At the movies… Clash of the Typewriter – March 2010 Redux

Okay… so the first film I ever saw at the cinema on the big screen was the original Harryhausen ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_Harryhausen ) Clash of the Titans, sometime way back in the early eighties I guess (’81, my God!). It was a big thing…

I’d been into mythology from as soon as I could associate text and pictures, my mother worked as a chambermaid (…look it up) at a fairly big hotel in the small seaside town I’d grown up in, and during the summer holidays I spent a lot of time up in the sprawling (and usually) empty guest lounge, staring out the window and drawing sat at the big old piano by the front windows somewhere up on the third floor.

The guests where usually foreigners, contractors, from all over, Japan, the US etc. working on the rigs or the gas installations out there in the North Sea.

At some point one of these guys handed my mother a book to pass on to me and it turned out to be be a big hardback book of greek mythology, in which the stories rather than being set out in a matter of fact “this is what this myth entailed” kind of way, instead told them as genuine stories, beginning, middle and end. I knew my gods and goddesses from my other books at home but this was something else. The book was one of those rough material finished hardcovers in a strange blue green, with a gold embossed image of Pan blowing his pipes while dancing, the text inside was small (very grown up) with even smaller footnotes, and small occasional illustrations, nothing full page.

It was utterly enthralling. Perseus (winged sandals), Bellerophon (Flying Horses, Monsters, Blindness!!!), Pandora, The Twelve Labours of Hercules, Jason (killed by a rotten part of the Argo falling on him!!! What?!!), Theseus (Aegeus’ suicide blew my head apart… I remember being devastated)… this was where it was at… I still to this day love working on Mythology based illustrations…

So when the original Clash of the Titans started to be advertised I begged my dad to be taken along.

I’d grown up watching movies with my dad (that and Saturday afternoon wrestling). He was a fan of all the old gangster movies (terrible impressions of Cagney and Bogart left me scarred for years, I didn’t really revisit Film Noir until I saw a documentary and the ensuing film Touch Of Evil years later as a student), but in particular he loved the westerns and all the big budget Biblical epics, The Ten Commandments, Samson & Delilah, Ben Hur, The Robe, and then there was those great Sinbad movies… so this movie must have appealed to him a little too I guess.

The whole event was pretty unusual… My Parents didn’t drive, they rarely took a bus anywhere… and so even going to the nearest city was big thing for me. The cinema seemed such an exotic place, like a temple just like out of my sacred blue-green book (I never did figure out where that book went).

Needless to say I loved the movie, I was troubled by some of the chopping about of the “real” stories I’d got to know (Pegasus was that other guys ride, the one who fought the Chimera…), but over all it had brought to life some of the great stuff hidden within those small print pages… Harryhausen’s Medusa scared the bejeebus out of me, and whoa… what’s that? A naked princess getting out of the bath!?! I actually remember my dad telling me to close my eyes when he realised what was happening there… life changing moments for a young man (laughs).

Even watching it on DVD recently, it didn’t fair too badly… a little hokey in places, but Harryhausen’s effects, though a little shaky by contemporary standards where still great fun… a real “guilty pleasure” movie.

So, it was with all those memories dragging along behind that I went in through the automatic doors of the (somewhat less magical) multiplex temple last week to see the new, updated, fully digital effect laden reworking. I’d seen the trailer which seemed okay and was glad to see the giant scorpions and other elements of the original had seemingly been retained. I was even intrigued by some of the additions, what was that wooden golem all about? And despite friends reservations was really looking forward too it.

So I went.

(beware, SPOILERS… not mine really, the movie makers did a good enough job on their own)

How? I mean honestly…

How did the makers of this sub-standard video game trailer manage to turn a simple “there and back again” movie into such a confusing, lack lustre, and actually quite dull pile of tosh?

Mads Mikkelsen (who looked like he was acting in a movie all of his own) aside (and perhaps Ralph Fiennes at a push), there was not a redeeming feature in this alleged feature.

It felt like they’d taken the original apart scene by scene and decided to “reinvent” and overlay as many effects as they could into each segment, then without worry of continuity paste it all back together again and hope it worked… I swear some sequences must have been added at the end of production to fill in ridiculous plot holes. I mean okay, the original wasn’t Shakespeare but really?

And to add insult (to one of the true pioneers of movie FX) to injury, the scene where they pull the original animatronic owl, Bubo, from the chest, the hero saying “What’s this?” to the responce, “Oh, you can leave that behind”; come on guys, what you might have planned as knowing nod to the original just came off as an arrogant dismissal. Which wouldn’t have been so ridiculous if the production team had gone on to blow us away with something well designed and spectacular…

The wooden golems from the trailer (ifrits or jinns it turned out) looked like Xena cast-offs, the polished shield (there was a real point to this in the original) disappeared then reappeared as an after thought, The whole Calibos/Acrisius crossover thing left me really confused, did they make out that Acrisius was Danae’s husband here rather than her father? And why have him at all, lost? I was.

The three witches scene, again… how can you do something so badly when the original movie did it so, well, averagely. But did they really believe this was better? Old Charon the ferryman was truly awful, hokier than any special effect from the original, I’ve seen more terrifying apparitions in the joke shop in town. and then the pay-off?… Medusa, looked like she’d she’d been lifted from the fairly famous illustration from Chris Achilleos’s “how to paint fantasy” book (also from the 80’s – so much for contemporary redesign), and was no where near as terrifying as the original, snake face or not… and then The Kraken. Well, everyone else has said it, so I might as well join in… it was just a wobbly armed version of the Rancor wasn’t it guys?

So there you have it, just save your money and hire the original from blockbusters, they’ll put it in a brown paper bag if you ask nicely, or just go see Kick Ass (which truly rocked, doing exactly what it said on the tin, Hit Girl must now be up there as one of the most impressive female screen legends of all time – Uma thurman in Kill Bill? Yeah, whatever!).

Don’t get me started on Solomon Kane either…

Some other films I like… http://hesir.deviantart.com/art/hesir-s-movie-list-22035568

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~ by hesir on April 9, 2010.

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