Despite its nostalgic appeal to a certain generation raised on its endless cable-TV airings, the original 1981 Clash of the Titans is not a very good movie. It has a haphazard story, a vacuous lead actor in Harry Hamlin, stilted dialogue, cheesy set and costume design and an embarrassingly hammy late-career performance by Laurence Olivier. The one thing that the original Titans does have going for it is the final appearance of special-effects legend Ray Harryhausen’s trademark stop-motion effects, which admittedly look dated but still have a rickety, personalized charm.
The new blockbuster Titans remake, directed by Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk), takes advantage of its huge budget and advances in effects technology to build a better Kraken (the climactic sea monster in the original sort of looked like a giant Creature From the Black Lagoon), but in the process gives up any bit of personality the story might have. Leterrier’s version is loud, busy and intense, and it’s still saddled with bad dialogue (which is constantly! being! shouted!), dopey-looking sets and costumes and a lead performance (from Sam Worthington of Avatar and Terminator Salvation) that’s completely flat.
Worthington plays Perseus, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, who must defeat a series of baddies (culminating in the Kraken) to prevent Hades (Fiennes) from taking over the world, or something. The plotting is scattered at best, and the movie is structured like an old-school video game, with various villains at the end of each leg of Perseus’ journey, and even a lovely princess (Alexa Davalos as Andromeda) to save. Perseus is joined on his quest by a bunch of interchangeable soldiers and the immortal Io (Arterton), who sometimes threatens to become a love interest but never quite gets there.
Hastily converted to 3-D to take advantage of inflated ticket prices, Titans is visually unremarkable and narratively weak. Fiennes rasps his lines uncomfortably as the villain, and Liam Neeson looks like a refugee from Xanadu as the sparkly Zeus—one imagines he only took the role for the chance to utter the trailer-worthy line, “Release the Kraken!” It wasn’t worth it.