The original CLASH OF THE TITANS was released a year before I was born, and I'd like to think that I've aged somewhat better than it has. What may have seemed spectacular then, now seems beyond cheese. Certainly, cheese can have value of its own, but what's telling about putting CLASH in context is that it was made three years after STAR WARS (A NEW HOPE,) but looks like it came twenty years before it. In spite of it being the work of special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen, 1981's CLASH is a pretty tepid piece of pop. In fact, given how dated it looks now, the only way to know it came after STAR WARS is the fact that it swipes from that film so frequently... You've got your Luke in the form of Perseus (Harry Hamlin,) a wide-eyed farm boy who yearns to take his place in the universe. You've got your Obi Wan in the form of Burgess Meredith's Ammon, your magical sword, hell you've even got your R2-D2 in Bubo, the friendly/godawful mechanical owl.

Of course, Perseus is actually the forbear of Luke Skywalker, by about - what is it now - 6,000 years? But culture continually re-casts its classics in the molds of what's recently popular, hence, CLASH's resemblance to STAR WARS in '81...

And in 2010, now that the movie gods have seen fit to re-make CLASH OF THE TITANS again, what influences will color it? Understandably, Louis Leterrier's new film is Greek myth by way of LORD OF THE RINGS and GOD OF WAR on Playstation, but if there's one film in whose shadow the new CLASH stands, it's James Cameron's AVATAR. That's not because CLASH tracks a similar storyline really, nor that it shares its hero in Sam Worthington, professional Australian-pretending-not-to-be-Australian. What puts the 2010 CLASH squarely in the post-AVATAR universe is that it's being released simultaneously in traditional 2D, and in digital 3D, the format Mr. Cameron recently redefined.

I got the chance to see CLASH OF THE TITANS at an advance screening last week. (I know. IMPRESSIVE.) And though 3D glasses were handed out at the door, it was then announced that all we would actually be seeing in 3D was a six minute highlight reel, which itself was only 80% finished. The rest of the film would be shown in boring old 2D. 2D! If I want 2D, I'll shut one eye and look out a window ... CLASH, it turns out, had been shot completely in 2D, and only after the success of AVATAR in January did Warner Brothers executives decide to make it their first experiment in 3D retro-conversion. Other words, nobody planned on a 3D CLASH OF THE TITANS until, like, two weeks ago. Expect more of this funny business, friends - albeit not at this breakneck a pace. If a studio can charge $18 for a movie you'd normally pay $13 for, they will do what it takes to score those extra five bucks. That's sushi money, people.

So the question you're going to have to ask, in this newly complicated movie marketplace is two-fold: is any given release worth your time and cash, in either 3D or 2D. And the answer for CLASH goes something like this: "no, probably not," and "yeah, why not," in that order.

This CLASH OF THE TITANS, it turns out, is a marked improvement over its original version, at least for someone (me) who has no nostalgia for the original. That it's almost an hour less than AVATAR is one of the best things about the film; whereas AVATAR was predictable and long, CLASH is predictable, but brief. The plotting is brisk and action-packed, eye-roll dialogue is kept minimal, and, it's good, stupid fun watching Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes partake in the time-honored tradition of great British actors slumming it for blockbusters. As divine brothers Zeus and Hades, these guys are clearly havin' a laugh, just as Sir Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith did in '81 when they screwed around Mount Olympus for a hot shilling.

It almost goes without saying that the special effects are top shelf. They're plainly the reason this remake exists. More important, though, are the numerous well-chosen design elements throughout the film. The underworld, with River Styx boatman Charon is a standout, as are the mystical Djinn, with their char-wood skin and blue flame eyes. Other choices are less advisable: Fiennes' Hades has a nifty cape of souls, but a lousy makeup job. (Apparently, the underworld gives you eczema.) The Stygian witches turn out to be a blatant PAN'S LABYRINTH - uh - reference - and for all the build-up to the Kraken, when he's finally released, he's more or less Roland Emmerich's GODZILLA. Thankfully, though, the Pegasus chase built around mister monster is a winner. It's worth 2D money, at least.

As for Sam Worthington, his brooding Perseus is my favorite performance of his - which is kind of like saying I enjoy Quaker Oats more than other, different brands of oats... Even after a landmark year, Worthington hasn't answered the basic question "why exactly are you in literally every single movie now, sir?" Let's face it: AVATAR was about Pandora, just as CLASH OF THE TITANS is about releasing that ollll' Kraken, and TERMINATOR SALVATION was about a buttnaked CG Arnold Schwarzenegger stalking around a power plant, or something... Worthington may have been the protagonist of each film, but he wasn't the star. Perhaps that really does make him the actor of the moment; he's so unremarkable in three dimensions that he gives the eye nowhere to go but into the scenery.

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