In 2010 I saw 100 different movies in 100 different theaters. Here are the details.

Monday, August 2, 2010

56. Clash of the Titans

United Artists Berkeley 7

The United Artists Berkeley 7 is just a block away from the Shattuck. Built in 1932 as a venue for United Artists films, the theater is now owned by Regal (a bit ironic, that a start-up studio and theater circuit, designed to untether the artist from the major studios, would later be acquired by the largest exhibition circuit in the world; from one giant to another).

Many classic elements of the theater have survived, including the glass doors leading from the foyer, to a mini-foyer (very classy), to the lobby. The pinball machine is a bit out of place, though. I appreciate that the theater hasn't been rebranded as Regal.

This elegant fixture hangs from the foyer's vaulted ceiling.

I was prohibited from taking any additional photographs inside the theater; I hope to return at a later date with the permission of a manager. There is an excellent article posted on the theater's Cinema Treasures entry that details the theater's appearance when it first opened. Since then, the lobby has been modernized but still retains many of its beautiful murals, fixtures, and other ornamentation. You can see a few modern photographs here.

Originally built as a single-screen theater, the main auditorium was later divided up to make room for four separate screens, two on the ground floor and two in balcony. Three other screens were then added in various corners and nooks. The auditorium for my movie was positively tiny, seating approximately 50; this is not the place to come to see something on the Big Screen.

When the film began there was a problem with the projection, with some parts of the screen blurry, as if there were a smudge on a lens somewhere. I notified management, and they adjusted it a bit, but it mostly just moved the blur around.

This marks my tenth visit to the Berkeley 7, beginning with Charlie's Angels in 2000.


The Expendables

(Previously reviewed)

Robin Hood (Trailer 2)

(Previously reviewed)

Salt (Trailer 2)


What are Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody doing in this movie? Did they get drunk one weekend and stumble onto the set of a monster flick while the director just kept the cameras rolling? You can get the gist of the movie from my review of the second trailer, but I can tell you from the recap provided to me by my friend Eli, this is one movie I can do without (and Elizabeth, if you're reading this, in the context of a discussion we were recently having about Infinite Crisis, et al., you should steer clear of this title, big time). 103 cuts, though again, they come too fast to count.

Clash of the Titans

One of my favorite games is Reiner Knizia's Colossal Arena. Gameplay represents gladiator-style combat between various mythological beasts and fantasy characters. Players wager on which three contestants will stand victorious at the game's conclusion, and the players also play cards from their hand to influence the fights. Although the theme is pasted on, I greatly enjoy the premise of a Pegasus, Cyclops, and Gorgon all duking it out, each using their unique abilities to fell the weakest foe. It's wonderful to imagine the variety and peculiarity of these creatures all co-existing.

Clash of the Titans exists within a similar fantasy world, where beasts lurk in the depths, and Gods sit in council to decide our fate. Sam Worthington is Perseus, an orphan raised by a family of seafaring fishers. One day he and his family are fishing off the coast of the city-state Argos. The people of Argos, reveling in their decadence, no longer worship Zeus as they once did. Zeus (Liam Neeson) feeds off worship; when his followers turn from him, he becomes weaker. Just as Perseus's boat is passing, soldiers of Argos topple a statue of Zeus into the sea. Zeus's brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) shows up to defend his brother's honor (as all righteous brothers do, with a flock of fiendish harpies), and in the ensuing massacre Perseus's boat sinks and his family drowns.

Perseus shakes his fist at the heavens and decides to give the gods some beat-down. To his credit (though unbeknownst to him), he's actually a demi-god, the half-mortal son of Zeus. Zeus, focussing on his own anger issues, decides to obliterate Argos by unleashing the Kraken, and ages old monster born from Zeus's flesh. (You might recall seeing the Kraken in the movie's trailer; but don't worry, the trailer withheld four frames of its monstrous glory, so you're sure to be surprised at every turn!) Perseus's best bet for revenge against Zeus, then, is to kill the Kraken. Because if you defeat the beast commissioned by the guy who's the brother of the other guy whose harpies killed your family, that's sorta like revenge, right? With the aid of many warriors from the city, and a mysterious protector, Io (Gemma Arterton), Perseus embarks on a classic quest to surmount the insurmountable, attain the unobtainable (um, would that be unobtainium?), and kill the immortal.

Let's focus on Gemma Arterton for a moment. She looks so good in this movie, she really deserves two paragraphs.

