No matter when you watch Clash of the Titans, you leave the theater feeling as if you have just sat through a Saturday matinee adventure. This lavish, spectacular reworking of director Desmond Davis' beloved 1981 original is the rare sort of remake that actually makes sense: With all due respect (and copious apologies) to the generation that grew up with the first film, Clash of the Titans just wasn't very good.
Director Louis Leterrier, who previously infused the Edward Norton Incredible Hulk reboot with energy and zest, keeps the pace of the new version brisk, the action invigorating and the cheesiness to a minimum. Mount Olympus still looks like a tacky open-air disco, and Zeus (Liam Neeson) even sparkles as if he's wearing a suit of mirrors. But unlike Laurence Olivier in the first film, Neeson and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades) somehow manage to avoid unintentional camp, even though their dialogue remains clunky. The gods like to say things such as "I created them, and they reward my love with defiance!"
Clash of the Titans is essentially a series of missions - three big setpieces strung together by a thin but just-meaty-enough plot. In order to keep Hades from wresting control of Olympus, the demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) - Zeus' son by a mortal - must learn to use his powers to overcome various monsters, including giant scorpions, Medusa and an impossibly huge behemoth known as the Kraken. In an homage to the original film, the mechanical owl Bubo makes a fleeting appearance, and the impressive computer-generated monsters have a tactile look reminiscent of the great stop-motion work of Ray Harryhausen, who designed the special effects for the 1981 version.
In the wake of Avatar's success, distributor Warner Bros. made a last-minute decision to convert Clash of the Titans into 3D and release it Titans alongside a regular "flat" version. I haven't seen it, but I can't imagine that the extra dimension adds anything but headaches and image degradation (it is also, I suspect, the primary reason why the film is receiving such negative reviews). Clash of the Titans looks just fine in 2D, the way it was shot, and although purists will always prefer the original picture, this remake really does justify its existence. How often can you say that?
Clash of the Titans (**1/2 out of ****) opens in South Floriday on Friday April 2.