CLASH OF THE TITANS
THE first action blockbuster of the Spring is no classic, but as forgettable, brain-dead holiday entertainment it just about gets the job done. Starring man-of-the-moment Sam Worthington (Avatar, Terminator Salvation) as Greek demi-god Perseus, it’s a remake of the 1981 film that was chiefly notable for its stop-motion animated monsters. They seemed cutting edge at the time, but look desperately creaky now. By contrast, the CGI effects of the new version already look a bit awkward and behind the curve, even when given a pointless 3-D sheen.
Like the original, the film plays fast and loose with Greek mythology, ultimately pitting the heroic Perseus against the Kraken, a sea-monster of Nordic legend. And I’m not sure where any Titans actually come into it, but no matter – myths are there to be played with. Having been raised by a fisherman who found him as a baby, Perseus – who happens to be the abandoned son of Zeus and the former queen of the city of Argos – turns out to be the only person who can save that same city after its rulers displease the gods.
Hades (Ralph Fiennes) convinces Zeus (Liam Neeson) to allow him to unleash the Kraken on the humans to teach them the errors of their ungodly ways. Luckily they’re given 10 days to do something about it, just time for Perseus to go on a Lord of the Rings-style quest to defeat Medusa – she of the serpent hair and eyes that turn people to stone – so that he can bring back her head to slay the monster.
What’s really disappointing is how humourless the film is, despite its overarching campness. But I suppose inserting a bit of wit would have meant paying the script any attention at all, and clearly the filmmakers’ minds were elsewhere – the dialogue is so clunky it would embarrass a kids’ TV version.
But once Perseus heads off to fight bus-sized scorpions, a deformed former king turned super-powered assassin, strange witches and Medusa herself, things kick along efficiently. Gemma Arterton shimmers as the ageless fellow demi-god Io watching over Perseus, and Neeson just about keeps a straight face in a gleaming suit of armour and enormous beard.
DIRECTED by Guy Ritchie’s mate Matthew Vaughn (who is married to Claudia Schiffer), and co-written by Jonathan Ross’s wife Jane Goodman, this has the feeling of a not-very-good film-school project, just with the sort of vast budget that connections can get you.
The story is that a nerd named Dave who loves comic books decides to become a super-hero called Kick Ass, donning a green and yellow wetsuit. He achieves fame when a fight between him and three violent criminals is posted on the internet.
He then gets tangled up with two other “real-life superheroes”, gun-nut Nicolas Cage – with a moustache last seen in Raising Arizona and a batman costume – and his ultra-violent 12-year-old daughter, who is a bit like a human Sonic the Hedgehog. Cage has a beef with a drug-dealing mafia boss and wants revenge.
This is a superhero film for people who find superhero films too intellectually taxing. The Spiderman, Batman and X-Men franchises at least try to engage the grey cells. Kick Ass is studiously vacuous.
The dialogue is eye-rollingly clichéd – despite what the makers think, irony doesn’t redeem badness. Worse, the film worships violence in a disturbing way. Scores of people are executed without anybody batting an eyelid. One man is microwaved to death, another put in a car-crusher. Both scenes are totally unnecessary to the plot – they are just meant to be funny.
The makers obviously think that watching people getting machine-gunned to death while Elvis sings Glory Glory Hallelujah is cool, but it is just glib and tiresome. Also, the scene where a little girl is repeatedly kicked in the head by a burly middle-aged gangster is unsettling, and not in a good way.
Near the end the hooded heroes are tied to chairs and tortured, something which is broadcast on a live internet feed in way that is reminiscent of grisly executions staged by unhinged Islamic militants. This is also meant to be cool or funny, but is almost unthinkable tasteless. This is an ineptly-written, unambitious and deeply unpleasant film.
There are some nice shots of New York, though.