Clash of the Titans
Directed By: Louis Leterrier
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Jason Flemyng, Gemma Arterton, Alexa Davalos, Mads Mikkelsen, Pete Postlethwaite, Vincent Regan
Studio: Warner Bros.
Film Length: 106 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.4:1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese
Release Date: July 27, 2010
The Film **½
In Clash of the Titans, the gods of ancient Olympus are becoming increasingly distressed by a decrease in prayers and an increase in open rebellion from the men they created. Zeus (Neeson), agrees to a plan hatched by his brother Hades (Fiennes) to make an example of the city of Argos, giving the city ten days to either sacrifice Andromeda (Davalos), the daughter of the openly defiant King Kepheus (Regan), or face destruction from The Kraken, an ancient sea monster created by Hades. Thrust into the center of these events is Perseus (Worthington), a foundling orphan who was raised to adulthood by a fisherman named Spyros (Postlethwaite). Distressed by the murder of his adoptive parents by Hades and surprised to learn that he is actually the bastard child of Zeus and a mortal woman, Perseus volunteers for a mission to consult the oracular Stygian Witches to learn if there is any way of defeating The Kraken. Accompanying Perseus on his mission are Io (Arterton), the ageless woman with knowledge of the gods who revealed the secrets of his parentage to him, and a group of soldiers and hunters from Argos lead by the cynical and experienced Draco (Mikkelson).
Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 Desmond Davis-directed swan song feature from special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, aspires to be nothing more than an old-fashioned monster movie dressed in state of the art special effects, and, sure enough, that is all it manages to be. Character development is so perfunctory that even Perseus, its central protagonist, feels like a plot marionette more so than an actual hero or even a relatable mythical archetype. I suppose an analogy can be drawn between the characters in the film being forced to mechanically slag through the hollow series of tests laid out by the plot and the resentment the men in the film feel towards being pawns of the gods, but I doubt the filmmakers intended anyone to draw this comparison. The closest any actor comes to challenging the "filmmaking gods" by injecting some much needed humanity into their character is Pete Postlethwaite as Spyros, and he is punished for his transgression before the first reel is over.
That being said, after a somewhat sluggish ramp up over the film's first thirty minutes or so, fans looking for man versus monster mayhem are treated to an hour of almost non-stop action and special effects. There is variability in the quality of the effects, and some of the action scenes are much better conceived than others, but as a CGI-flavored homage to the mythology-tinged monster movies of Ray Harryhausen, one would not expect it to be any other way. Since the various CGI beasties and make-up creations that stand between Perseus and the completion of his quest are the best things the film has to offer, I will not spoil them by elaborating on them here. Suffice it to say that anyone who felt that Peter Jackson's King Kong over-reached by attempting to simultaneously pay homage to a classic monster movie, one-up it at every turn, and take itself seriously to the point of pretentiousness will find no such excess of ambition in Clash of the Titans. Leterrier's goals are no greater, and arguably much less ambitious than those of the Desmond Davis/Ray Harryhausen original. If nothing else, at least the film's box-office success has insured that for another generation of film-goers, the phrase "Release the Kraken" will be used as the punchline for a number of dirty jokes.
The Video ****½
The VC-1 encoded 1080p presentation letterboxed to the film's original 2.4:1 aspect ratio is a near flawless, film-like presentation. The range of contrast is spot-on with deep blacks and, other than a handful of sequences where heavenly lights or god-like sparkle on armor are intentionally introduced, non-blooming whites. I have seen so many modern films with heavily-stylized palettes lately that I was almost taken aback by the comparatively natural, only slightly desaturated, earth-tone favoring color scheme of this film filled with completely unnatural creatures and environments. That being said, the eye-candy factor of the film is helped considerably by the decision of Leterrier to shoot much of the outdoor action in spectacular real-world locations with occasional CG augmentation and extensions rather than in completely virtual environments. Critical viewers may find it just a touch softer than the best Blu-ray presentations of modern films, but now I am really digging for something to criticize.
The Audio *****
The lossless English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is reference-quality demo material. The film's aggressive surround mix is repurposed well for a home theater near-field listening environment, and will likely have viewers checking behind and under their sofas and recliners for slithering beasties. Carefully handled dynamics insure that dialog will be at an intelligible level both before and after the Kraken is released into a viewer's family room or basement. The outstanding fidelity of the lossless encoding greatly benefits what may be my single favorite element of the movie: Ramin Djawadi's rousing heroic score. Alternate 640 kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 language dubs are available in French, Spanish, and Portuguese.
