There are, in fact, no actual Titans in “The Clash of the Titans.” The clash is between the mortals of Ancient Greece and the gods they worship. Uprising first comes up as Perseus watches his foster father despondently pull up his empty nets from the choppy sea; Poseidon is being ungenerous. Perseus’ mother reminds them all that the gods gave them life, but the humble fisherman clenches a bit of net in his fingers, “Someday, someone will have to take a stand.” Of course, Perseus, begat upon his mortal mother by Zeus, the king of the gods, will be that person. Soon after the disappointment of the empty nets, they sail towards a Statue of Liberty-sized stone Zeus, where a troop of warriors launch a surprise attack on its ankles, toppling the figure into the waves below. Then Hades (Ralph Fiennes), in the form of a flock of mannish demon bats, attacks the soldiers and sinks Perseus’ ship, leaving the demi-god as the only survivor and providing him with a vengeful motivation: Kill Hades. For unclear reason Perseus must do this by way of defending the city of Argos against the asexually reproductive Hades’ child, the Kraken; a gigantic Godzilla squid. He must first consult the Graeae, the three all-knowing but mostly blind sisters who share one eye amongst themselves. They suggest he get the head of the Gorgon Medusa (played by model Natalia Vodianova).
The Gorgon showdown at the end of the second act is made unpalatable by Perseus’ pep talk, “keep your wits about you and don’t look this bitch in the eyes.” The proceeding action unrolls but watching the group of heavily armed men hunting down one snake woman dressed only in a Princess Leia slave-girl bra, takes on a more obvious taint. It’s not surprising or unusual that “Clash” thinks so little of the implications of how it uses its female characters and actresses, but the women in this film (even the monsters) cannot have more than two pages of dialogue between them. Polly Walker, who as the lascivious Atia constituted one of the best parts of HBO’s Rome, is in this movie; she speaks twice and then dies. Despite the much-hyped (albeit in the fashion world) casting of English model Agyness Deyn as the goddess Aphrodite, she is pictured once, maybe twice, as one of the out of focus figures in the Olympian boardroom. In fact, only two of the twelve Olympians make significant appearances at all. Liam Neeson (a blindingly shiny Zeus) and Fiennes make up the lack with endlessly repetitive conversation—“Should we release the Kraken?” “Release the Kraken!” Fiennes appearance on screen as the plumply vulture-like Hades produced some surprise, the theater breathed forth more than a few whispers of “Actually, it’s pronounced ‘Rafe.’ ”
As a villain, Fiennes is underwhelming, this may owe somewhat to the fact that the Hades of Greek mythology was never really a villain, or wasn’t any worse than the rest of his relatives. I always pictured him as just incredibly gloomy, sort of terrifying and sort of a downer. This is what you get when you Americanize foreign subjects; just new outfits for the same action figures. That death is a thing to be feared, and thus evil, is implied as axiomatic in all Hollywood versions of these myths.
All too familiar as well is the rhetoric of the mortal rebellion. Much of the anti-gods talk sounds a lot like the American narrative of the Average Joe Doe Plummer man who “takes a stand” against a Big Government that has forgotten its debt to the little people. Troubling are the times when real life “stands” are not much more specified than action movie ones; where adults can bandy about “justice,” “right” and “freedom” and agree to understand the words as children do. Since it is really only a formality, no one actually takes issue with the worship of vague justification, we’re all waiting for the thrill of the fight sequence, the “Yeah!” of the “Awesome!” In that department, Clash satisfies only vaguely; expectation builds, rises a bit with some cool tricks and then sort of peters out. You’re left looking at the names that soar out of the plane of the screen, reminded briefly that you just paid extra for a 3-D experience that barely popped until the credits.