Though it became a reasonable hit when released in 1981—and a served as a whole generation’s first taste of classical mythology thanks to incessant cable airings—Clash Of The Titans was also the end of the line for a certain kind of big-screen fantasy. Stop-motion wizard Ray Harryhausen, who’d been bringing fantastic beasts to life since Mighty Joe Young in 1949, made it his valedictory effort, ceding special effects extravaganzas to new kids like Steven Spielberg and sailing off to a retirement he’s still enjoying today. While calling the original Clash a great movie would be a stretch, it’s still pretty charming, and filled with Harryhausen’s lovingly handcrafted special effects, from the towering Kraken to a clockwork owl. The latter makes an appearance in this remake, only to be tossed aside with a scoff by one of the heroes, which says pretty much all that needs to be said about director Louis Leterrier’s muscled-up revamp. Never mind the whimsy: Let’s get to the clanking swords.
Sam Worthington plays Perseus, the demigod son of Zeus (Neeson), who finds himself stuck in the middle of an ill-advised war between gods and men. (Note to humanity: It’s best not to take on foes capable of smiting you with thunderbolts.) Hoping to save a princess from being devoured by a sea monster, he sets out on a quest that takes him to the underworld and back, and which occasionally takes the film to an Apple Store-white Mt. Olympus, where Neeson and Ralph Fiennes (as Hades) attempt to overact one another. It’s a generally more entertaining contest than the action on the ground.
Which isn’t to say the new Clash isn’t modestly entertaining by the low standards of spring blockbusters. As with Transporter 2 and The Incredible Hulk, Leterrier aims no higher than competence and achieves just that, shepherding a series of slick, CGI creations across the screen to the accompaniment of an organ-rattling sound design. He’s a professional seat-filler, as is Worthington who again proves—after Avatar and Terminator: Salvation—that charisma isn’t always a prerequisite for movie stardom. Together they get the job done efficiently and with minimal personality. If Clash were a meal, it would come in a paper bag and have some grease stains near the bottom.