The Extras ****½
When the disc is first inserted into a player, the following two skippable promos play.:
- Warner Digital Copy Promo (1080p video - Dolby Digital 2.01 Audio - :53)
- Warner Blu-ray promo (4:3 Letterboxed SD video - Dolby Digital 2.0 audio - 2:01)
The proper special features on this disc are all presented in 1080p VC-1 encoded video with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio unless otherwise indicated:
WB Maximum Movie Mode (108 minutes) is an elaborate visual commentary track that runs concurrently with the film on Blu-ray players equipped with "Bonusview" capability (Profile 1.1 or higher). Various windows open and close with video material moving to the foreground and background inclusive of the film itself to offer scene specific behind the scenes information and commentary. On a couple of occasions, it "pauses" the film to explore a specific shot a bit deeper than could be accomplished in real time, which is why it runs two minutes longer than the film itself. It also includes ten optional "Focus Point" branching featurettes that can be selected with the viewer's DVD remote when an on-screen prompt appears. These feature additional information about specific topics relative to the point in the film where the on-screen prompt appears. Very little of the film passes by without some relevant commentary or behind the scenes material, inclusive of on-set footage, previsualization animatics, design and construction footage of props and sets, storyboards, raw production footage, visual effects progression reels, Costume and make-up design materials, creature design materials, locatioin scouting footage, pre-production walk-throughs of scenes, stunt team test footage, and pyro effects test footage.
Comments are provided by a broad spectrum of people involved with the production including Director Louis Leterrier, Producer Basil Iwanyk, Producer Kevin De La Noy, Sam Worthington (Perseus), Production Designer Martin Laing, Marine Coordinator Robin Davies, Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis, Writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, Liam Neeson (Zeus), Ralph Fiennes (Hades), MPC CG Supervisor Patrick Roos, MPC Visual Effects Supervisor Gary Brozenich, Gemma Arterton (Io), Make-up and Hair Designer Jenny Shircore, Costume Designer Lindy Hemming, Animal Coordinator Gill Raddings, Jason Flemyng (Calibos), Mads Mikkelson (Draco), Cinesite Visual Effects Supervisor Simon Stanley-Clamp, Character Designer Aaron Sims, Animatronics Senior Technician Peter Hawkins, Aerial Director of Photography Hans Bjerno, Prosthetics Supervisor Conor O'Sullivan, Armorer Nick Komororicki, Stunt Coordinator Paul Jennings, Special Effects Supervisor Neil Corbould, MPC Animation Supervisor Greg Fisher, and Alexa Davalos (Andromeda), and two unidentified extras who played Djinn.
Available separately from their context-specific "pop-up" appearance in Maximum Movie Mode, are ten Focus Points (35:02 w/"Play All"), which are a collection of brief behind the scenes featurettes viewable individually or through a "Play All" menu option. Details are as follows:
- Sam Worthington as Perseus (3:43) - Offers general praise for the film's lead actor as well as Worthington's thoughts on the film. On-camera comments are provided by Worthington, Iwanyk, Leterrier, and Flemyng
- Zeus: Father of Gods and Men (2:18) - Looks at the titular character as portrayed in the film by Liam Neeson as well as his armor and make-up. Comments are offered by Neeson, Leterrier, Iwanyk, and Hemming
- Enter the World of Hades (3:29) - Looks at the titular character as played by Ralph Fiennes as well as his costume, make-up and associated special effects. Comments are provided by Hemming, Leterrier, Iwanyk, Fiennes, Shircore, and Davis
- Calibos: The Man Behind the Monster (2:56) - Looks at the titular character as played in the film by Jason Flemyng with a lot of discussion of the heavy prosthetics required for the role. Comments are provided by Leterrier, Flemyng, O' Sullivan, and Iwanyk
- Tenerife: A Continent on an Island (4:24) - Looks at the unique titular location with discussion of its diverse exotic environments. Comments are provided by Leterrier, De La Noy, Location Manager Terry Blyther, Supervising Location Manager Robin Higgs, Arterton, stunt performer Mark Mottram, Iwanyk, Mikkelson, Associate Producer Kevin McMillan, and Worthington
- Scorpioch (4:06) looks at the giant scorpion-like creatures in the film inclusive of pre-visualization, design, and integration of practical and digital effects. Comments are offered by Davis, Leterrier, Stabley-Clamp, Animation Supervisor Quentin Miles, Worthington, and Corbould
- Actors and Their Stunts (3:48) looks at the physical nature of many of the roles in the film and the degree to which the cast was enthusiastic about performing many of their own stunts. Comments are provided by Iwanyk, Worthington, Mikkelson, Leterrier, Jennings, Flemyng, Arterton, Mottram, and Davslos
- Wales: A Beautiful Scarred Landscape (2:31) - Looks at the Wales locations used in the film inclusive of the location scouting and comments on the constant rain encountered while shooting there. Comments are provided by Worthington, Iwanyk, Jennings, De La Noy, Flemyng, Arterton, and Letterrier
- Bringing Medusa to Life (3:47) - Looks at how the titular creature was brought to life on-screen inclusive of the Russian super-model Natalia Vodianova used for facial reference, the decision to kick-off the production by shooting the "Medusa'a lair" sequence, and a lot of discussion of the visual effects associated with the character and her snakes. Comments are offered by Leterrier, Iwanyk, Wortington, Jennings, De La Noy, Corbould, Laing, Davis, Framestore Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Webber, Framestore Lead Modeler Scott Eaton, and Framestore Animation Supervisor Max Solomon.