I mean, yes she was attractive in Quantum of Solace, and a beauty in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but in Clash of the Titans she absolutely glows. This is a gritty movie; warriors are being snapped in half by giant scorpions or bludgeoned by a cyclops every ten seconds or so, but somehow Io manages to keep her dress a heavenly white. She has a special attachment to Perseus, the main character; the audience, in turn, is supposed to identify with the main character; and since I was one of only three people in the audience, and that guy in the back row who came in late really doesn't count, and my best friend is already married, really it's like Io was looking right at me.

It would be a stretch to call Io or Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) strong female characters. They are given little to do, and are there mostly to remind us that unlike Zeus's conception, humans don't spontaneously erupt from the foreheads of their parents. The most interesting female character is Medusa, though the movie only wants to hack her to pieces. In a few lines of dialog Medusa is given a back story that won my full sympathy, made me hate the gods, and care little for the fate of anyone stupid enough to disturb her tortuous existence.

The gods are fun characters, though the movie fails to tap their potential. Zeus is scornful, Hades is conniving, Athena is compassionate, and Poseidon is Danny Huston, perhaps as one-dimensional as they are in classical literature. But considering the many incestuous interpersonal relationships among the twelve gods that must play into all their daily interactions, I could watch an entire movie of them sitting in their giant chairs debating each other. Think of the politics, alliances, and treachery involved just in planning dinner each night. (Hades: I want mutton! Thousands of roasted, soulless sheep! Athena: Well, I'm not going to hunt them for you unless you agree to release my seven children from Hell. Hades: I'll release four kids, and that guy you once dated; that's my final offer. Zeus: Bah, I'm tired of mutton. Let's eat Asia Minor!)

Rather than dither with the gods, our time is spent following Perseus on an unremarkable quest. His battles, each against a different sort of terror, each claim the lives of about half his team and rewards him with a magical weapon, like clockwork. If I were on that team, I might do some number crunching to realize there's no way I would live long enough to see my fearless leader acquire the necessary weapons to defeat the Kraken. The effects are excellent, but the action sequences are predictable and boring, as if the movie were going through the motions of an adventure story, but lacked a soul. The movie gives the impression that its world is quite small. Argos is only a few days' walk from the scorpion-infested desert, which in turn is spitting distance from Charon's boat (an excellent set). There are so few people around to worship Zeus, I can understand why he's miffed when an entire city decides he isn't the god for them.

Perseus's journey from man to hero is too familiar a trope. I tire of the Chosen One who doesn't know he's the Chosen One. I want a movie about the Chosen One who steps up from day one, in full command of his powers, and takes on the Big Bad. I emerged from this movie desiring to again see its fast-paced, well-edited trailer, dancing with its perfect blend of visual lore and frenetic action. In contrast, the movie just sorta flops around like an injured harpy.

1 comment:

  1. ”born from Zeus's flesh”

    Pretty sure it was Hades's flesh.

    ”You might recall seeing the Kraken in the movie's trailer; but don't worry, the trailer withheld four frames of its monstrous glory, so you're sure to be surprised at every turn! ”

    Yea, they should have saved that for the actual film.

    ”Perseus's best bet for revenge against Zeus, then, is to kill the Kraken. Because if you defeat the beast commissioned by the guy who's the brother of the other guy whose harpies killed your family, that's sorta like revenge, right? ”

    Its all foggy now, but he didn't go after the Kracken for revenge. Hades tells the city it must choose between sacrificing its princess or having it entirely destroyed by the Kracken. Perseus goes to kill the Kracken so neither of these will take place.

    Okay, about that Kracken.. The Titans, for whom the movie is named, don't exist in this movie because they are already dead. They were a race of super-gods, even more god like then Zeus and company, who created the universe. Zeus and others were their children (or were created by them) Then Zeus rebels, convincing Hades to create the Kracken, and the Kracken, which granted is a pretty big threat to humans but still just seems like a non-supernatural monster, kills the Titans. Like kills the super god like things. How? And yet even though the Kracken is THIS powerful, he still turns to stone if he sees Medusa , who is just an ordinary woman with a curse from one of the gods, and not even one of the big three.

    Perseus spend the whole movie telling us he wants to fight them as a man, refusing to use magical weapons or help. Until he does. You know, the whole flying horse and magical sword bit. Poor resolve.

    Awesome preview, soulless movie.