gwillim) to release the Kraken, one of the Titans, to destroy Argos. Danaë and and her son Perseus are guided safely to Seriphos, where Perseus eventually grows to adulthood.

The next segment of the story involves a number of other myths and tales brought together into a single narrative. We have the tale of how Calibos (Neil McCarthy) and how he was turned into the monstrous satyr by Zeus and is eventually exiled. We also have the fate of Andromeda (Judi Bowker), who is unable to marry until someone solves her riddles. And of course we have our now grown-up Perseus (Harry Hamlin) as our intrepid hero who will see to win her hand and outwit the machinations of Calibos. But what Perseus has in his favor is the support of the gods as well.

Mythology aside, we can't talk about this movie without talking about the amazing stop-motion animation work by Ray Harryhausen. From Athena's clockwork owl Bubo to the skeleton warriors and of course the fearsome gorgon and the Kraken. Every creature was clearly crafted with love. Harryhausen's work is clearly demonstrative of the brilliance of the stop motion animation era and why it had a character all of its own versus modern day special effects. There's something just captivating about his work and this movie is one of the greatest celebrations of what makes his projects so memorable.

The acting in this is kinda so-so, but I think that actually became part of the charm of things. Sure, the Greek Pantheon of Gods present in this movie - they had the likes of Dame Maggie Smith after all! But man the mortals are so petty indeed. Heck Harry Hamlin wasn't necessarily bad, but he wasn't all that great either. And his weird middle of the road acting became part of what made this movie work.

In hindsight, the movie ends up feeling a lot longer than you'd like it to be. I looked back at this movie fondly because of the big iconic battles and the epic confrontations with great mythological monsters. But when you actually watch the movie again, there are a lot of times that feel terribly slow and there were certainly some pacing issues here and there. Or maybe I focus too much on the stop animation and thus most of the time I end up impatiently waiting for those bits to come around.

Looking at the plot as a whole though, you can't help but be at least a little impressed with how they managed to take elements of various myths and brought them together into a largely coherent narrative. There are some funny bits and quirks that make more scholarly folk balk at the changes, but from an entertainment perspective it was all quite brilliant.

Clash of the Titans is a little dated by now, but more because of the acting than the special effects, in my opinion. There's still quite a lot of fun to be had with this movie so just go with the run of things. Thus the movie gets 3.5 stop motion creatures challenging Perseus out of a possible 5.

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