The two versions of “Clash of the Titans” provide a yardstick for the growth of the special-effects industry: The original was based on Ray Harryhausen’s famed stop-motion animation technique — a wonderfully hand-crafted style that already looked antique back in 1981.
And here’s the remake, which comes brandishing nongimmicky 3D and the latest (if not “Avatar”-level) computer-generated effects.
Of course the remake is slicker, smoother and technically more impressive. The pleasant surprise is that it’s also a better movie than the first one, which (except for a few of Harryhausen’s monsters, notably a sensational hissing Medusa) was generally pretty lame.
The remake remains in the world of Greek mythology, albeit juiced up for Hollywood. The stalwart hero is Perseus, played by none other than “Avatar” star Sam Worthington; Perseus is a demigod, having been fathered by the big guy himself, Zeus (Liam Neeson).
There’s trouble in Olympus when Zeus’ brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), threatens to unleash the Kraken, a deadly sea monster, if the town of Argos doesn’t sacrifice the beautiful Andromeda (Alex Davalos).
Why does Hades do this? Because he can. That’s just like the gods, always messing about for the sake of messing about. If you didn’t want him to be bad, you shouldn’t have named him Hades, right?
Anyway, Perseus needs to perform an epic chore to forestall this disaster, because without epic chores, there would be no Greek mythology. This gives the movie a sturdy spine, which director Louis Leterrier (he made “Transporter 2”) knows how to follow.
Along with some decent monsters, “Clash” has a big-time cast; Fiennes even brings a little nuance to the villain — he looks like he decided to play Hades as “Richard III” and it works. Danish star Mads Mikkelsen does his usual tasty work as the mentor of Perseus, and Liam Cunningham and Hans Matheson are other crazed members of the questing group.
As for the goddesses, no one can fill the toga of Ursula Andress from the first film, but Gemma Arterton (“Quantum of Solace”) lends a strangely unsettling presence as Perseus’ guardian spirit.
Sam Worthington is still a somewhat blank actor and I’m not sure why he’s the only person in the movie with short-cropped hair, an effect that only adds to his blankness. But his job is to wield a sword and leap from boulders, which he does very well.
He certainly can’t make sense of Perseus’ main character trait, which is a refusal to deploy his demigodlike powers. He’s sort of like the annoying friends you have who won’t live up to their potential — c’mon, man, you’re a demigod! Use it or lose it.
Look, this is a silly movie. But if you’re in the mood for lightning strikes and mighty godlike beards and flying horses, “Clash of the Titans” will supply the goods.
“Clash of the Titans” (three stars)
Remake of the 1981 Greek mythology flick that, frankly, improves on the original: This one’s got a decent cast (including Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes as warring gods) and the usual slick special effects. Sam Worthington stars as a demigod who must quest around in search of the feared Medusa — yes, it’s silly, but it’s silly done right.
Rated: PG-13 for violence
Showing: Alderwood, Cinebarre Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds, Everett, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Pacific Place, Thornton Place, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor