Clash of the Titans [2010]

The are two points of discussion regarding this movie; the movie itself and the legend upon which it is based. The former bears little relationship to the latter, but that is not so say it is a bad movie. Far from it. It is great fun and a wonderful way to waste a couple of hours on an otherwise boring day.

The hero of the piece is the demi-god Perseus [Sam Worthington], son of Zeus and Danaë. According to the legend, Danaë was the wife of the King of Argos. The King heard an oracle saying that the son of Danaë would grow up to kill him, so he locked his wife up to prevent her getting pregnant. Zeus managed to get at her anyway and the King then cast her and the baby Perseus into the sea in a chest. The baby was picked up by a fisherman from one of the Greek islands and raised as his own.

Thus far so good; the movie and the legend tally. Then they begin to separate. In the legend Perseus, fully grown, is invited by the local King to a feast to which he must bring a horse as a gift. Perseus has no horse [as the King well knows – he wants to get rid of Perseus], so asks if there is something else he can bring. The King asked him to bring the head of the Gorgon, Medusa, whose slightest glance turns men to stone.

The hero agrees but first he must find her. He seeks out the Graeae, the three weird sisters who have only one eye and one tooth between them, who know where she is. They refuse to tell him the whereabouts of Medusa, but he steals their eye and refuses to give it back until they tell him. They lead him to the Hesperides, the groves of Hera, where he gives them back their eye. He learns the whereabouts of the Gorgons and is given further assistance to help him on his way; Hermes lends him his winged sandals so that he can get there in time, Hades lends him his invisibility helmet, Athene lends him her shiny bronze shield so he can see what he is doing without looking directly at her, and he also gets a special bag to wrap the head in. Perseus finds the sleeping Medusa and beheads her. He then heads back to the feast.

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, Queen Cassiopeia has angered Poseidon by saying that she is more beautiful than the Nereids, the daughters of Nereus. In revenge he sends a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage the shores. The only way to stop the attacks is to sacrifice the Queen’s daughter, Andromeda, to the monster. Accordingly the Princess is tied naked to a rock on the seashore [why naked, I am not sure – perhaps garments catch in the monster’s teeth, which would only enrage it further] and left to her fate. Perseus arrives in the nick of time, turns the monster into stone with the help of Medusa’s head, and frees Andromeda. He carries her back to the Greek mainland where they are married and Perseus becomes King of Mycenae. They have many children who form the Perseid dynasty, and live happily ever after.

Now to the film. The problem is that men are in rebellion against the Gods, something that never happened in Greek legend. Men disobeyed the Gods, and individuals challenged them, but men as a group never rebelled against the gods. But the movie charges on. Perseus’ foster-parents are killed by Hades [Ralph Fiennes], brother of Zeus [a rather wimpy Liam Neeson] and Lord of the Underworld. The hero seeks revenge – unlike his legendary counterpart, however, he wants nothing to do with the Gods for fear that he might become like them. He travels to Argos, where Cassiopeia [the gorgeous Polly Walker of ‘Rome’ fame] is said to be more beautiful than a goddess. Hades strikes her down and demands that the people sacrifice Andromeda [Alexa Davalos] to the Kraken [which has nothing to do with Greek legend – it is a monster of the northern seas whose tales began to emerge in the Norwegian middle ages].

Perseus sets off to find the head of Medusa, which will destroy the monster, in the company of a group of heroes which includes Io [Gemma Arterton], a Priestess of Hera whom Zeus once lusted after and whom he turned into a heifer [this has nothing whatsoever to do with the legend of Perseus]. On the way they meet the old King, the husband of Danaë, who has become an agent of Hades and has been ordered to destroy Perseus. The old king is maimed and he bleeds into the sand [we are no longer in Greece, but in a desert]. The blood becomes monstrous scorpions, which pursue Perseus and his companions, who are in danger of complete destruction until they are saved by a band of Djinn [Arabian demons out of the Arabian Nights and nothing to do with Greece]. Perseus and his companions plus the Djinn travel through the deserts, riding on giant scorpions [who the Djinn have managed to tame and on whose backs they have built comfortable little howdahs]. The arrive at a barren place, full of deep, fiery holes; the lair of Medusa. She is subdued and beheaded.

Perseus is the only survivor. Time is running out so he hitches a ride on Pegasus, the winged horse, which flies him back to Argos. Pegasus, by the way, has nothing to do with the legend of Perseus [Hermes lent Perseus his winged sandals, remember?]. He was the steed of the hero Bellerophon who rode him to slay the Chimera, the fire-breathing monster of Lycia, a story that later evolved, in a Christian world, into the story of St George and the Dragon. But I digress.

Perseus arrives in the nick of time. Andromeda has been tied to a wooden frame [not to a rock, nor, unfortunately, naked], and the monster is ravaging the town. Perseus saves the day, destroying the monster and rescuing the fair Princess. She offers herself to him but he, the plonker, spurns the gorgeous Andromeda and the promise of wealth and power, saying he wants to be an ordinary man and return to life as a fisherman. He returns to the seashore, where Zeus appears and restores Io to life so that they can live happily ever after in a hut by the seaside.

The Clash of the Titans is a good, fun movie, a bubblegum epic that is well worth the entry fee. The effects are amazing, although at the expense of dialogue and characterisation. But, hey, who needs character development or plot cohesion when you can have monster scorpions, or a medieval Norwegian sea-monster destroying an ancient Greek town? I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and would not hesitate to recommend it anyone with an intellectual age of fifteen or less.

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