God and Man at the Movies
Fear not, action purists: Clash of the Titans is a movie with no patience for chit-chat. Befitting a movie about an ancient struggle between god and man, Titans has nothing resembling actual human conversations. Instead, it's jammed with speeches and proclamations, fist-shaking threats, and wannabe high-toned announcements of what is Right and Just and Necessary. And for the for old school action junkies, there's a smattering of what B-movie scholar Joe Bob Briggs called "snappy dialogue"—the meathead quips that Arnold Schwarzenneger specialized in throughout the 1980s.
Sadly, there's nothing so delightfully dumb here as that great moment from Running Man in which Arnie sawed a baddie in half and announced, "Time to split!" (though it wasn't long into Titans' running time before splitting from the theater was exactly what I wanted to do). Neither god nor man comes off very well in this testosterone-fueled romp through ancient lore. Alternately leaden and ridiculous, it's a seriously stupid movie that, rather unfortunately, doesn't take its stupidity very seriously.
Unlike the 1981 monster-mayhem masterpiece it's based on, the movie's camp-quotient is just high enough to make it unbearably schlocky, but not quite high enough for real fun. Like 300 (an obvious inspiration), Titans has a highly inflated sense of self, especially for what is basically an excuse to show a bunch of beefy dudes run around in leather broom skirts hacking the heads off CGI monsters. It's like watching a He-Man cartoon whose creators were convinced they were making Shakespeare. Really, it's a shame to waste so much big-budget dumb, especially with such a promising cast.
g Liam Neeson as Zeus was a stroke of genius—pairing him with Ralph Fiennes as Hades doubly so. Neglecting to use either of them throughout most of the film was not. Despite the fact that both actors look totally ridiculous—Neeson in a suit of glowing armor that simply makes you feel as if you're squinting uncontrollably, Fiennes in a feathery black suit and unkempt locks that make him look like a reject from Battlefield: Earth—the two are easily the best things in the movie. So when Zeus, declaring war on mortals, proclaims that the humans need to "be reminded of the order of things," it's hard not to wish someone had done the same for the filmmakers, who ignore these two majestic acting gods in favor of Hollywood's hottest lunkhead-of-moment, Sam Worthington.
And, well, what is there to say about Sam Worthington, except that he has stubble, and a chin, and…and…Sam Worthington! Here, he plays a demigod—half human, half god, no personality. He's only starred in a handful of movies, but he's already on the verge of overexposure. My recommendation is for him to take some time off and spend it learning from those who know the craft of acting better than he, like, for example, the cast of the WWE.
Worthington's god/man split gives the picture an opportunity to engage in frequent bits of ra-ra (or maybe blah, blah) humanism—man can best the gods, be his own master, determine his own destiny. Naturally, I sympathize. But pitting Worthington against Neeson and Fiennes makes it tough to side with the mortals; if this is the best humanity can do, we may be in trouble.