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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Clash of the Titans - A Movie Review (So-Called)

First, let me say that I made a mistake of glancing at a review of "Clash of the Titans" by Brian Godawa before going to see it today, so what I'm about to write will be partly derivative and responsive to him.

There are a few commonly-known observations I could make about the movie up front. For one, it's a remake of the 1981 movie of the same name. Both, of course, are more or less based on the ancient Greek myth of Perseus. For those who have seen the old film, as well as the trailer for the new film, it will be apparent that some of the cheesiness of the original has been dispensed with. That, of course, is a welcome change.

The new movie itself is just under two hours long. For those who aren't conscious of such things, let me note for you that this generally means you should expect minimal character development. This is especially true of action films, which tend to suffer in that area to begin with. And it is true of this film. The audience is expected to believe that, after knowing each other for only a few days (or forty-five minutes, depending on how you want to time it), there is supposed to be some sort of deep, abiding bond between the heroes. Kind of like those really close, long-lasting relationships you still have with all those people you spent a week at summer camp with as a kid. The standard movie tricks are utilized in an attempt to deceive the audience this way, deep abiding stares and the like. Whether or not the general public will find all this convincing I don't know - I know I didn't.

The short time span of the film also indicates the fact that one can expect constant action. I didn't time them, but I would guess the breaks in action couldn't have been more than sixty seconds each. So for every action scene, that's two dead brain cells per second, times sixty seconds per minute...

The CGI and cinematography were beautiful, and that is one plus that the film had. And the endless aforementioned action scenes were at least entertaining, if not contributing to the intellectual depth of the viewer. The film had a particularly dark cast to it, much like the Lord of the Rings films. In fact, the was much here that reminded one of the Lord of the Rings films - or, rather, seemed like a deliberate imitation thereof. Minus, that is, nine or ten hours of movie time that allowed for conversation, travel, character development, etc. All the stuff that made Lord of the Rings convincing and interesting, in other words.

Brian Godawa noted in his review that the theme of the film is Humanism, and he is correct. Mankind has grown angry with the gods, but the gods have brought judgment on mankind for failing to offer their worship to them. And the answer is supposed to come in one who is half-man, half-god, namely Perseus. Whether this is supposed by the film makers to be a bastardization of the two natures of Christ one can only speculate. Godawa notes a line by Zeus at the end of the film, in which he says, "I wanted men to worship me. But I didn't want it to cost me a son." He suggests that was intended to be a clear contrast with Christianity. Perhaps it was. But demigods were a part of ancient Greek myth, and Perseus was a demigod in Greek mythology, and the actual son of Zeus. So to suppose that the film makers intended that as a slap in the face of Christianity is a conclusion one can't fully come to. Nonetheless, there do seem to be clear indications that portions of the film were shaped by modern notions of religious fundamentalism, and especially Christian Fundamentalism. The portrayal of organized religion in particular in the film has an especially modern (or postmodern) feel to it, and clearly suggests that religious institutions are untrustworthy, and filled with fools and con-artists. That this is a common view today, held by those who claim to be Christians, and those who don't, should be well-known. As a side note, I personally recognize the failures of the church, and know her leaders aren't perfect. And anyone who knows me is aware that I am more than happy to offer critiques of the church where I think it's appropriate to do so. But when I run across people who know little Scripture, little church history, and little theology, who then attempt to critique the church, my patience runs thin with them. Such people generally shouldn't be listened to. This not only characterizes my reaction to people I talk to who are like this, but my reaction to this film as well. It struck me as a particularly ignorant critique of organized religion. The sad thing is that with the ignorance of the average viewer, the critique will be effective, and will contribute to the further idolatry of self, of Humanism, in our society.

In the end, Perseus rejects an offer to dwell among the gods rather than men. The gods are not really needed, it seems. Or make that organized religion. "Imagine there's no heaven...."

Lastly, I would like to note Liam Neeson's role as Zeus in this film. Now that he's played Aslan (the Christ figure), and Zeus, I think he should continue to increase his deity resume. I would recommend sending him to India, and letting him play Lord Vishnu in some Bollywood film. While he's gone, perhaps another actor could fill in as Aslan in the next Narnia film - someone with a less wimpy voice.

So the film was fun, but watch out for the worldview. That's the short of it. I'll give it three stars out of five for the entertainment value alone, but I'm being generous - that thing those of us in that organized religion called "Christianity" do.

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