Reviews

In 'Clash of the Titans' and Its Sequel, Only the Gods Know What Hollywood Was -- and Is -- Thinking

In all, this new Clash of the Titans serves only to remind audiences that some movies were not meant to be remade.


Clash of the Titans

Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Gemma Arterton, Mads Mikkelsen, Alexa Davalos
Distributor: Warner Home Video
US Release Date: 2010-07-27
UK Release Date: 2010-07-26

Call them “reboots” or “re-envisionings”, for the past decade or more, the film industry has been entranced with remakes of old ideas, be they well-established comic books, novels, video games, or epic films. It seems as though, at least when it comes to big-budget productions, moviemakers would rather err on the side of caution and produce movies that are guaranteed to have an anticipatory audience, hoping to see established characters and storylines rehashed with modern-day special effects and marquee stars.

Such seems to be the case with 2010’s Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 cult classic of the same name – which itself, of course, is a retelling of a classic Greek myth. So little remains of the original Greek material that this new revision bears little resemblance either to the ancient Greek storyline nor the 1981 cinematic original – nor, even worse, does it bear any semblance to good filmmaking.

Clash of the Titans attempts to retell the legend of Perseus who, in Greek mythology, was the original demigod hero, ancestor of Hercules, and son of Zeus and Danaë (the only child of Acrisius, king of Argos). Due to a prophesy, which forewarned him that he would die by Perseus’s hand, Acrisius cast Perseus and his mother into the sea in a wooden chest. Washing ashore on the island of Seriphos, Perseus was raised to be a fisherman.

Adoptive uncle Polydectes wanted Danaë for his wife, so he hatched a plot to get rid of the overprotective Perseus by demanding from him the head of Medusa. Helped by Athena’s guidance and polished shield, Zeus’s adamantine sword, and Hades’ helmet of invisibility, Perseus eventually decapitated Medusa. It was on his way back home that he came upon the city of Joppa and slew a sea creature let loose by Poseidon to revenge Queen Cassopia’s vanity and freed the sacrificial princess Andromeda, whom he later married. The incorporation of the winged-horse Pegasus and the scorpions born from the blood of Medusa’s head, both of which are featured in both Clash of the Titans, came centuries later, in medieval retellings.

Desmond Davis’s 1981 Clash of the Titans stayed relatively true to the original Greek telling, with Perseus (Harry Hamlin) aided by the gods in his attempts to win the hand of Andromeda (Judi Bowker). The most notable inclusion into the 1981 film was the division between Zeus (Sir Laurence Olivier), who favored Perseus, and sea goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith), who had grown jealous of Zeus’s infidelities and pompousness (characteristics, which in Greek myth, are normally attributed to Hera [Claire Bloom]). Despite her depiction as an antagonist to Perseus’s endeavors, Thetis’ motivations inspire sympathy in a period when women’s rights were on the forefront of social consciousness.

Her son, Calibos (Neil McCarthy), who is nowhere found in Greek mythology (perhaps based on Caliban from Shakespeare’s The Tempest), because of his hatred and hunting down of all things beautiful, is transformed by Zeus into a satyr-like figure and Persueus’ main enemy. The 1981 film seems mostly informed by the male/female dichotomy and a few tropes from other successful epics of the time, like Star Wars, with its robotic owl Bubo, reminiscent of R2D2, and time-honored theme of wishful youth finding purpose and glory.

This year’s Clash of the Titans, directed by Louis Leterrier, clearly owes its version of the legend of Perseus to the 1981 film rather than to Greek mythology, which is even further obscured. Here, Perseus (Sam Worthington) is a reluctant hero, more along the lines of the Illiad’s Achilles rather than the traditional Jason or Hercules. Ironically, he is the only one capable of appeasing the gods with whom humanity has grown estranged.

The 2010 remake’s most striking divergence from its predecessor is in the switch in Olympian antagonists. Thetis, Hera, Athena, and Posiedan are essentially forgotten while Hades (Ralph Fiennes) takes on the role of Zeus’ (Liam Neeson) (and, therefore, Perseus’) main rival. Clash of the Titans focuses on humanity’s diminishing worship and love of the gods, which Hades uses as an excuse to unleash the Kraken, a beast now attributed to the loins of Hades (instead of Poseidon), who has taken on a role akin to that of Satan in a story reminiscent of the Biblical Book of Job. The chasm between Zeus and Hades (a conflict never really found in Greek myth) is mirrored on earth by the conflict between Perseus and Calibos (Jason Flemyng), who in this film is a transfigured Acrisius, Perseus’ vengeance-minded step-father who holds a personal grudge against Zeus for divinely impregnating his wife, Perseus’s mother Danae (Tine Stapelfeldt).

As for Perseus, he has taken on the role of the reluctant hero, a demigod who wants nothing to do with his divine roots, embodying the chasm between mortals and their concerns and their divine overseers’ motivations. The whole film reeks of an inversion of the Christ myth and centers itself around conflicts between father figures and their sons (i.e., Zeus/Acrisius versus Perseus) and male sibling rivalry (Zeus versus Hades). Any woman in the film, be they the doomed Danae, sacrificial Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), or watchful Io (Gemma Arterton), is relegated to purely passive characters, secondary assets to this male-dominated hero tale. Oddly, the nearly 30 year-old original film, while casting female characters such as Thetis and Cassiopeia (Sian Phillips) in an antagonistic light, offers them some measure of power, while this latest version treats its female characters, even the fearsome Medusa, as little more than props while the boys play with their super-toys and CGI powers to duel it out to figure out who is king of the mountain.

Despite the film’s attempt to depict Perseus as a torn anti-hero with depth, he comes off mostly as a whiner who refuses to take up a challenge he’s clearly the most suited to tackle, while Zeus seems ambiguous as a representative of divine goodness. In contrast, Hades, clad in black and pale in pallor, is an over-the-top bad guy who inspires absolutely no sympathy. The film is just another case of an overly simplistic good versus evil marathon, with misinformed mortals clueless as to what they should do – just as any savvy viewer would be clueless as for whom he or she should root.

Even the special effects, while epic in scope, are limited in vision. The Kraken, for all its teeth and size, seems laughable in this day and age as a major adversary, especially in light of such creatures as the Balrog in Lord of the Rings and even Godzilla in its most recent incarnations. In all, this new Clash of the Titans serves only to remind audiences that some movies were not meant to be remade.

Surprisingly, even with its fair-to-middling box office profits (earning under $164 million in domestic sales total), a sequel is already slated to be in the works for 2012. Only the gods know that Hollywood is thinking.

Aside from being available in both a traditional DVD and in a Blu Ray combo pack, including DVD, Blu Ray, and digital copy), all versions 2010's Clash of the Titans provides bonus footage. The Blu-ray edition also includes an alternate ending, in which Perseus confronts Zeus on Mount Olympus; a featurette, Sam Worthington: An Action Hero for the Ages, which chronicles the actor's transformation into a typically dedicated performer into a muscular action star; and Warner's Maximum Movie Mode -- Harnessing the Power of the Gods, a Blu-Ray-specific "immersive viewing experience" in which Worthington, Neeson, Fiennes, and Leterrier discuss the film's production using enhanced picture-in-picture, enhanced scene and VXF breakdowns, on-the-spot vignettes, and close-ups of Medusa, the Kraken, stuntwork, film location, etc., as one watches the film (sort of a take on directorial commentary, but taken a few steps further

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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