The upcoming remake of Clash of the Titans updates the 1981 original with spiffy CGI special effects, as well as more subtle changes to the Greek mythology epic and a different kind of hero.
But the filmmakers won't say they've improved Ray Harryhausen's original, a classic adventure that pushed stop-motion visual effects to new levels. Rather, they say, they used photoreal CGI technology to portray the giant scorpions, Medusa and the kraken just because everyone else is doing it that way now. Oh, and Zeus? He's not a rapist. He's just European. (Explanation below, and spoilers ahead!)
"Certain movies stand the test of time," producer Basil Iwanyk said in a news conference last week in Beverly Hills, Calif. "I'm sure in 30 years there will be some much younger and more handsome people up here going, 'Why is there a second remake of The Clash of the Titans? The second one is so goofy.' I love the original one, and I remember clearly the night I saw it with my dad in New Jersey. It was a truly cool, cool experience. When I was 11, it didn't seem goofy at all when I saw it. Movies look goofy in retrospect sometimes, but I remember when I saw it I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen."
Among other things, the new Clash stars Avatar's Sam Worthington as the demigod Perseus, the role originated by a shaggy-haired Harry Hamlin. Worthington's Perseus wants to rely on his human side, like his mom, even though he had some powers from Zeus.
"I had an idea that he shouldn't just be a god," Worthington said. "In the original, he embraces the gods' gifts, and that's kind of a great idea, that this man who's half man, half god embraces the god side. [But] I've got a 9-year-old nephew. That's a terrible message to give to him, that he can only succeed as a god. That's a terrible message for all of us. So I really hammered home hard. I said this guy wants to push [his powers] aside and just do it as a man. Then my nephew can go, 'You look deep inside yourself and grab other men who are as fallible as you, and you can achieve anything.' I thought that was a better direction to do with it."
The god part of Perseus is actually something to be feared. When Perseus calls upon his god side, he becomes a force of destruction.
"By throwing ideas around, I came up with the idea that the god part of you is the power to destruct, to destroy something like that [in the snap of your fingers]," Worthington continued. "The [gods] kill his family like that. They have the power to create and destroy like that, literally. So to have that power and have that kind of responsibility of that power, for a troublesome teenager, which I think Perseus is, that's a lot of weight. If you look, when he picks up the god sword at the end against Calibos, he turns into Sonic the Hedgehog. He goes bananas. He's flipping off things. It's chaos. The power is too strong. His destructive power is too strong. I thought that's a different way of looking at the movie as well."
The new movie also gives the gods of Mt. Olympus more to do. In the original Clash, the gods sat on Mount Olympus watching the humans battle the monsters they unleashed. Now, Zeus (Liam Neeson) and Hades (Ralph Fiennes) mingle with the humans on Earth a few times.
"We wanted the conception of Mount Olympus and our gods to be a lot more active and to be a bigger part of the story," Iwanyk said.
The gods have been mischievous throughout Greek mythology, impregnating human women and causing wars. In the new Clash, they actually kill innocent people just to demonstrate their might. Tantrum much, Hades?
"We wanted to create something where, first of all, the gods were revealed as the kind of petty, crazy messes that they really are," screenwriter Phil Hay said. "They're these divine creatures that aren't necessarily worthy of divine worship. That's kind of a big part of the storytelling, and Perseus' story is leading the charge against that."
Zeus actually comes across as almost a rapist when he impregnates Perseus' mother, seemingly against her will. Director Louis Leterrier said Zeus isn't quite that immoral. "No, he's European," the French-born Leterrier joked.
(We're going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say we don't think he really means that it's OK to be a rapist in Europe.)
"We don't date. That's the main difference," Leterrier tried to explain, adding: "But they're gods. There's no good or bad. They're just doing what they want, so they don't think this way. It's all shades of gray. That what was very interesting for Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes to play. In the morning, Liam was not 'OK, I'm the good guy' and Ralph 'I'm the bad guy.' They were like, 'OK, I'm a god.'"
Clash of the Titans opens April 2.