After about a half hour of clunky dialogue and stiff acting, Clash of the Titans takes off with monsters and swords and boy-skirts and becomes the fun, visually arresting popcorn romp through Hollywood-ized ancient Greece you signed up for. Giant scorpions slash and sting their way across the screen, demons swirl and dive from the skies, and all manner of digital wizardry is spent on flying horses, gleaming swords, half-human crones—and a fearsome creature called the Kraken, whose appearance onscreen is way too short.
The story behind the film is a snooze, made more so by Sam Worthington, who, after stealing Terminator Salvation from Christian Bale last year, has settled for a decidedly depressing, milquetoast onscreen presence (yes, that includes his work in Avatar). He’s so cute. Why is he so boring?
Here, Worthington plays Perseus, raised since babyhood by a fisherman and his wife, but unknowingly the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson, fittingly), God of Gods himself. When his adoptive family is killed by Hades (Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort gone feral), God of the underworld, it’s a good excuse for him to go on a vengeful quest to return the favor, taking on the Gods and vowing to never become like his seemingly indifferent-to-human-plight dad. But first, he is told by an impossibly ethereal female guide named Io (Gemma Arterton), that he must kill the Kraken. Of course this means getting by scorpions, an evil half-satyr and the scariest, best-designed Medusa ever put on film. The scenes in which Perseus and his men negotiate her fire-and-brimstone temple lair in the underworld are the film’s best and its true climax. The Kraken might be bigger, but hell truly has no fury like a woman scorned.
Though the script is largely expository, there are plenty of light moments to remind you know that you’re not in history class, such as when the movie pays homage to its 1970s version by briefly bringing back one of its central props. Let’s just say it’s a hoot.