Dear Clash of the Titans,
What is it about your stories that seem so different but indeed are very much the same? Does it have to do with the two different eras of filmmaking? Perhaps. After all, this story represented one of the final hoorays for legendary stop motion effects magician Ray Harryhausen. Does that put him and his story at a disadvantage to the modern version and CGI wizardry? I think not. For what one lacks in visual fireworks it more than makes up for in story and plot. I am struck by the differences in what is in essence, the same story.
As your stories unfold it dawns on me what my first impression is, and it’s the feel of the plot flow. It all begins with the expulsion of Danea and Perseus by a betrayed king and it quickly diverges from there. Where the original story thrusts a grown and adventurous Perseus on the world, the modern version kills his whole family and thrusts a vengeful, hate filled man into the story. This set of facts colors everything that follows in both versions. The difference in tone is distinctive. Where the original feels more like a quest and adventure, the remake feels like a vendetta, a quest for revenge.
I wonder at this in retrospect, and try to fathom the path the modern film took. But let me digress. The original, seen many times and now revisited, has an undeniable sense of storytelling that aligns very well with the style of mythological tales. What that entails is a familiar sense of quest and risk and reward that is as old as storytelling. The modern version doesn’t have that. Where the tales of old had moral judgments to rightfully dispense, the modern film glazes over those conventions. Sentiments such as love and duty seem to be largely absent in the modern version and I consider it a shame.
When dealing with mythology you rightfully expect happy endings and a bit of predictably and in the case of the original film the story doesn’t disappoint. Does the modern version follow any of these precepts? I dare say nary a one. Is the objective the same? No he isn’t out to save a princess as his motivation; he is out for revenge on the god Hades for inadvertently killing his family. Let’s just call him the accidental demigod. Shortly, as he is on his way and accompanied by city soldiers that seem more like reluctant mercenaries, we find out how thickheaded and obstinate he truly is. As we stumble through the progression to his goal we meet gods that come off as petty and get introduced to a hovering demigod Io that nurtures a soft spot for Perseus that hardly shows up until near the end.
The mythos really gets lost in the mayhem and when the modern Perseus reaches his goal there is no real resolution as Hades gets a bloody nose and Perseus receives Io as a reward from Zeus as a life partner almost like an afterthought. Everything seems almost perfunctory. It’s a shame too, as the action and visuals in the modern version are far superior in many ways. Though there is more heart in some of the effects from the original. The latest version was almost flexing special effects muscles just for the sake of doing so. Lastly, I still have to heap accolades on the portrayal of the Kraken in the modern version as it truly seems to a real
Titan compared to the original!
In the end it’s all a shame as the original story could of used the canvas capability of modern effects and the modern version could have used the heart and classic story telling of the original. If the modern film could have struck a balance like that, then this would have done for Clash of the Titans what Peter Jackson did for the original vision of King Kong. Of course that is its own letter for another time.
With fondness for my old friend,