By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Before describing what a mythological mess the new Clash of the Titans is, a warning about the technological thrill it isn't.
In a desperate lunge for maximum profits, the makers of Clash of the Titans decided in late January to transfer their completed movie, filmed with conventional 2-D cameras, into 3-D and higher ticket prices. The process simply doesn't work that way, at least not to full effect.
The mandatory glasses lend a milky tint to images that would've been designed brighter and visually invasive if 3-D were the original plan. Much of Clash of the Titans occurs in neutral colors — desert sands, ethereal mists — without the contrasts necessary to create an illusion of depth. The in-your-face moments, like a coin flipped toward the camera, seem tacked on to make it appear that 3-D was the idea all along.
Clash of the Titans redefines 3-D but in the wrong way; the movie is dull, dingy and, well, let's just say dull again. Save yourself a few bucks at the box office and choose the 2-D version, if you really must see this movie.
Now, a few reasons why you shouldn't.
This Clash of the Titans doesn't surpass the 1981 version in any regard, no matter how outdated Ray Harryhausen's clunky, stop-motion beasties look compared to CGI smoothness. It's putting lipstick on a pig that was already adorable enough. And no matter how many times Sam Worthington as Perseus gets to ride another winged creature, this isn't Avatar by a long shot.
Gone is the romance of riddles between Perseus and the princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos), although she shows up late as a possible Kraken snack. Instead, Perseus has a guardian angel named Io (Gemma Arterton) making the demigod's heart skip a beat. Without the Andromeda angle and its collateral jealousies, Perseus' quest loses its meaning, dumbing down to a series of confrontations with famous monsters.
There's one solid, if unintentional, comparison with the original. Ralph Fiennes plays the villainous Hades just as hammy as Laurence Olivier played Zeus in 1981, hissing dialogue like a faulty radiator, and never simply walking into a scene. Hades literally floats in and out of the movie, wild-eyed and surrounded by billowing, black smoke and overheated music. Fiennes' other underlord, Voldemort, would not be amused.
People will want to see Clash of the Titans for the exotic creatures, so here's a quick rundown: Nearly 30 minutes of celestial hoo-ha until we get giant scorpions not doing much stinging; an alluring Medusa (Natalia Vodianova) who's all snake and no bite; a Kraken that's kinda cool, in a Return of the Jedi's Rancor sort of way. Pegasus is no substitute for a Mountain Banshee, as few myths are in a post-Avatar world. Even the mechanical owl Bubo from the original gets tossed away as trash.
Each battle to the death and godly grumbling reminds us that Greek deities got better treatment before, not only in the original Clash of the Titans but as recently as Percy Jackson and the Olympians. It's as if Medusa herself were behind the camera, turning everything on screen into stone.
Steve Persall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8365. Read his blog, Reeling in the Years, at blogs. tampabay.com/movies.