So far I have lost count on just how many remakes the last couple of years has brought us and the several more on the way will only add to my number keeping dilemma. I can, however, keep track of how many good remakes there have been this year. Thus far I have seen two: The Crazies and the visual epic Clash of the Titans. I made it my duty as a serious movie goer to go back and watch the original before I ventured to the theater to see the made over installment. An undertaking I haven’t done since I was a child when I watched it with my father and really didn’t understand what was going on except that some guy was battling some very wild and “not real” creatures.
The original released back in 1981, a good year if I do say myself because I was also born that year, stars Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Maggie Smith as Thetis (better known as Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter) and Harry Hamlin as our hero Perseus.
The story is pretty simple to follow; mortals have grown tired of always being at the mercy of the gods. Perseus, unbeknownst to him is the mortal son of the king of the gods, Zeus. He is separated from his mother and placed in a land unknown to him by Thetis, the sea goddess as revenge for a punishment that Zeus exacted on her own mortal son, Calibos (Neil McCarthy). There he meets the beautiful princess Andromeda (Judi Bowker ) and decides to save her and her city from the evident destruction at the hands of the Kraken, a massive sea creature controlled by the gods, which can only be prevented if she sacrifices herself to it. So Perseus sets out on a legendary quest to find an alternate solution to this seemingly unavoidable ultimatum.
The recent remake that stars Liam Neeson as Zeus, Alexa Davalos as Andromeda and Sam Worthington as Perseus pretty much follows the original story to a near tee. With the addition of characters like the god of the underworld, Hades played by Ralph Fiennes and Io played by Gemma Arterton who has watched over Perseus since he was a child, it drifted off the path of the original script just a tad. But the overall concept was right on the money.
Watching both makes me realize yet again just how far special effects have come throughout movie history. The 1981 original sported some very well done special effects even for nowadays. Back then, audiences must have been really wowed by the work done the effects team. Think George Lucas breaking that barrier with Star Wars in the 70’s and every director there after trying the do the same. Some of the effects can be written off as kind of cheesy but it was, after all, 1981.
The 2010 revamped version was nothing short of a visual masterpiece. Loaded with state of the art CGI and what I would describe as the original battle sequences on steroids, I was very impressed by the effects created in this film. One example: in the original Perseus and his soldiers must fight off a team of scorpions around the size of a horse, pretty scary right, while in the remake they must battle the same scorpions but this time they are enormous, like the size of tanks and buildings.
With direction coming from Desmond Davis in the original, this film does one of the better jobs of capturing Greek mythology. Many mythical characters and creatures are brought to life in this movie. From a number of the gods themselves to baddies like Medusa and the very unforgiving Kraken, they are all here. The remake directed by Louis Leterrier, reinvents all of the characters of the original with addition of some new ones. Hades I especially liked, not only because of the acting performance by Ralph Fiennes but the characters overall presence which was helped by the effects used for him. “Release the Kraken” has an entirely new meaning in the remake than in the original or in Pirates of the Caribbean. Releasing the Kraken is like unleashing the apocalypse on the entire world. I’m surprised it is able to hide itself so well in the ocean in a world which is 90% water. The thing is not to be taken lightly. Completely CGI, and completely over the top but very well done.
The acting in the original can best be described as a lightened up presentation of a Shakespearean play. Back in the day, Greek roles seemed to really demand that a certain seriousness and drama to them. The remake has a more present day feel to the acting performances. Nothing too dramatic and demanding and was really overshadowed by the real star of the movie, the visual effects.
Although an oldie, I enjoyed the original. Never a bad time for an old school lesson in greek mythology. If you enjoyed this subject in school, put in a rental request for this classic. I give it “3 winged horses (Pegasus if you didn’t know) out of five”. “Call no man happy who is not dead!”
Although I was expecting much more in the 3-D department from this film, it was still very entertaining. From the revamped characters to the action sequences to the stunning special effects, it was a long awaited treat. I give the redone version “4 severed heads of Medusa out of 5”. “One day, somebody’s got to make a stand. One day, somebody’s got to say enough…”