31 March 2010

Great Weekend (1/3): CLASH OF THE TITANS ...Or 'Fowl Play?'

Every once in a while, all the awesome in the Universe seems to converge within a two day period.  We're not sure why it happens, but it has, it does, and if our experience with the power cosmic means anything, we're sure it'll happen again. Dabblers  might very well call these spectacular spectaculars Comic Convergences, but sometimes, even those words aren't enough. 

This coming weekend of 02-04 April  promises to be the first of  2010's Potentially Great Weekends, with 3 mega-events exploding nationwide: (1) San Francisco's own gigantic comic convergence, Wonder Con, hits the Bay Area for a three-day show while (2) Apple's game-changing iPad goes on sale promptly at 9am Saturday, one day before (3)  Louis Leterrier's Clash of the Titans charges into theaters on Friday - and in some places, tomorrow night.

So it's Titans that we'll tackle first. Yes, the iPad will undoubtedly change all our futures, but it will never hold a candle to the 1981 original Clash of The Titans, which, if you're like us, isn't just a film but a fond and fantastic childhood memory. No matter how sweet the special effects, no movie could ever be better than a kid's imagination - and to successfully remake, not relaunch (there's a difference) a titan like Titans is a task that makes killing a Kraken seem simple by comparison.

On one hand, it's good to know that Titans' screenwriters Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, along with director Louis Leterrier, knew the enormity of the quest before them, but had their own inner kids on scene to guide them through the film's recreation.  To remain faithful to their namesake, the filmmakers faced two main challenges, the first of which was not to lose the original's sense of fun and wonder despite bringing modern sensibilities to a storyline that could easily lend itself to the grim, darker tones of other modern epics.   The inclusion of Pegasus, Bobo, Calibos, Medusa, and other characters that encouraged so many imaginations take flight 30yrs ago, was their second, and  apparently, a feat not as easy as it may sound. 

In a recent LA Times interview, Hay and Manfredi return several time to the concept of tonality; it's musical terminology (although its metaphorically found its way into discussions of literature and film) but the writers' intent is clear -- all the elements of the film have to feel the same, fit together, if a harmonious movie is to be made. And as cinematic sensibilities have changed fair amount the last three decades, the question of how best to fit Titans' many beasties into the new film required just as many answers. 

In Clash of the Titans 2010, Pegasus, Perseus' (Sam Worthington) winged horse is no longer a wholesome white but a kick-ass black; Medusa, the snake-haired victim of the Gods' wrath and a woman with a deadly glare, became a more tragic character (and truer to Greek myth) as CGI allowed for an actual actress and more possibility than Ray Harryhausen's effective yet outdated stop-motion effects; the ultimate horror and main movie monster the Kraken  achieve its mythic monstrosity; but Bobo, the oddly mechanical gift-owl of Athena in the original film and endearing fan-favorite, didn't click for the remake, at least very well.  Hay and Manfredi noted only that he receives his nod in a brief cameo, and leave the details for film goers to discover. 

Aside from the cosmetics, Clash of the Titans 2010 does, from all accounts, follow to one degree or another in the story footsteps of the original -- which, despite nostalgia's rose-colored glasses, strayed as far from actual Greek mythology as it did from any semblance of good writing or sensible dialogue.  Harryhausen's stop-action figure-esque Medusa and Kraken don't come close to believable, and the party that today's widescreen THX SFX brings to audiences isn't one yesterday's thrills would even be invited to. 

But from our point of view, believability doesn't ensure entertainment -- and 1981's Clash of the Titans was definitely entertainment.  Yesterday's entertainment, of course, is today's camp. Considering that much of the first Titans charm is owed to its campy qualities,  the same qualities that set the film's tone, it's difficult to imagine how the 2010 version remained the faithful remake Leterrier and co. intended to make. In so many ways, a Titans remake becomes a Catch-22: forget faithfulness and improve the faults of the first for a better story, or remain as faithful as possible and produce a movie that inevitably would be tough just to watch.

It's a road that lies somewhere between those two eventualities that  team Titans set out to take, and whether they accomplished their quest or not remains to be seen - literally.  And, as odd as it sounds, we think the film's treatment of Bobo, however short it may be, might also come to represent Titans 2010 in a larger context. In 1981, Bobo was a silly anomaly and an obvious nod to R2-D2, Star Wars' secret ingredient. Neither fits a modern context, but Bobo had one more modern-day epic strike against him - he was cute. Back in the day, not one kid in school would've wanted a Kraken to call their own, but Bobo was the bomb. For all that he was, a Clash of The Titans minus its bomb might very well become one, all by itself.

Leterrier's got a lot riding on this film; in fact, his hopes for a Marvelous tomorrow likely depend on it.  As we've said, some weekends are just destined to be remembered; little metallic owls, not so much.
Clash of The Titans 3-D stars Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Liam Neeson, and Ralph Fiennes and is directed by Louis Leterrier. The film opens Friday 02 April 2010. To find your local theater's show times, click HERE.

What Marvelous tomorrow does Louis Leterrier have in mind? Stick with abbracadabbling's Time Traveler and find out!

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