'Clash of the Titans" looks awful. It's a 3-D movie, but it's not the good kind of 3-D movie that was actually filmed with the eye-thrilling technology. It is, like the similarly ugly "Alice in Wonderland," a movie shot in traditional 2-D then dressed up in 3-D during post-production, an afterthought wreathed in dollar signs.
It's a blunder. This becomes literally clear when you nudge the plastic 3-D glasses down the bridge of your nose while watching the movie. The screen lights up, images radiate and your eyes instantly stop straining. Try it.
Though this experiment doesn't work for most of the film — it's best during quieter scenes; in action scenes, the screen goes violently fuzzy — it demonstrates that a perfectly crisp and shiny movie lurks under the cynical 3-D processing. The glasses are a major part of the problem. The smoky lenses lodge a scrim of murk between your eyes and the images. (What about "Avatar"? you ask. Totally different process, the one cited in all the chatter about the impending 3-D revolution.)
A cruddy movie that looks cruddy — there's my pocket review. "Clash of the Titans" — directed by the guy who directed another junky remake, 2008's "The Incredible Hulk" — recasts the 1981 film of the same name as a computer-generated monster movie and costume fantasy that's about as rote as these things come.
The original movie starred a regally robed Laurence Olivier as an angry Zeus and a young, fluffy-headed Harry Hamlin as his half-human son Perseus, who confronts a gauntlet of Titans that have been spurred by the gods to destroy an ungrateful and blasphemous humankind.
In the new, often brutal "Clash," Liam Neeson, encased in chrome armor that's ethereally back-lit, is Zeus, and Sam Worthington, still wearing his "Avatar" buzz-cut, is Perseus. Perched on cloudy Olympus, the Gods must be crazy. Just look at Ralph Fiennes' ghoulish Hades, who, cloaked in charred vestments, breathes fire and speaks in a death-rattle rasp. He derides humans as "specks of dust beneath our fingernails" (a pretty good line). Zeus, getting that look in his eye, agrees. Back on terra firma, Perseus, reluctant messiah, pinches his face up and leads his fellow Greeks to salvation.
What we have here is the hero's journey stripped to its genetic essence, the very definition of legend. You'll recognize bits of the Christ story, John Boorman's "Excalibur," "Star Wars," "Starship Troopers," "300" and, in what appears to be stunning creature plagiarism, "Pan's Labyrinth." The Greek Fates, a trio of prophetic witches ("Macbeth" flashbacks), can only see with a big eyeball that rests in the palm of the hand, just like the Pale Man in Guillermo del Toro's film.
But everything feels recycled here. Thrashing animated monsters no longer excite, and the movie's epicness is prolonged and forced. When the dumb Kraken is finally released, it takes about an hour to rise and untangle its tentacles from the sea. (Then again, for a movie so full of itself, it dispenses with characters hastily. People keep falling into yawning pits.)
Some of us miss the creaky-creepy Ray Harryhausen creatures from the first "Clash of the Titans." His hissing green Medusa slithered in a herky-jerky dance of death. She looked fake but vile, even scarier for being tactile and handmade.
The new Medusa, computer-generated around an actress' face, isn't quite as fearsome, though she exudes an intriguing sexual power, and not only because she can turn a man to stone with a glance.
This is Worthington's second big action lead, but he's a leaden presence, a zestless dullard. From the start, it's as if he met Medusa's gaze head on.
Rating: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, frightening images, sensuality. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Theaters: Alamo Lake Creek, Barton Creek, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Galleria, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, Dobie, Gateway, Highland, Lakeline, Metropolitan, Starplex, Tinseltown Pflugerville, Westgate. In 3-D: Alamo Lake Creek, Barton Creek, Cinemark Galleria, Highland, Metropolitan, Tinseltown Pflugerville.