Should we find ourselves looking back at the original Clash of the Titans through nostalgic, rose-tinted lenses, it pays to remember that Ray Harryhausen's beloved cinematic swan song wasn't an immaculate gift from the gods, but rather a flawed would-be fantasy epic with a few admittedly spectacular components. In short, it was an ideal candidate for a remake, despite the fact that some stubborn Harryhausen diehards might have you believe it would be sacrilege to even try. If we haven't learned that nothing's sacred by this point, we may as well just bury our heads in the warm beach sands until the inevitable Jaws remake swims up to bite us on the backside.
Of course, the problems with the original film had little to do with Harryhausen's outdated yet stunning stop-motion animation, but sometimes it's difficult to separate the elements in order to pinpoint the problems. Enter Transporter 2 and Incredible Hulk director Louis Leterrier. No stranger to special-effects-driven spectacles, despite his relative inexperience (original Clash director Desmond Davis had been working behind the camera for roughly 30 years before unleashing the Kraken), Leterrier generously ladles on the computer-generated imagery in order to fully immerse us in a land of fantasy and wonder. Much like the original film, Leterrier's Clash does have its fair share of problems (not the least of which is a leading man with all the charisma of one of Medusa's stone conquests), but the fact remains that it doesn't aim to be anything more than a massive fantasy thrill-ride, and in that respect it succeeds quite admirably.
Discovered at sea as an infant by a weary fisherman, demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) grows up with no real knowledge of his celestial origins until his watchful guardian, Io (Gemma Arterton), informs him that he is the offspring of Zeus (Liam Neeson). When Zeus' brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) casually wipes out Perseus' family, the grieving son vows to show the gods just what kind of damage humankind can inflict on its creators. Before long, Perseus and a small group of soldiers are venturing out into the desert in order to find a way to stop the Kraken, a terrifying force of nature that an indignant Hades has vowed to unleash upon man should they fail to offer up beloved princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) as a sacrifice. Along the way, the soldiers encounter a trio of frightening witches with second sight, contend with Hades' devoted servant Calibos (Jason Flemyng), battle giant scorpions, and come face to face with Medusa (Natalia Vodianova), the dreaded gorgon whose gaze has the power to turn men into stone.
How much you enjoy Clash of the Titans can be directly correlated to what you expect from it...
Do you want an educated, accurate retelling of the Greek mythos?
You're gonna hate it.
Do you want a serious-minded epic that would do for the fantasy film what The Godfather did for gangster flicks?
Do you want a slavish retread of the troublesome original?
Brace yourself for disappointment.
Do you want a fast-moving fantasy adventure that never takes itself too seriously and has an enormous, tentacled turtle monster that trashes a city?
This is your movie.
It's not so much a matter of lowering your expectations to enjoy this remake as it is allowing yourself to simply enjoy it instead of constantly looking for ways to cut it down, or letting your childhood love of the original cloud your judgment. Those willing to take that approach may find that Leterrier and company have done a commendable job of jettisoning the less exciting aspects of the original and expanding on the things that captured our imaginations so much in the first place: a giant scorpion attack is both furious and fun, Medusa is just as creepy (and quite a bit more dexterous) than her stop-motion counterpart, the Titans' chambers are a sight to behold, and the dreaded Kraken -- while not nearly as cool as Harryhausen's design -- is a Lovecraftian nightmare of truly terrifying proportions. And while the 3D in the film most certainly feels like the afterthought that it is, if you're capable of checking your baggage at the ticket booth, you may just find yourself walking out of the theater with a smile on your face.