Modern Culture Clash (Clash of the Titans, 2010)

Clash_of_the_Titans_2010_PosterThe new millennium brought a renewed interest in Greek mythology based films.  This, of course, meant that a remake of Clash of the Titans was probably inevitable.

The modern take is…well, different.  Here, Zeus is angered by King Acrisius and to punish him, he seduces and impregnates the king’s wife Danae.  Angry, he seals her in a box with infant Perseus.  The box is found by fisherman Spyros, who raises Perseus with his wife (Unlike the original film, Danae dies).  Zeus is, of course, angered by this move and turns Acrisius into a monster.

Years later, Perseus is out fishing with his adoptive family.  They witness soldiers tearing down a statue of Zeus.  The soldiers are attacked by demons who also destroy Spyros’ fishing boat, resulting in the death of all but Perseus.  He is found by soldiers who bring him to Argos.  There he witnesses King Kephesus and Queen Cassiopeia.  Cassiopeia mocks the gods and declares her daughter Andromeda more beautiful than any of the goddesses. Zeus and the other gods are watching and angered, but Zeus’ hand is staid by his love for man and the need for their prayers.  But Hades demands that they must make men fear the gods again.  He convinces Zeus to allow him to interfere.

Hades greets the King and Queen and demands Andromeda be sacrificed or Argos be destroyed.  Perseus is convinced to go on a mission to find a way to defeat the titan called the Kraken.  Along with several soldiers, Perseus begins his quest.

You may have noticed there are a lot of changes here.  The film is less a remake and more a re-imagining.  There is no love story between Perseus and Andromeda.  His goal is to make a stand against the gods.  Perseus is in denial of his demi-god status, constantly rejecting any help from Zeus in favor of doing everything “as a man”.

The gods themselves are worried about man’s rebellion against the gods and their power is waning as fewer people are praying to them.  The only real example of the pettiness and competition between the gods is how Hades was betrayed by Zeus and Poseidon, which drives Hades’ desire to destroy his fellow gods.  Noticeably missing?

The female gods.  I mean, they are in the background.  You see them, but they are pretty inconsequential.  Unlike the original, Calibos is no longer the son of Thetis, and he is merely a pawn of  Hades.  It is disappointing that they push all other gods to the side beyond Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades.  Making it about sibling rivalry is ignoring the rich history of the Greek gods. I suspect the fact that the original film was written by Beverly Cross, a woman, influenced the 1981 films inclusion of women in more equal standing.

In addition, the original cast women over forty in almost all the major goddess roles.  In this update, most of the female roles prize youth and beauty above all.

Worthington is not nearly as engaging as some of his co-stars, which is a problem.

On the upside, the relationship of Spyro and Perseus is brief but nice.  When his wife is pregnant, young Perseus is worried he will be loved less.  Spyro offers comforting words noting Perseus is no less his son than if they were flesh and blood.

And while Judy Bowker’s Andromeda was a luminous beauty, she was not given a lot of time (though we see her decrying the rules of her curse which resulted in countless deaths).  Here Andromeda is seen as a greatly compassionate woman.  We see her going about the city in disguise to help the poor.  She also refuses to accept the notion that others should die so that she might live.

The creature design is largely quite good (though the demons move so fast so as not to allow much detail to be seen).  But even there, you have flawed concepts at work.  Medusa should not be alluring, and yet, there she is in this film looking beautiful until the moment she turns you to stone.

The re-imagining ends up like a hodgepodge of mythical concepts that are thrown together, almost unrecognizable to their inspiration. In place of a romance with Andromeda, Perseus instead falls for the beautiful immortal Io.  And at times, I found myself getting bored.  This is in spite of the fact that everything tries to be much bigger than the original film.  The scorpions are bigger, the Medusa fight is in a bigger temple, the Kraken is larger.

While Clash of the Titans is louder and slicker, it just feels like a pale imitation of its inspiration.

