French director Louis Leterrier loves this world and all the hostile, complete-sentence speaking cranks in it. But Clash of the Titans feels like he fought—and lost—his own battle for control. The tidy 90-minute flick feels cut down from a grander, smarter, if duller epic where a demigod (Sam Worthington) is thrust into a three-way battle between mankind, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and his older brother Zeus (Liam Neeson). The gods are weakened by humans’ disinterest. To restore awe, Hades wants to use fear and narcissistic Zeus—bright and fuzzy like he’s been run through a VCR—thinks he can spin fear into prayer. Again, go-to action hero Worthington is swamped by a series of set pieces: deserts marred by bulldozer-sized roaring scorpions, hellish Hades and the home of Medusa and, of course, the town of Argos as it bitterly readies itself for the Kraken—70 minutes of build-up climaxing in a slow legs-to-face reveal that stretches on longer than microwaving a TV dinner.
At my screening, the word “Kraken” made people burst into giggles. An ominous sign for the fortunes of this not-terrible (though not-good) blockbuster, but not quite as ominous as the sign of at least a dozen people choosing to watch the 3D screening without their 3D glasses. Halfway through, I took mine off too and was shocked to find that often the picture looked better. Now I understand why James Cameron warned that post-production 3D conversions would harm the technology. Leterrier didn’t ask to make a 3D film; it was thrust upon him just months ago when Warner Bros. realized it could make a few extra bucks, but instead of the fullness of Avatar (and the nearly-superior How To Train Your Dragon), it looks like a shoebox diorama, just a flat face in the foreground. Clash isn’t a pox upon the multiplex, but it won’t replace the original in our hearts—which, to be honest, is better remembered than rewatched. But at least Leterrier set out to blaze his own immortal warpath. And when Ray Harryhausen’s mechanical owl pops up eager to guide Worthington’s journey, this time a soldier growls, “Just leave it.”