Friday, April 9, 2010

Clash of the Plot Holes

This scathing movie review is a cross-post from my non-gaming blog. The movie is so stinky, I felt compelled to place the review here as well to maximize exposure.

If Peter Jackson had attention-deficit disorder, and was doing a lot of meth while making the Lord of the Rings films, we now know what the results would have been like. They would have been just like the new remake of Clash of the Titans.

It's kinda pretty at times, but that's the most I can say for it. It's not so much exciting as it is spastic. Within this film, things happen for arbitrary and senseless reasons, and they do so as quickly as possible. Most of the fight scenes are the action-movie equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting. It may be pretty, and it sure has a lot going on - but what looks from a distance to be detail, on closer examination turns out to just be random splatters without meaning.

"Let's put Treebeard in the desert! Then we'll have him ride around on the back of one of those giant elephants. When he gets off the elephant, he'll do some kung-fu, then we'll wrap a giant snake around him, and then he'll explode!" It's like that, except the giant elephant has been replaced by a Scorpion of variable size, and Treebeard is wearing Iron Man's neon-blue heart implant. Don't ask me why, none of it made any sense. I still can't figure out why the freaking Ents were even in Clash of the Titans. They're not in the 1980's version, and they're not in Greek myth either, and their inclusion is completely random - but the same thing can be said about almost every element of this movie.

The film is really shallow, too, and it features characters we neither care about, nor believe in. At no point during the film did I want Perseus to succeed at his stated goal, but neither did I particularly want him to fail. Most of the time, I just didn't care. It's not like he was fighting against a villain. The film pointedly has no villains. I mean, there's Calibos, he seems pretty bad, but when you think about it, he's just angry because Zeus raped his wife and Hades took advantage of him. His actions are deplorable, but his motivations are basically the same as the Hero - he's rebelling against that bastard Zeus. But Zeus isn't the bad guy either, as the film ham-handedly reminds us during its hard-to-swallow happy ending. So that must mean Hades is the villain, except the film points out to us again and again that Hades is only so bitter and manipulative because Zeus tricked and betrayed him.

I'm a big fan of "shades of gray"-style moral ambiguity in a film, but in the Clash remake, this is done really sloppily and never fully explored. We're never torn over what is the right thing to do, and neither are any of the characters. Instead, we're just given mixed messages about who really is the monster, and then quickly distracted from contemplating any of it by yet another incomprehensible action sequence. Hey look - a harpy! WTF?

In this film, the main character, Perseus, has 3 fathers:
  • There's the mortal fisherman who raised him as his own. Shortly before he dies, he tells Perseus that what he really wants his son to do is to stand against the Gods, and change the world so that mankind will no longer be enslaved by Olympus. Perseus starts off to fulfill his father's last wish, and then kind of abandons that goal without ever saying why.
  • There's Zeus, king of the Gods, who raped Perseus's mother, and then abandoned the resulting child. But he's not the bad guy, we are told again and again. After 20 years of being a dead-beat dad, he's now trying to make up for it. His wish is for Perseus to take his rightful place in Olympus, but Perseus declines that opportunity both times it's offered to him.
  • His third father is the asshole who killed his mother and tried drowning him as a child. Later, he turns into a real (as opposed to just figurative) monster, and tries to slay the adult Perseus. Obviously, that won't do, so he's killed by his step-son Perseus. His dying wish is, strangely enough, for Perseus to not become a God, and stay away from Olympus. It's delivered very oddly, practically "I know I've been trying to kill you, but it's for your own good. Please don't become a God, because that'd be really bad for you, and I'm worried about your future and the fate of humanity." It's a really lame attempt at a Darth Vader redemption, made all the weaker by the fact that the director doesn't feel compelled to give it more than 3 seconds of screen time.
So, of course, the mutated, mother-killing, trailer-trash monster of a father gets his dying wish fulfilled by Perseus. The film tries hard not to draw attention to this fact, though, and instead just sweeps it under the rug. It's like they're playing thesis-statement roulette, with a new winner every five minutes.

The worst part of the film, however, is the hackneyed attempt at foreshadowing that then gets abandoned and forgotten at the end, ret-conning itself into a red herring. I'm talking about the warning of the Stygian Witches. They go to see the witches, these three inhuman blind seers of great wisdom and insight. On the way there, Io (Perseus's shallow and unbelievable love interest) spends several minutes ominously warning Perseus not to ask any more questions of the witches beyond the obvious "how to kill the Kraken" question. She says he won't like the answer he gets, and it's really played up as a big deal, like there's something nasty in his destiny.

Sure enough, the witches drop a doozy on him. They prophecy that he's going to die while fighting the Kraken. The music swells dramatically, and Io says something like "Oh, Perseus! I told you not to ask them anything else! This is so tragic!"

Then the end of the movie rolls around, and he doesn't die. In fact, he's never even wounded, and you don't feel he's actually in a lot of peril. Apparently, the all-knowing magically gifted witches were just screwin' with him, not actually foretelling the future. Despite the prophesy scene having be played up like it was a really important plot point, there's no mention of it at the end of the film, it too is just swept under the rug.

Now, it's possible that the film is just being unexpectedly subtle at the end. I doubt it, because everything has been in-your-face and beat-over-your-head before that point, but there's a remote chance it was actually a clever ending that was just so subtle it failed. Because, frankly, the last 5 minutes of the film would make a lot more sense if it were actually a far-subtler version of the end of Brazil (or the recent movie Repo-Men). Here's what I mean:

Maybe, just maybe, the Kraken actually kills Perseus. At the very end, he dives into the water in a harbor to save some girl that's almost certainly dead. After expressing her willingness to be a human sacrifice, she's fallen hundreds of feet into the water, and 80 tons of rock is falling on her. The harbor is between two steep cliffs, with a city built into them. The scenery and location were a prominent part of the scene.

He and the girl are next seen on a flat and featureless beach, and rescue ships are on the horizon coming to take the girl home. Maybe Perseus rescued her, swam several miles away to some nearby island, and somehow signaled the survivors in the devastated city that they needed a rescue. That seems to be what the film is saying. But I suppose it's also possible that he and the girl both died, and the featureless beach is Elysium / Heaven / etc. If that's what the movie was trying to convey, it did a piss poor job of saying it, but I can't completely rule it out. At least it would have made a lot more sense than the happy ending they seem to be trying to shove down our throats.

I could go on like this for a few pages more, there's just so much wrong with film. Io's supposed backstory didn't match her on-screen powers. Hades make-up was inconsistent and laughable. The CGI critters kept changing size relative to humans. The Kraken came from Cloverfield. Etc.

I suppose maybe I should have put some spoiler warnings at the top of this post... but I think if I just "ruined" the movie for you, I was probably doing you a favor.

1 comment:

pangloss said...

the best thing for me was how the Greeks all had Irish, Yorkshire and Australian accents