Hello and welcome to Tea ‘n History, with your hostess, Felicia Angel.
Now, I’m a major Greek mythology geek. I got into it when I was in 2nd grade and it’s never really left me. The stories are interesting, the gods are fairly cool and recognizable if you grew up in any of Western Civilization, and some of it is romantic while the rest is…well, you need a flow-chart to figure some of the lineages out.
One of my favorite movies to watch when I was younger was Clash of the Titans, a 1981 movie with creatures done by Ray Harryhausen and fairly good effects. It was one of two that he did with Greek Myths, the other being Jason and the Argonauts, and both being well-received and still having a good fanbase.
So in 2010, when I learned a remake of Clash of the Titans was going to be made, I was happy. The fact that I”m also a Liam Neeson fangirl also helped. Him as Zeus and Aslan? WIN!
Then I saw the movie.
At which point I disowned it.
Then burned it.
Then threw it into the deepest part of the Underworld and hoped it stayed there.
However, having rediscovered my love for all things Harryhausen (and a $5 Walmart bin version of Clash of the Titans -1981), I felt it was my duty to point out the good and bad parts of them…not completely a la the Nostalgia Critic’s “Old vs. New”, but in my own way.
…which mostly includes destroy the new one after…rewatching…it…
This may hurt a bit.
So, first, backstory:
Both films have a (general) idea of the history of Perseus, a demi-god who goes to find Medusa and cut off her head. Reasons for it, in the original, mostly are given as “I don’t have anything to give my mom on her wedding day and the douche who’s marrying her said he wanted it”. With that, and because as the son of Zeus he instantly gets cheat codes, Perseus is given Hades’ helm (a cap of invisibility), a very reflective shield, Hermes’ sandals (fly anywhere) and a sword made out of something that sounds like the metal that went into Wolverine’s claws. He’s told to go find the Graece, sisters of the Gorgons (there is more then one) to find out where they’re hiding, and to kill the only mortal one, Medusa. He does so, and on the way back, spots a princess about to be sacrificed because her mother said something about her being as pretty as goddess of the sea, which pissed off the sea god enough he’s going to cause them problems and demand the daughter, Andromeda, be sacrificed to a sea-monster, Cetus.
As Medusa’s head gives Perseus enough to be in God Cheat Mode, he kills the monster, frees Andromeda, and heads home to free his mother as well. He also, at one point or earlier, learned that he was fathered by Zeus due to his mother being locked into a tower after his grandfather, the king of Argos, found out that if his daughter gave birth, he wasn’t long for this world. So, lock her in a tall tower were only the gods, who are known for changing forms and shapes and randomly seducing/raping/sexing up women, can see her.
Zeus comes down in a beam of golden light and, 9 months later, Perseus is born. At which point the king of Argos shows how much in common with a Bond villain he has by locking Perseus and his mother in a box and dumping it into the ocean.
As the first few paragraphs detailed Perseus and his mother being alive, that worked out really well, didn’t it?
Now, the movies:
Both movies take…liberties…with the original story of Perseus, but that’s to be expected as what I gave you also demands a lot of backstory for some parts, like who certain gods are in relation to Perseus (half-siblings, mostly, or uncles/aunts), Medusa (angry at her for doing another god in their temple), and some of the mythological beasts that appear. However, the 2010 version does it’s best to not only not tell the stories well, but to really mess it up as far as motivations go.
The original Clash of the Titans had Perseus growing up on an idyllic island with his mother, her dying before the film begins, and generally not being messed with until the goddess Thetis, angry at her son’s deformity after he’d done a few too many things to piss off Zeus, sets him down in Jota, the kingdom where her son is currently tormenting his old fiancee, Andromeda. Perseus is given special items by the goddesses Aphrodite, Thetis (she’s not really playing one side or the other, just hoping her son does what he can to redeem himself), Hera, and Athena, which mostly have a magical helmet of invisibility (except for footprints), a sword, and a shield, as well as told where to find Pegasus, the last winged horse, for his steed. He figures out how to free Andromeda from Thetis’ son, then has to defeat the Kraken because…well, Andromeda’s mother is a bit of an idiot and went around saying her daughter was prettier then the patron goddess.
In front of said patron goddess’ statue.
So to save his beloved, Perseus travels to the Stygian witches (evil version of the Graece) and then to near the underworld to defeat Medusa and bring back her head so he can defeat the Kraken. He does so, and the two live happily ever after and are put in the stars.
Yays happy endings!
