I am a huge fan of Liam Neeson, so when I was told that I could be a "plus one" to see him in Clash of the Titans...in 3D!!!—I was instantly sold. On Tuesday night, I trundled into a Georgetown theater, where I watched one of the worst movies I've seen in years.
I gather that the idea was to do a sort of homage to eighties movies—indeed, to possibly the last of the great stop-motion monster movies. It was the kind of homage that is usually delivered by drunk wedding guests with a latent crush on the bride and a too-accurate grasp of the couples' worst qualities. The sets were designed with a nod to the old epics of yore, but without their skill, so that they looked like they had been produced by crack team of Christmas pageant directors. The plot exposition was done through dialogue so stilted and out-of-place that it made me long for the days of fake-english-voice-overs. And the acting...
Well, the acting deserves its own paragraph. This is a script and a director so outrageously inept that they managed to make Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes look ridiculous. (Though to be fair, it's not clear whether Fiennes or the director decided that the way to convey the darkness of Hades was to play him in a sort of extended hiss). And yet, Fiennes and Neeson were the highlights of the movie. Sam Worthington, fresh from a turn as the star of Avatar, displays less facial emotion than he did as an animated character. As I remarked upon leaving the theater, he makes Keanu Reeves look positively Shakespearean. At least Reeves knows how to widen his eyes occasionally. Worthington's main acting talent seems to be grunting and flexing his biceps. His acting range consists of sometimes speaking in an Australian accent, and sometimes overlaying that with a bad imitation of John Wayne.
In fact, the movie's accents also deserve their own paragraph, because they are hilarious. The French-born director either couldn't hear the different accents of his cast, or didn't care. This gave them creative license to each decide on their own "foreign" accent in which to deliver their lines. There are Ancient Greeks speaking Greek with an English accent, Ancient Greeks speaking Greek with French, German and Russian accents, even two ersatz Arabs who are supposed to be the comic relief.
Overall, the movie suggested that the eighth grade AV club had somehow gotten its hands on a CGI studio. Though to be fair, the AV club probably wouldn't have stuck a big, scary fire pit in the middle of its temple to Hades, and then declined to use the thing for any sort of dramatic tension. Nor would they have forced such badly-designed prop wings onto an innocent horse.
And yet, it was curiously charming in its way. After a while, the ham-fistedness of the whole thing became amusing rather than annoying. There was no question of suspending disbelief and getting into the story, but it was sort of like watching an inept conjurer—there's considerable entertainment value in trying to figure out how he's going to botch the next trick. And there was never time to get bored before the next improbable monster appeared onscreen. This was the worst movie I have seen in years...but not the least enjoyable. I'm not sure I'd pay to see it in theaters, but it might well go on the DVD shelf next to The Room.
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