Clash of the Titans (2010) (PG-13) ★★

Review Date: January 6th, 2011

Louis Leterrier's remake of Clash of the Titans, the 1981 cult favorite that fused Greek mythology with sci-fi theatrics, is a grand experiment in the ancient art of alchemy, a big-budget attempt to spin fanboy nostalgia for a 30-year-old novelty into contemporary box-office gold. The main ingredients in this ambitious concoction are a potent arsenal of CGI weaponry and the star of the biggest movie ever, Sam Worthington, who inherits Harry Hamlin's role as the heroic Perseus. But it's what's missing from the formula that ultimately dooms this remake.

Clash of the Titans redux mimics the original film's epic ethos and preference for spectacle over all else, but its storyline differs dramatically. Perseus is still the half-breed product of a one-night stand between the god Zeus and a human hottie, and he still must to defeat the monstrous Kraken in order to save the lovely Princess Andromeda. Almost everything in between, however, has been altered — and not necessarily for the better.

The new version casts the Greek city of Argos as the primary battleground in a proxy war fought by dueling Olympian superpowers Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes). Born of a god but raised by and partial to humans, Worthington's Perseus battles not for the hand of Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) — as Hamlin's character did — but instead for the people of Argos, who stand to perish along with their princess at the hands of the dreaded Kraken. The film's love story, if it can be called that, consists of the briefest of flirtations between Perseus and Io (Gemma Arterton), his self-appointed spiritual guide. (Cursed with immortality by the gods, Io's been secretly watching him all his life — which ostensibly makes her a glorified stalker.)

This detail is a small but crucial one. Strong-willed Perseus braves an obstacle course of giant scorpions, gorgons, and other horrors laid out for him by the wheezy fiend Hades, but it's never quite clear why he bothers with it all, since what's at stake is a princess he isn't particularly interested in and a community of people he doesn't really know — and who, frankly, don't seem all that worth saving. His deadbeat dad up on Mount Olympus certainly isn't worth dying for, nor are the battlefield compatriots he met barely a week prior. And while I'm sure that a few inviting glances from Gemma Arterton are positively delightful, I wouldn't risk being doused in flesh-eating scorpion venom for them.

This narrative oversight triggers a drain in enthusiasm that persists throughout the film. For a movie so epic in scale, Clash of the Titans makes for a disappointingly bland ride. Leterrier's CGI set pieces are at times magnificent, but they're proffered in the service of weak story filled with characters whose motivations are either unclear or unconvincing. During the film's climax, when Neeson's Zeus utters the portentous words "Release the Kraken," what should be an emotional high point instead feels perfunctory and anticlimactic. The only excitement it spawns comes from the knowledge that the end is mercifully imminent. rated this film 2 stars.