The remake Clash of the Titans has Perseus growing up doubting who he is because he was found with a dead mother in a box out at sea. His family is somewhat divided on if thanking or cursing the gods is in order for failed harvest of fish, and end up dying when Hades attacks some men for being dicks and throwing down a statue dedicated to Zeus. Hades, still pissed for his lot after helping win the war against the Titans, decides to play both sides by having men start to doubt the gods, as well as having the gods kill the humans. Perseus, as a demi-god, is not easily killed and, with Andromeda’s mother saying something stupid (because it’s her lot in the story, though in this one the father joins in as well), Perseus must head out to kill Medusa and save the kingdom from the evil Kraken…after being beaten up because he has god-blood in him (seriously, what the hell?). Along the way, he is offered up a winged horse, and all the other cool things by his dad, Zeus, but says ‘no’ to them because he is a man and can do it himself.
He also meet Io who has nothing to do with the story but to show how much of a player and a dick Zeus can be while hiding his affairs from a very vengeful wife.
Finally accepting that he’s part god and deserves a winged horse, Perseus rides back and saves both Olympus from Hades’ schemes and Andromeda from being eaten. Then thinks about running off from being a king to find adventures with his love-forever, Io.
You see the problem. The story itself doesn’t really have a ‘bad guy’ but both try to create one: the original created Calibos, Thetis son who is punished and becomes vengeful, but that you feel a bit for (just a tiny, tiny bit) when he speaks to Andromeda’s spirit. Afterwards, his actions are just that of a straight-up villain who wants things his way and the story doesn’t really suffer him being in the story or not, save for the times he makes things go from dull to action.
Hades as the antagonist is…well, seriously, I’ve never seen him as an antagonist. The two movies I’ve known of him as the major antagonist (Disney’s Hercules and this remake) just make him come off as a very one-dimensional and jealous character, as well as not that much of a threat. Kingdom Hearts makes him a better antagonist!
In both movies, Perseus’ lineage becomes important to his ultimate purpose. In the original, it’s because he’s the son of Zeus and getting some special-treatment that Thetis sends him to Jota, and later it’s what earns him a mechanical all-knowing owl, special equipment, and in general added special treatment, but it’s never quite hand-holding either. He’s put in situations where he has to figure things out for himself or have someone with him help figure it out, but he’s ready to ask for help and take what’s given to him, or to do what seems impossible so he can get things done. He’s a bit optimistic but not to the point of being annoying, and in general is also likable. In the remake, Perseus has a good reason for disliking a god, but not all of them, and is obviously not one who wants to get into trouble, despite the fact that his lineage demands it, though the people of Argos are a bit…annoying when it comes to treatment of one person who might be able to save them (believing himself to be a demi-god or not). Perseus’ backstory is also a mix of his and that of Hercules (which makes a better story, I guess, then “Zeus went to sex up a lady in a tower because she was alone and pretty”) along with a continued line of “men challenging the gods and the gods saying ‘really?’”. Io is also given a story that isn’t her own (she didn’t deny the love to a god and become cursed with everlasting life…she went with a god and was turned into a cow to be hidden from a jealous goddess), and in general the only person in this movie that I even like a bit is Andromeda, and only because she at least shows SENSE. Perseus attempting to be Kratos doesn’t quite work, them being all “we can do this for we are men…right up until those particular monsters, then we’re screwed” doesn’t quite work, and Perseus isn’t really a good example for a hero or even someone I’d follow in the story.
The base comparison is: the newer Clash of the Titans isn’t that good of a movie. It attempts to have some parts of the old and show it off, but in general is a worst movie for being the ‘gritty revisit’. 300 and the God of War games have more in common with Greek mythology then this does, and in God of War, you spend most of it killing the gods. The addition of Io as the ‘wise woman’ and love-interest for sake of a triangle doesn’t help, and neither does Perseus’ stigma for being a demi-god to a group of people who just had most of their men killed except that guy and he wasn’t even fighting. If you have someone who’s purpose in life is to actually be able to defeat or become a god, you take their help and don’t torture them. Even Hercules: The Legendary Journey got this right!
Originally I thought it was nostalgia creeping up and telling me that this wasn’t that good of a movie compared to the old one, bathed in the light of childhood and Greek Mythology geekdom, but after rewatching the two, I must say that I know where my annoyance lies. There are good points to the new one – the way they make the Gods, Neeson not seeming to be there and phoning in a few lines like Sir Lawrence Olivier was doing, slightly better special effects (which is probably the worst thing to think of…they’re only slightly better after nearly 30 years? FAIL), but as far as telling the story and having characters that, even with little backstory you care about, the 1981 version is far superior.
So is Percy Jackson and the Olympians. So is God of War…and Hercules: The Legendary Journey.
Because even they didn’t give up winged horses.