‘Clash of the Titans: The Video Game’ is ‘Clash of the Titans: The Director’

The recent remake of Clash of the Titans was not a very good movie. The game was fine as far as movie tie-ins go, but as I reviewed it, I noticed several changes in the story that seemed odd. Now, I’ve played enough movie tie-in games to know that the story is often changed to allow for more action. For example, in the game Perseus had to fight a giant flying serpent as he crossed the River Styx, and there was no such fight in the movie. This change makes sense because the game must have more combat sequences to keep a player interested. A change that didn’t make sense was when Apollo gave Perseus the Ferryman’s Coin to cross the River Styx, whereas in the movie it was Zeus. This change resulted in no more action, so why is it different?

Then I read an article by Devin Faraci that went into detail about how much the movie changed through editing and reshoots (“BY ZEUS! THE VERSION OF CLASH OF THE TITANS YOU DIDN’T SEE”, Chud.com, 04 September 2010). To my surprise, the original story had more in common with the game than with the final movie.

As I mentioned above, about halfway through the film Zeus gives Perseus a coin to cross the River Styx. This is odd because up to that point Zeus has been a bad guy. He essentially raped Perseus’ mother (that’s how the hero was conceived) and turned his father into a disfigured monster. While Hades does manipulate him during the movie, Zeus is not a sympathetic character. So why the sudden change of heart?

Faraci explains:

In the original version of Clash, Zeus is the bad guy. He’s a god who has sort of lost it, and it’s unmistakably his fault that the humans have turned against the Olympians…In the original script (and the original cut) it wasn’t Zeus who showed up to give Perseus the coin he needed to cross the River Styx – it was Apollo. Apollo, Perseus’ half-brother, takes it upon himself to help the demigod out because he understands that Hades is playing Zeus and that all of the Olympians are heading for a big fall. The god of the underworld would be happy to see the rest of the pantheon destroyed. Apollo and Athena essentially betray the other Olympians to give a boost to Perseus, thinking that he could be the one to shake things up enough to allow a change in Olympus.

So the game followed the original script and wasn’t changed when the movie itself was changed. Unfortunately, even with this scene included, the game failed to do much with this bit of political intrigue. I never got the feeling that the gods were involved in some internal strife while playing but at least Zeus’ role as the bad guy was consistent.

The ending was another major difference. “The final scene of the theatrical cut is, frankly, disastrous — not only is Perseus suddenly best buddies with Zeus, but Io, who had previously called eternal life a curse, is resurrected in what we’re supposed to accept as a happy ending.” In the game and the original cut of the movie, Perseus goes to Olympus to confront Zeus. He tells the god that humanity is strong and that men can stand up to gods, so the gods had better be careful. Io stays dead.

There are several other changes but most involve character development that probably wouldn’t make it into the game anyways. However, the presence of these changes in the game has some interesting implications for games based on movies. After all, while a movie can be reedited in post-production, a game can’t be changed that easily, meaning that the final product will — by its nature — hew closer to the creator’s original vision. That’s a nice thought, but more likely it means that the meddling happens much earlier. Consider the news a couple months ago that Activision won’t allow female protagonists in their games because “there was no room on the market for games starring a female main character” (“In-Depth: No Female Heroes at Activision?”, Gamasutra, 04 August 2010).

The Gamasutra article explains how developer Treyarch’s game, Black Lotus, a Hong Kong action cinema inspired open world with a female hero modeled after Lucy Lui, was eventually turned into the upcoming True Crime: Hong Kong. The changes that crippled Clash of the Titans (the movie) do happen in the games industry — they just happen so early on in development that it’s much harder to trace.

This situation offers an interesting look at the inevitable and ongoing war between business and creative freedom for both mediums. While news of post-production tampering (like adding in 3-D) are common in movies, at least the public is more aware of it and can openly ridicule such efforts in the hope that such ridicule prevents it from happening again. But with games, a publisher’s decision to change something happens so early in the development cycle that by the time the public gets their hands on the game we can’t see their messy fingerprints, so any blame for a lack of originality goes to the developers instead.

We know who wanted a new True Crime game, but who first thought Halo Wars should be an RTS, Microsoft or Ensemble? Who decided to bring Prince of Persia back to the Sands of Time storyline? Who decided Medal of Honor should be set in modern times, and who decided multiplayer should pit T1 Operators against Taliban insurgents? Who thought Epic Mickey should be a Wii exclusive, and who chose to make Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood instead of Assassin’s Creed III? There are reasons that the developers give and reasons that the publishers give, and while it’s safe to assume that the publisher has the final say (since they’re fronting the cash), we can never know where the idea came from originally. How much of any game is made by the developer, and how much is mandated by the publisher?

Louis Leterrier has had both his most recent films changed in post-production, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans. Perhaps he should think of making a game next time. Though, just to be safe, not with Activision or EA or Microsoft or Ubisoft . . .