Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Clash of the Titans - With Spoilers

I know I am a little behind the times, but I just watched the re-make of Clash of the Titans this weekend and I was quite surprised at the tack the film took towards religion. For my purposes here, I will not be addressing the shallow misunderstanding of Greek religion that seems like it came from a children’s book listing only the gods’ names and spheres of influence. Nor will I belabor the criminal waste of truly talented actors, besmirching their otherwise outstanding resumes. (I weep for you, Liam and Ralph.) If you want to read mean, snotty reviews of the film there are many available and they are all correct.

I was surprised at the way the film portrays the relationship between men and gods, and the not so subtle real life message. Religion is bad, gods are mean and bad, people should just figure out the world on their own with no goals other than that. Perseus’s whole goal is to kill and bring down the gods of Olympus, especially Hades. He is not interested in saving Argos, or brave Andromeda, he just wants to avenge his family and destroy the gods. How the world would continue to work after the gods are gone was not clear, but dammit, it would work for men. Not people, mind you, men.

As a science-loving non-theist, I’m as down as anybody for art that teaches people to rely on reason rather than superstition, but this was really heavy handed. Scene after scene, we hear Perseus attest to his goal of vengeance against the gods. I cannot call this film Humanist as it never tries to say how people would do better for themselves, than by serving Olympus. Nowhere does it attempt to define what is great about being a human or what can be achieved if not held back by the gods. Sure, the gods kill a few people, but are people any better to each other?

I tend to roll my eyes when conservative Christians talk about Hollywood being anti-religious, but this is the type of film that gives credence to their argument. It criticizes religion, but to no purpose other than lashing out that gods are bad. Hint, hint, get it, gods are bad.

Another aspect that jumped out at me, was how much of the action in the film is motivated by hate. Hades hates Zeus, Caliban hates Zeus, Perseus hates Hades. No one, save perhaps Andromeda, seems motivated to benefit anyone, even themselves. It is not about salvation, or greater glory, or love, it is about implacable hate, which is pretty dark for a sword & sandals type film. I think they were going for a Gladiator vibe, but even that film has a restore-the-glory-of-Rome subplot.

Maybe I just don’t like people picking on the gods of Greece, with whom I fell in love as a child. Do yourself a favor and avoid this film. Save those two hours of your life.

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