Since I was so stoked that they'd decided to remake the 1981 B-movie classic, Clash of the Titans, of course I had to go see the final result on opening weekend. I'd really expected to like the new version better. Heck, the improvement in special effects alone should have been enough to send Titans '10 up the movie quality ladder by magnitudes over Titans '81. Not to mention better acting, better sets and costumes, a higher budget overall. The upgrade had tools at its disposal the makers of the original probably couldn't have dreamed of, and for that I'd figured Titans '10 would smear Titans '81 to dust.
Weirdly, turns out Titans '81 is actually the better movie. And it's all because of motivation. Who would have thunk that story could end up being way more important than flashy CGI, better acting, cooler sets and costumes and a much higher budget?
Below are major SPOILERS, so stand warned if you haven't seen either version and wish to do so spoiler-free.
For those Titan newbies, the story of both movies is loosely based on the Greek myth of Perseus, demi-god son of Zeus, and his adventures in monster slaying.
(Sidebar: you have to completely accept the massive luck Perseus has when Andromeda doesn't wake up to reveal she's actually a brainless Jersey Shore reject with an accent and voice like Fran Drescher's, otherwise it all falls apart right there.)
Perseus learns that Andromeda has been cursed by the angry goddess, Thetis, whose feelings were hurt when Andromeda refused to marry Thetis's son Calibos after Zeus turned Calibos into a disfigured goat-monster as punishment for killing Zeus's herd of flying horses. Thetis's vengeful dictate now means that any man who wants to marry Andromeda must correctly answer a crazy-hard riddle, but if he fails - which they all do - he is burned at the stake.
Which, now that I think on it, maybe means that Perseus wasn't driven so much by love as by insane sexual frustration to embark on his quest to kill the Krakan and save Andromeda. I mean, this guy goes above and beyond just in order to get some. He outsmarts the Stygian witches, fights the three-headed Hydra, and takes on Medusa before finally rescuing his lady love, so he must have been in need of some serious touch.
Still, the idea that a guy would go literally to the Underworld and back in order to save the heroine is tremendously compelling and makes for some awesome myth. Those ancient Greeks knew their shit.
Perseus's adopted father, mother and sister are casualties of a war started by humans against the gods of Olympus, whom the humans have started to resent for not taking better care of them. Fueled by grief and rage, Perseus declares his own war against Zeus and Co., with Hades serving as the specific target of his revenge since Hades was on the scene when Perseus's family bit the dust. Perseus has no idea he's Zeus's son, and when he learns this little bit of personal genealogy, he's none too happy about it. In fact, through pretty much all of the movie he rejects any divine intervention on his behalf and refuses to play his half-god card, determined to "win this as just a man" even if that means "win this as just a man who's now dead".
Andromeda shows up as well, but Perseus couldn't really give two hoots about her. When Cassiopeia brags on Andromeda's beauty being more awe-inspiring than any god, it's Hades and not Thetis who condemns the city to destruction at the hands of the Krakan. He gives the folks of Argos (another change from Titans '81 where it was Joppa, not Argos, in jeopardy) an out if they are willing to give up Andromeda to the Krakan. They have a full 10 days to decide between sacrificing a single virgin versus facing the complete destruction of their city and the death of every single citizen, but Perseus doesn't stick around to debate which
The balance of Titans '10 pretty much follows Titans '81 with the same parade of monsters to be defeated and a few insignificant if not minor story changes. For example, Perseus's fellow demi-god rival, Calibos, is no longer Andromeda's spurned fiancé but rather the very human king that Zeus cuckolded to produce Perseus. Titans '10 Perseus and his crew receive some big time deus ex machina assistance from a band of djinn, creatures that had nothing whatsoever to do with Greek mythology if my facts are straight. Oh, and Titans '10 threw in a crazy religious zealot to supposedly rack up the tension regarding Andromeda's being sacrificed or not. At least, that's the only reason I could see that he was there.
Not so insignificant is Perseus's complete and total lack of romance with Andromeda. Instead, Titans '10 Perseus develops a serious jones for Io, an ageless demi-goddess who's been
My question, though, is why this change in female focus? Why not just keep as Perseus's motivation for all he does his great, epic love for Andromeda and the need to save her from being eaten? It worked for the ancient Greeks, right? And they built some pretty kick-ass monuments that are still around.
Sure, maybe today's audience wouldn't buy the original's far-fetched premise that Perseus would risk life and limb for a woman he fell in love with before she even spoke a single word to him. Heck, before she even opened her eyes and acknowledged his existence. And I imagine audiences of today wouldn't like so much that Perseus and Andromeda are separated for most of the story while he's off slaying monsters and she's busy contemplating her upcoming gruesome death between the jaws of a terrifying Titan. And it's true that us post-Buffy, tech-savvy gals aren't as down with the level of damsel the original Andromeda displayed with all of her being chained to the rock and writhing helplessly, waiting for the saving to start. Heck, these days we ladies even kill our own spiders. Really.
But any screenwriter worth his/her salt could have solved these problems easily. The new and improved Andromeda v. 2.0 could have been one bad-ass princess determined to take up a sword and save her own damn city and her own damn life her own damn self. Road trip with Perseus wherein many wacky hijinks and a butt-load of monster-ass-whupping ensue. Throw in some sizzling near-kisses, glimpses of creamy bare skin and rippling six-pack abs, and a few longing eye-locks, we could buy that these two crazy kids might just have something for each other after all.
At the very least, the Titan '10 braintrust could have ignored the implausibility of the Perseus/Andromeda Insta-Love-Of-All-Eternity (tm) and just hoped that we audience members would be willing to suspend our disbelief another tiny fraction to go with it, not such an out-there request given that we're already expected to buy a story that involves immortal gods, giant scorpions, and a woman who has snakes for hair. Sometimes we will amaze you with our ability for accepting the ridiculous.
So, net net, Titans '81 Perseus is driven by
Titans '10 Perseus came over as a tad bit whiny and a whole lot bitter, and to be really honest, other than the total destruction of Argos and the death of all of its
Titans '81 Perseus had a major stake in defeating the Krakan since the sea-beastie was about to consume Perseus's soul-mate. During the entirety of his quest, we wanted him to succeed. We felt his pain and stress and the overwhelming pressure he was under...Despite the cheese, you just had to keep watching to see how it all worked out. I cared about Perseus's success. I wanted him to save Andromeda. Oh, yeah, and the city of Joppa. Of course. Right.
I honestly don't know if you go to Titans '10 without having previously watched Titans '81 how you will feel about the movie. I do know that my reaction is not a result of nostalgia. In anticipation of going to see both Titans '10 and Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief (also loosely based on Perseus: The Greek Original) I purchased the 1981 Clash on DVD and
"The first one," said my son.
"Why?" I asked.
"The story was a lot better."
That's my wise boy.