Peak Schlock might sound like I’m about to berate this movie for being bad. But I liked this a surprising amount. In spite of it’s issues- many issues- many, many issues. Okay, let’s talk about the issues first before I explain how on earth I enjoyed this.
First of all, this movie moves at a breakneck pace. No sooner does one scene end than the next begins. Much of this film feels like a visualisation of a plot simply going through the motions, making sure to hit every checkbox on the ‘this has to happen for this to classify as a film’ list. In aid of that, all the dialogue is as cliché as possible, making sure to always be vague in such a way that justifies a scene transition just so things keep moving. The performances from just about everyone (except the lovely Mads Mikkelsen) are therefore pretty bad. No one really has a chance to shine when everything is just sort of happening. Everyone is as flat in delivery as everyone else and as boring as everyone else.
But it’s really weird because there’s one scene in the whole movie that is actually really good at humanising the soldiers going on the journey with Perseus. Guys are sitting around a campfire and one is playing a flute. A visibly irritated guy asks for it and then snaps the flute in two. After a second passes, the other guy gets a second flute out of his bag and starts to play it while his friend tries to contain laughter. It’s a sweet and out-of-place, but welcome scene. And then we return to regularly scheduled nonsense. A lot of this film is also generally weaker than the original 1981 movie. The horrifying Medusa fight is now just some generic action set piece, Calibos is really lame and barely even and threat, and one of the new characters is just some immortal lady who knows literally everything they need to do in order to succeed in the quest and Mads Mikkelsen’s character doesn’t trust her for some reason.
But some of this movie is surprisingly miles better than the original. For example, Perseus is actually a character in this movie and not just some guy who has good stuff happen to him at the exact time he needs it to happen. Perseus hates the Gods because his adopted human father did, and then Hades killed his father after assuming he was involved in taring down a statue of Zeus. So when Perseus gets all the same gifts he did in the original movie, in this one he just rejects them and says if he is to succeed in his quest than he shall do so as a man. This decision gets people killed, but it makes sense and is a good source of natural conflict between him and Mads Mikkelsen. It also makes his interactions with Zeus and Hades interesting because he’s not some bootlicker.
There is also no forced romance between him and the princess of Argos which is a great decision. Admittedly, it is replaced by a weirder but slightly less forced romance between him and the immortal lady who knows everything, but it’s okay. Speaking of Argos, the depiction of man losing faith in God is good. It could have used more development when the cult rises to sacrifice the princess to the Kraken, but it achieves its goal relatively well within the short runtime of the film. The final fight there against the Kraken is also infinitely more exciting than the one in the original film and I think the whole Perseus wanting revenge against Hades, who also shows up at the end, actually benefits the tension rather than bloating it.
Perseus in this movie had the potential to be such a great and wonderful protagonist with a lot of neuance… But the plot doesn’t slow down enough to let him develop beyond the surface level. And Sam Worthington gives a very lacklustre performance. Sam Worthington is an odd dude. I don’t think he’s a bad actor… Most of the time. He’s okay in Avatar and I really like his voice acting in Call of Duty Black Ops, but he’s very one note. I think putting a one note actor in a role that was written to have this much inner existential conflict was ultimately the downfall of this movie’s otherwise good incarnation of Perseus. WHen Perseus takes action it all seems to work, but when Sam Worthington and the writers have to explain the motivations behind that action, it normally just comes down to Perseus being angry, screaming and/or swinging his sword.
Ultimately though, this film is just kind of fun. It’s a bunch of buff dudes going from set piece to set piece in really tongue-in-cheek fight scenes to slay monsters in really over-the-top ways. Is it schlock? Yeah. But it’s fun schlock. And what tops it all of is a good theme tune that plays literally when anything happens, which somehow never gets tiring. It really hypes up the action and gets you involved, perfectly matching the over-the-top stuff happening on screen.
Look, this movie isn’t art and, if I’m being as objective as possible, it’s barely even an average movie at best. It’s almost bad. But it’s just fun and dumb enough that you keep watching it and enjoy it for what it is. It’s not exactly a thinking man’s movie, but my brain was active the entire time and I found myself thinking back to it for a while after viewing. So yeah, I think I would strangely recommend Clash of the Titans, Sam Worthington edition.