Clash of the Titans (2010) Review

Clash of the Titans was meant for 3D, despite the shoddy addition late in the film’s life. Why else would the film spend so much time with Zeus, in eagle form, spiraling into the god’s temple from above? Why else would the coin used to bribe the ferryman on the River Styx shameless skip across the water resulting in a painfully obvious computer generated splash?

Everything seems wrong with this remake/update, pandering to the lowest common denominator who must have excessive realism in their films, and any ounce of fantasy seems purely out of the realm of acceptability. The simply awful score by Ramin Djawadi is just one element that ignores the mythological aspects, gunning for a harder edge to match the nauseating and impossible to follow action of the giant scorpion fight. Musically the film lacks any majestic qualities, or sense of scale.

Everything fights in this movie, whether it makes sense or not. Calibos (Jason Flemyng), here with some admittedly impressive make-up, fights Perseus (Sam Worthington) twice, the second the only time the battle means anything. The three blind witches are added into the script for another scene, as if blind witches with a single eye are any threat. A fight with the newcomer race Djinn is utterly pointless, an attempt to show uneasiness amongst Perseus’ crew, but just makes you shake your head and wonder why any of this is necessary.

Clash is overdone and bloated, the hilarious Kraken release amongst the most painful. Zeus (Liam Neeson) sends all of the other gods away except for Hades (Ralph Fiennes), walks up a small set of stairs, and bellows, “Release the Kraken!” Why did he summon the other gods away? Why did he need to walk up the steps? It looks good in the trailer.

Side characters, including all of those traveling with Perseus, are pathetically underdeveloped fodder for the various mythological creations. Intelligence is not their strong suit either, one of the nameless journeyman actually asking a scorpion to wait before it snatches him up with its claws. The scorpion probably doesn’t respond well to negotiation.

The film is too fast, too bold, and too exaggerated to be any fun. It’s hard and edgy, ugly without a purpose. All of the millions tossed on screen are worthless when the creations have no heart. They are mindless and too fleet-footed to be terrifying. Medusa doesn’t stalk anymore; she slithers at a ridiculous speed to engage in a frenzied chase because it keeps the camera moving. And why is Pegasus a deep black shade now? Was everyone involved so devoid of creativity that changing a pure white flying horse to resemble something from Hades’ dark confines of the underworld the only thing they could come up with?

Clash is even disrespectful, tossing aside the metallic owl Bubo from the original with the line, “Just leave it!” It’s as if no one had any respect for what came before, Bubo’s legitimate annoyances or not treated as a one-off joke. It remains a Ray Harryhausen creation, and to toss it aside is committing film blasphemy.

Movie ★★☆☆☆ 

Kraken attacks

Clash is another victim of a low bitrate Warner VC-1 encode, crammed onto the disc with obvious results. Ignoring all of the generally soft opening CG effects and their desperate attempt to offer something special for the audience (that is paying more than they should for the effect), the live action opens nicely. Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite) pulls an infant Perseus from his casket, revealing fine delineation on cloth, plus dimensionality from the bright contrast and adequate black levels. This doesn’t last long.

Around 15:30, things start becoming worrisome, the King’s armor showing some aliasing and shimmering, an increasingly common problem with Warner’s encodes. Facial detail dips here with the exception of extreme close-ups, the mid-range robbed of high fidelity detail, generally the case for much of this transfer. This was shot entirely on film, although at times you could never tell, undoubtedly the digital manipulation to blend effects and live action part of that, but the encode partially at fault as well.

Even the best close-ups appear slightly digital and a hair sharpened. The more complex environments, including the forest scenes at 32:30, struggle to recreate the full breadth of the detail. A mountain pan as the giant scorpions continue the crew on their quest at 54:41 is noisy and slightly littered with visible artifacting. It should be noted all of the scenes in the god’s chamber carry a hefty intentional bloom effect, but also significant smoothing, wiping all detail from the faces in a digital manner. At least in these scenes, the intent is obvious.

The transfer does many things well. As stated before, close-ups do generally reveal a fine level of definition, even if it’s not as precise or as resolved as other discs. Special effects generate some fantastic “wow” moments, including the scaly Medusa with noticeable texture and even facial detail. As the Kraken sprouts out of the water, every droplet seems visible and defined. It is a visually stunning sequence, and it remains so here.

Black levels unfortunately remain wildly inconsistent throughout, at times delivering the vibrant images expected of the format, and others it becomes so washed out as to be flat and murky. Color varies wildly, scene dependent for sure. The hot lava surrounding Medusa’s lair is rich and vibrant, while the stale browns during the desert scorpion attack are replicated well. Flesh tones are fine, at times pale to suit the mood.

Video ★★★☆☆ 

A fairly bombastic DTS-HD mix gets off to a rousing start at 7:40 as a statue of Zeus falls into the ocean below, generating a wonderful, deep jolt in the low-end. Immediately following, Hades makes an appearance, transforming into a series of unidentified creatures who swoop around the sound field to attack some soldiers. The level of immersion generated by the pan effects is superb, and occurs again during the finale as Hades does the same thing, only this time with the Kraken behind it all.

That final sequence is undoubtedly the reference piece, beginning right when the creature is summoned and bursts out of the water with tremendous force. The subwoofer is shredded as the tentacles smash down onto the city, and the water displaced by all of this movement is spectacularly handled. Amongst all of this, the well-rendered dialogue remains audible.

The scorpion assault is actually a bit of a disappointment, but this has more to do with the ridiculous level of editing and floaty camerwork. Audio seems jumbled and tossed all over the place, undoubtedly accurate yet it’s impossible to judge because of the amount of quick cuts. Medusa fares better, her slithering, shaking tail a nice highlight as it passes through multiple channels, side to side and front to back. Placement is aggressive yet not overdone.

Audio ★★★★★ 

Maximum Movie Mode returns with this spectacular picture-in-picture feature, detailing everything about the production while adding about 16-minutes to the film as you watch. While it at times slips into self-congratulatory fluff, this is genuinely honest and insightful material for the majority. Focus Points branch off of that feature, offering 35-minutes of content snipped from MMM.

A featurette on Sam Worthington is easily skippable drivel, followed by an alternate ending that makes far more sense than the neat ‘n tidy wrap-up included originally. Eighteen minutes of deleted scenes and Warner’s usual BD-Live support remain.

Extras ★★★☆☆