New this week on store shelves: Sam Worthington stars as the demi-god Perseus in the action-adventure, Clash of the Titans; plus a look at Repo Men, starring Jude Law and Liev Schreiber.
Remakes are a hard business, at least if you want to do more than just make a few bucks.
Cheesy titles from yesteryear are ripe for being remade, but it’s not always easy to capture the essence that made some of those films great in the first place.
The release of the original 1981 Clash of the Titans on Blu-ray gave any willing fan a chance to see Ray Harryhausen’s film before they watched Louis Leterrier’s remake, and I wonder if it affected others the way it affected me.
Sam Worthington stars in the remake as the mythic Perseus, the half-human son of Zeus who has been living a sheltered, normal life, unaware of his heritage until a vengeful Hades, played by Ralph Fiennes, inadvertently kills his adoptive family. Left alone, Perseus is rescued by the only survivors of the incident; a group of soldiers who initially brought down the wrath of the gods because of their own orders to destroy a statue of Zeus.
Taken to the city of Argos, Perseus is once again witness to the wrath of the gods as Hades kills off a legion of soldiers and tells the king of the city that the gods are tired of their insolence. If Argos does not sacrifice their princess, Andromeda, Zeus will release the monstrous Kraken and destroy the entire city.
At this point, Perseus also discovers the truth: he’s a demigod, and he might be the city’s only hope, if he can just find a way to defeat the Kraken so that dear Andromeda doesn’t have to die for her city.
With a small group of tough soldiers by his side, Perseus will hunt down the creatures of legend who might be able to help him, while he discovers a bit more about himself, and his father, Zeus.
Essentially, the story is unchanged from the original film. This is a hybrid of the original Greek myths that I actually think works quite well. The down side is that, although it might sound impossible, the dialogue is a notch more ridiculous than the original, and of course, the cast is but a shadow of Harryhausen’s epic, which included Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith, and Ursula Andress.
Neeson does make a decent Zeus though, even if his part is a little on the light side. Ralph Fiennes as Hades, on the other hand, is the epitome of scenery-chewing exuberance. He’s almost too manic, even though he is kind of a blast in this part.
As for the film’s star, Sam Worthington is not that exciting. He’s a dull lead with little charisma, and not nearly enough character to fill out the great role of Perseus. At the best of times, he’s merely a body to run through the action sequences, and the script is as much to blame for that as the actor himself. He’s never been a fantastic actor, but this is definitely a career low-point by my books.
His co-stars are actually a lot more interesting, especially in the case of Mads Mikkelsen as Draco, Gemma Arterton as Io, and the very entertaining Liam Cunningham as Solon.
Credit is also due for the special effects, which are generally quite good, especially in the battle sequences with the giant scorpions and the all-important final battle as the Kraken appears. The whole movie feels, in fact, like one giant setup for this sequence, and that’s partly why the story suffers so much – it’s all just rushing to get to the end, but at least it looks great as it hurtles along.
The best part of the Blu-ray release is also that it’s not rendered in the horrific 3D that we saw in cinemas, which was possibly the worst 3D to make it to the big screen in the last year or two. As a regular action film, Clash of the Titans is actually pretty good.
Packed on the Blu-ray release are four major features: Maximum Movie Mode, a collection of featurettes on the making of the film, a look at Sam Worthington as a Hollywood star, plus deleted scenes and an alternate ending. Generally it’s a great mix of features for a mediocre film.
Once again, Warner Bros. has also done an amazing job with their Maximum Movie Mode, which lets you watch the film while the filmmakers show you important steps in the films creation. It basically includes everything you could want to know about the film, but it’s a far cry from Zack Snyder’s edition for the Watchmen release.
This new Clash of the Titans is a fun little adventure, with lots of features for home video, but the film is a shadow of the original, even if the effects are superior.
Also available this week…
The question has to be asked: is Jude Law an acceptable action star? He’s a likeable actor, he has appeared in dozens of great films, and obviously he has a way with the ladies, but these things do not an action hero make. What’s worse is that he’s chosen a questionably impressive action movie to test out his butt-kicking abilities; a film that frankly looks like it’s more laugh-worthy than thrill-inducing.
Set in a futuristic world where a company known as The Union creates expensive replacement organs, Law plays Remy, an organ repo man who hunts down people who haven’t paid their medical bills, taking back the property of his employers no matter what.
Cue the ironic twist when, much to his surprise, Remy suffers a heart attack on the job and the company puts him under the knife and gives him their latest high-tech product, which Remy definitely can’t afford. Forced to go on the run, The Union adds in another twist by sending his former partner Jake, played by Forest Whitaker, to hunt the former agent down and take back his perfect, fake heart.
While I never thought I’d say this, it’s become obvious that futuristic storylines are simply the easiest setting for directors who want to do wild and crazy things, but don’t have the ingenuity to come up with a plausible plot.
“The filmmakers want to have a company that has power over who lives and dies? Well, set it in the future.”
“Your story is cool, but bigger weapons would make it cooler? Go ahead, set it in the future.”
That complaint aside, whatever you say about Law’s career, or any of the film’s other co-stars, Repo Men simply looks terrible because it takes the script for granted and has a brain-dead concept that should only be attempted by talented B-movie directors who are willing to be a little witty with the subject matter.
Nick Pinkerton of the Village Voice was one of many critics who rebuked the film. “Another wholesale dystopian future,” Pinkerton wrote, “just like the last one.”
And Tom Meek of the Boston Phoenix wrote, “Repo Men should have offered some lacerating satire, but the derivative filmmaking and reality-show dialogue take the heart right out of it.”