- Prepare for the Kraken (3:55) - Looks at the on-screen realization of the titular creature inclusive of early concepts, design, digital animation, water effects, and scale. Comments are offered by Leterrier, Sims, Davis, Fisher, Brozenich, and Roos.
Available separately from the Focus Points is a single additional featurette called Sam Worthington: An Action Hero for the Ages (7:56) which focuses on the film's lead actor, his physical commitment to his roles in this and other films, and his willingness to do many of his own stunts. It consists of interviews and behind the scenes footage. The most interesting interview comments come form Worthington when he discusses how the "Bourne" films and "The Dark Knight" have changed audiences expectations for action films. The best behind the scenes footage involves one of the last shots of the film where Worthington performs a bungee leap on a green screen stage multiple times after Leterrier bets him money that they will have to use a stuntman for the shot. On-camera comments are provided by Iwanyk, Worthington, Leterrier, Jennings, Flemyng, and Arterton.
Alternate Ending (Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo - 5:23) - is an extended alternate conclusion that would have been even worse than the "Zeus ex machina" cop-out moment at the conclusion of the finished film. The worst mis-step is the insertion of a completely "unearned" romantic thread between Perseus and Andromeda. The film as is has a tendency to under-develop characters and relationships, but at least someone had the sense to figure out that it was a bad idea to try to introduce and sell the idea of a new romantic relationship in the film's last five minutes. It is presented without finished digital effects.
A series of Deleted Scenes (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo - 18:11) are presented as a continuous reel without the ability to select them individually from the menu or chapter through them with the DD remote. The majority of the cuts come at the expense of a deleted sub-plot involving Apollo and a "meanwhile back in Argos" thread. Descriptions are as follows:
- Extended opening conference of the gods in Olympus (5:37)
- Io and Perseus Conversation in the forest (1:09)
- Apollo and Athena discuss Zeus (1:44)
- Andromeda and her handmaid Peshet discuss Perseus (:46)
- Extended arrival in Stygia sequence with additional exposition from Io (1:23)
- Apollo encourages Zeus to help Perseus and oppose Hades (1:25)
- Perseus discusses the Stygian witches' prophecy with Io and is visited by Apollo [instead of Zeus, who is given most of Apollo's dialog from this scene in the finished film] (2:40)
- Andromeda and Kepheus grieve over Cassiopeia (:34)
- A mob comes for Andromeda and she is betrayed by someone close to her (1:11)
- Extended Kaken release sequence inter-cutting additional scenes in Olympus (1:39)
The main menu also allows viewers to select a BD-Live option. This connects to Warner's BD-Live portal, which includes the standard promotional features and "Host a Screening" functionality. At the time of this posting, it also included a couple of Clash of the Titans related items available in streaming SD video.
- Under the "Showcase" menu is the same Actors and their Stunts "Focus Point" featurette that appears on the disc.
- Under the heading of "Special Features" is International Special (approx. 23 minutes) which is a behind the scenes promotional piece likely intended to promote the film in a half hour television slot. Drawn from the same set of interviews that informed the on-disc extras, the broad range of topics include the film's plot, characters, creatures, international cast, basis in mythology, production design, style, stunts, environments, locations, and digital effects. On-camera comments are provided by Iwanyk, Neeson, Leterrier, Fiennes, Worthington, Davalos, Mikkelson, Arterton, Flemyng, O'Sullivan, Laing, Hemming, De La Noy, Jennings, Corbould, Davis, Stanley-Clamp, Brozenich, and Roos.
SD DVD & Digital Copy - As is the case with all recent Warner BDs of theatrical new release titles, a separate disc is included with an SD DVD of the film and a digital copy. The DVD presentation is bare bones with the film in 16:9 enhanced widescreen video, English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, available English SDH, French, or Spanish subtitles, and no extras. The video has visible signs of mpeg-2 compression artifacts, especially noticeable due to the constantly moving camera. The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is encoded at 384 kbps with fidelity suffering a bit compared to the lossless Blu-ray track due to the relatively low bit-rate.
The digital copy is on-disc, and is compatible with either iTunes or Windows Media formats. It is unlocked through the use of a one-time password provided on a paper insert to the disc case.
The disc is enclosed in a standard-sized Blu-ray case with an extra hub on the inner left side allowing it to accommodate the DVD/digital copy disc as well as the BD of the film. The only inserts are a generic "BD-Live - Here's What You Will Need" information sheet and a sheet with the code to unlock the iTunes or Windows Media digital copies. The hard case is in turn surrounded by a cardbaord slipcover which reproduces the same art with a foil-enhanced sheen and some additional information about the included SD-DVD with digital copy disc.
Clash of the Titans is a men versus mythological monsters special effects extravaganza that gives short shrift to its characters in its eagerness to dazzle viewers with action and effects. It is presented on Blu-ray with outstanding video and demo-quality audio. Extras are substantial and informative with the highlight being a "Maximum Movie Mode" visual commentary with a broad array of behind the scenes material from a diverse group of participants in the film's production.