Director: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelson, Pete Postlethwaite, Jason Flemyng, Danny Huston
Score: 4 / 10
This review by me.
The original is one of those films that I enjoyed as a kid. Harryhausen stuff is always great. True the film hasn’t aged that well, but it still has a charm to it and some cracking actors involved (Laurence Olivier, Maggie Smith). I even liked Bubo the mechanical owl. He had a purpose and he certainly helped kids through the darker pieces of the film. The Medusa in the original was ugly and scary and those scenes had a suspenseful quality that still gets you today.
What about the remake then? As we know it was shot in 2D, but the success of Avatar meant they converted it to 3D. I had heard bad things about the 3D version so wanted to see it in 2D as did my son. However, it was only showing in 3D and I can really see what they mean. 2D conversion to 3D is bad. Just doesn’t work in places. When the human actors are talking to each other it often felt as if they were standing in front of a copy of themselves or they were made of two layers. The CG creatures looked better, but this is to be expected as they can just tell the computer to remodel them for 3D. However, lots of the quick editing and camera movements just mean the 3D is blurry and hard to watch.
My son, who enjoyed the film, thought the 3D was very poor.
The film itself was a crushing disappointment. Where to begin? The original had a bigger feel to it. You see a few cities and they feel populated by lots of people and it was a living breathing world. The new version just doesn’t give that feel. It all seems too small and you just don’t feel as if that many people are affected by the Gods having a go at them in order to increase prayer power to fuel their immortality. That is the motivation for the Gods and sounds like a poorly thought out video game, which is the general feel of the film.
Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as Zeus and Hades are good in what little screen time they get. Mind you Fiennes has a voice which is a mix of Voldermort and Christian Bale’s Batman. Mt Olympus looks very cool. The map of the world in the throne room is excellent, but you just don’t see enough of it.
Sam Worthington plays Perseus (son of Zeus) who is found as a child by Pete Postlethwaite and raised as a fisherman. Some soldiers knock down a statue of Zeus. Hades turns up. Kills the soldiers. Sees Perseus and his adopted family on a boat. Sinks boat. Family die. Perseus screams “No” and revenge is pursued. That’s all done as quick as it sounds and it just doesn’t work. You don’t get any feel for what kind of man Perseus is. In the original you dig that Harry Hamlin is a bit of a dreamer. Then he is transported by the Gods and adventure begins. He had a sense of wonder at seeing the new places and amazing creatures. It took its time and that worked for the better.
That is one of the other main problems with the remake to the original. Revenge now takes the place of love. In the original Perseus sees Andromeda and falls in love. When she is to be sacrificed to the Kraken, Perseus has a reason to go on his quest and you are invested in the tale. The remake has Perseus acting out of revenge. He wants to kill the Hydra as that will weaken Hades meaning Perseus can kill him. Saving Andromeda is just a side effect of Perseus’ revenge. He doesn’t care what happens to her and that, ladies and gentlemen, means we are don’t care what happens.
Because of this Worthington doesn’t really have much of a character to work with. I don’t think we have yet seen the acting abilities that casting people have obviously seen for him to get all of these big blockbuster parts. All we get about Perseus is that he wants revenge on the Gods and will do that as a man, meaning he continually refuses the help that Zeus keeps throwing his way. Therefore, the soldiers that accompany him keep getting killed when he could have saved them, but won’t due to his pride. In all honesty I have no idea why the soldiers didn’t just kill him.
It is the soldiers led by Mads Mikkelson who are the best part of the film. They actually have some character to them even if they are stock characters you have seen in a hundred war movies. Yet they all get killed one by one in pointless battles that could have been avoided if they had used their heads. The worst example is when Calibos (Jason Flemyng) attacks Perseus and the soldiers jump in. Calibos outclasses them all and they get battered, until a lucky strike makes Calibos run off dripping scorpion growing blood. Instead of letting him go and sorting out injuries the squad leader defers to Perseus’s idea to go and find out who Calibos was. This means they run into battle with someone they know is more powerful with them. Add a load of giant scorpions and death happens. Just pointless deaths and lazy story telling to get monsters on screen and to kill of characters to give Perseus more reason for revenge even though he doesn’t seem to care about any of them.
These scenes also introduce us to the Djinn, one of whom joins the team. The Djinn are the wooden faced people with the blue eyes you will have seen in the photos and trailer. They could have been a cool, mysterious kind of creature, but another wasted opportunity. They join the crew after a bit of a tussle and that is basically it.
When they get to Medusa you think it may pick up, but they wander through another bit of worn out landscape that should give you an epic feeling, but instead makes you feel that you are watching a bunch of actors in costume.
Then they go see Medusa and instead of suspense and scares, you get a CG beastie with a pretty face zipping around the place with no tension.
Just so many missed opportunities. Bubo does get a cameo, yet it is a pointless little thing that gives you the feeling they were laughing at the original movie as a whole. Gemma Arterton’s character of Io is there to take the place of Bubo and also the love interest for Perseus when that should have been Andromeda. The only reason for Io’s inclusion and Perseus not to marry Andromeda and become king is so they can have a sequel or two.
Like many blockbuster films this gave the impression that there was a good film in there, but all of that had been edited out at the expense of character and story. Danny Huston was Posiedon, but it is a blink and you’ll miss it performance. There must have been more of him filmed along with more scenes on Olympus. More scenes of Perseus growing up. More scenes to give a sense of scope to the world this was all taking place in, scenes to build character – the monster hunters and the Djinn could have done with more screen time. You basically spend the whole movie waiting for them to release the Kraken and that ends up like a video game cut scene.
After this I am not sure if Leterrier is a good director who is constantly short-changed by the studios (there was hassle from them on The Incredible Hulk) or if he just doesn’t have a handle on the quieter parts of a film that all big blockbusters need to make the blocks more bustery.
I could go on and say how frustrating it was to have Pegasus just turn up, instead of Perseus having to tame him. Instead I will bring it to a close.
Mads Mikkelson should have been Perseus.
CHUD list all the scenes cut that would have made the film so much better.