Clash of the Titans

The first thing you should know about “Clash of the Titans” is that if you pay extra for a 3-D ticket you are being ripped off. The film wasn’t shot in 3-D; it was retrofitted for 3-D in post-production, when Warner Bros. decided people would think the studio was an old fuddy-duddy if it didn’t release every single film in 3-D. And it’s obvious that it was an afterthought. I watched most of the film without the glasses and barely noticed a difference. Certain elements of the picture were slightly blurry here and there, but not many, and not much. The 3-D on this film is a sham. Don’t pay for it.

The other thing you should know about “Clash of the Titans” is that you shouldn’t pay for it anyway, no matter how many D’s it has. Anemically directed by the usually energetic Louis Leterrier (“Transporter 2,” “The Incredible Hulk”), this remake of the 1981 cheesy classic is dull and serious, without an ounce of personality or flair. It feels prefabricated, factory-assembled. To put it bluntly, it just isn’t fun — the one thing you require a movie like this to be.

So you got your Greek gods, noble Zeus and his sniveling brother Hades. They are played, respectively, by Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, which is pretty impressive, considering Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes are the same person. Zeus made sexy times with a mortal woman and fathered a baby, who wound up in the foster care of an old fisherman and his wife, who named him Perseus. Perseus grew up big and strong and is now Sam Worthington, who you will recall was also bland and forgettable when he was in “Avatar” and “Terminator Salvation.”

The people of Argos have declared war against the gods, which naturally hurts the gods’ feelings. “You have insulted powers beyond your comprehension!” says Hades, and I’m totally stealing that line. But it’s worse than that: the gods need the mortals’ prayers to fuel their immortality. To get the folks on their knees again, Hades suggests releasing the kraken, a terrifying monster that he made for the sole purpose of terrifying people. He tells everyone they have 10 days to prove their devotion by sacrificing the beautiful Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), or else it’s kraken time. Perseus, proudly wearing a short skirt and an Australian accent, has some god-blood in him, and he has a beef with Hades anyway, so he’s chosen as the hero to help thwart Hades’ plan.

How do you defeat a god? Ugh, you’d be amazed how many hoops you have to jump through. You have to ask some blind witches for advice, and deal with Medusa, and fight giant CGI scorpions that rise out of the sand, etc., etc. First, though, Perseus assembles a team of brave men. This group resembles the Fellowship of the Ring, except that you’re not sure what anyone’s name is, or why they joined, and there’s really only one character who matters (Perseus), and he’s pretty uninteresting. The others are played by actors with names like Mads Mikkelson, Liam Cunningham, and Nicholas Hoult. Along for guidance is Io (Gemma Arterton), who, like Perseus, is a demigod, and can give support and counsel when it’s needed (i.e., when the movie remembers she’s there).

Also, there’s a pair of brothers who are wacky adventurers looking for thrills, and they are eager to join the heroic quest to stop Hades, and they do approximately 1.5 useful things, and then they chicken out and leave, and you wonder what their names were, or why they were in the movie to begin with.

Meanwhile, there’s a weird skinny guy back in Argos (Jason Flemyng) who believes, quite reasonably, that the best way to prevent their city from being destroyed by the kraken is to just do as Hades requested and sacrifice Andromeda. He actually gets quite a little Hades-worshipping cult going. People always turn to a god during times of trial, especially when the source of the trial is a god threatening to let a monster eat them.

Where’s Zeus in all this? Isn’t he in charge? Yeah, but he kind of lets Hades run things. Zeus is a laissez-faire kind of god. He’s in charge of Hades’ pet kraken, though. Hades may NOT release the kraken unless/until Zeus says so!! If he does he’ll be in sooo much trouble.

Wow, this is stupid. But it’s not even the stupidity that bothers me. It’s the laziness. They wanted to cash in on the fond memories people have of the old “Clash of the Titans,” and so they made a remake that barely resembles it. Tens of millions of dollars in the budget, and the special effects still look cheap. (Medusa is embarrassingly unconvincing.) Gone is the charm of the stop-motion animation. There’s no wit in any of the dialogue. Even the kraken proves anticlimactic — and brother, if you can’t stick the landing when your movie has a damn KRAKEN in it, then you shouldn’t be making movies.

D (1 hr., 58 min.; PG-13, a fair amount of action violence, some scary stuff, nothing too graphic.)