Hulk Mad! Need Reboot! (The Incredible Hulk, 2008)

Hulk_Incredible_PosterSo, Ang Lee’s Hulk just did not quite work. With no sequel on the horizon, the rights reverted back to Marvel, allowing them to add this film to their budding extravaganza. Gone were the stars of the original and director Ang Lee. In was director Louis Leterrier and star Ed Norton. A part of me was disappointed we lost Bana and Sam Elliot…but it is hard to complain about actors like Norton and William Hurt.

The film starts out with Bruce Banner on the run. The credits hint at an experiment gone wrong, Betty Ross (Liv Tyler) getting hospitalized and General Thunderbolt Ross (William Hurt) both threatening Banner and looking pretty heartbroken over his daughter’s condition. (there is a nice nod to the television show in this sequence)

Banner is now hiding in Rio De Janeiro, working at a cola bottling plant. He is trying to learn different techniques to avoid overstimulating his system and becoming the Hulk. He is corresponding with someone code-named Mr. Blue (who is stateside) and going by Mr. Green. They connect via encrypted internet and mail. He is also trying to learn the language watching Sesame Street.

A discovery of gamma poisoning via cola from Rio De Janeiro gets the attention of Thunderbolt Ross. The General assembles a team that includes Russian born elite soldier Emil Blonsky (Tim Roth), on loan from Britain. They set out for Rio De Janeiro based on tracing the soft drink shipment.

Banner gets away and hurries back to the states to get information that Mr. Blue needs.

He goes to the university, where he sees Betty…and her new boyfriend, psychiatrist Leonard Samson (Modern Family’s Ty Burrell). Slipping away he pretends to be delivering a pizza.  In a fun cameo, Security guard Lou Ferrigno (who was a security gurd in Ang Lees film and provides the voice of the Hulk in this film) bribing his way into a computer lab where he tries to hack into the system…but he find all the files are gone.

General Ross convinces Blonsky to undergo treatment… they inject him with an experimental super-soldier drug that was an attempt to replicate a serum that was lost. It enhances Emil’s speed, strength and senses.

It turns out to not be enough, as the Hulk swats him like a fly. Later, General Ross goes to check on Blonsky, only to discover he is healing rapidly.

While that is going on, Betty and Bruce are on the run, trying to reach Mr. Blue. They do find him and he is thrilled to meet Bruce. Mr Blue is revealed to be scientist Samuel Sterns (Tim Blake Nelson) and he has been busy replicating Bruce’s blood for tests. They attempt a test to cure Bruce. They appear to cure Bruce, but the military breaks in, Sterns is infected with some of Bruce’s blood after being coerced to inject Blonsky with Banner’s blood.

This leads to a big time smack down between the Hulk and Blonsky.

This film gets a lot right that the previous version got wrong. First and foremost…something to smash. Inner turmoil is important to the subtext of the Hulk…but he still needs to break stuff. The battles are pretty fun, especially the final battle. The film also ties into the comics really well, managing to include many characters in ways that never feel forced.  The introduction of Leonard Samson seems like it could have been a nice setup, as the sequence with Sterns, who was clearly being set up for the next film’s villain.  In the comics, Sterns becomes the megalomaniac and possessor of a giant brain and forehead known as the Leader.  Sampson was infected with low level gamma radiation and became strong (and his hair turned green), but he retained his intelligence.

Ed Norton does a nice job, and apparently rewrote much of the script. It appears to have served him well. William Hurt is a different approach than Elliot…but he does a terrific job. While there was no Hulk sequel, He did return in the Avengers (albeit with a new actor) which was wise. Live Tyler is stuck as the love interest, and she does a fine job… Though while they indicate she is a scientist…we see no real evidence of it. Tim Roth is great as Blonsky.

There are some confusing things… The film plays loose with the cause of the changes…both anger and simple excitement are credited. It gets a little to much slow motion heavy in the action scenes. But it is a lot of fun with a solid cast. It also made for a decent building block for the Marvel Universe, especially the reference to the super soldier serum.  The film made it’s other major tie to the Larger Marvel Cinematic Universe is an appearance by another major player in the post credits scene.

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