Sunday, 14 November 2010

CULTURE CLASH


“A myth is a religion in which no one any longer believes.” - James Feibleman

Growing up as a child in Greece I was surrounded by history, breathed in myth, conversed with the gods of old in the friendly neighbourhood museum and trod the same streets as the philosophers of old. I gazed at the Acropolis from my bedroom window and each bit of stone or fragment of marble breathed out the living tradition of centuries. No wonder I wanted to become an archaeologist when I was growing up!

Greek myths are powerful enough to have survived for centuries and to have inspired many artists worldwide to create masterpieces. This of course began in ancient Greece and Rome where statues, frescoes, mosaics, pottery and paintings brought to life the gods and heroes that were the subject of Greek mythology. The Renaissance subsequently revived the Greek myths and the new wave of creation continued the tradition for centuries up until the modern day. Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, Rubens, Dali, Picasso, etc, etc, etc have all contributed to the iconography, while famous composers were inspired to create music, song and opera that had as its subject matter mythical heroes, heroines, gods and goddesses. Literature was uninterruptedly inspired by mythology and even today the Greek myths stimulate the creative juices of many an author.

More recently Hollywood has taken Greek myth as inspiration and has created some films that brought the mythology to life in interesting ways. At the weekend we watched the 2010 Louis Leterrier film “Clash of the Titans” and were greatly disappointed. The movie stank! This was Hollywood at its worse, spending an enormous amount of money to make a third-rate Sunday matinee movie that only kids and people unfamiliar with history, mythology, culture, traditions, art would think represented a passable depiction of a Greek myth on screen.

Not only was the story mangled by the terrible trio of screewriters: Travis Beacham, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, but it was obvious these people had no sense of history, geography, literature, chronology and cultural awareness. The result of this puerile attempt at re-writing Greek myth was comparable to the cultural bathos of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”. This “Clash” was a really bad movie! I would have forgiven it if it had any trace of humour in it, as the previous 1981 Desmond Davis movie “Clash of the Titans” did. At least one could forgive it the Hollywoodisation as it did make us laugh. All the 2010 version of the “Clash” did was make me grumpy.

The casting was pitiable and the costumes, settings and “creatures” were lamentable. The departures from history were unforgivable, for example:
•    The Saddhu (Indian holy man) priest-activist in mythical ancient Greece!
•    The “christening” of Perseus’s adoptive father as “Spyro” (a Greek Orthodox Christian name)…
•    The lamassu (Assyrian winged bulls) depicted in Greece!
•    Argos (sitting in the Argive plain 3 km away from the sea) depicted as a sea-side cliff-perched city!
•    Casseiopeia and Cepheus being queen and king of Argos (whereas in the myth they were rulers of Ethiopia)!
•    The Kraken (a sea monster of Norwegian myth) having holidays in the Aegean!
•    Io as the love interest of Perseus – you have to be kidding! She was star of another Greek myth and lover of Zeus, not Perseus…
•    Andromeda as the “communist” daughter of the kingly couple! Ridiculous!
•    Calibos? Who the hell is he? A runaway from another movie (B-grade horror flick)
•    Acrisius was Perseus’s grandfather and the father of Danaë, Perseus mother – not her husband!
•    Danaë survives with Perseus, she is not dead in the floating casket, as in the film…
o    And the list goes on and on and on…

It was embarrassingly bad… Not even as a fantasy movie, “inspired” by Greek myth was this palatable. Sam Worthington as the hero Perseus looks remarkably unhero-like and sullen for the whole movie, while his unwashed, unkempt, unattractive and unlikeable companions can’t make up their minds whether they are pious or impious, with him or against him – quite tiresome really. The Olympian gods are most ungod-like and except for Zeus and Hades hover in the background generally uninterested in any of the goings-on (probably quite wise of them). Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes look so much like one another under the make up and beards that I thought they were the same actor playing a double role. Gemma Arterton as the waif-like protectress of Perseus looked curiously oriental – I half expected her to walk out with a kimono in a number of scenes. Oh bad, bad, bad…

If you are interested in the real myth, Wikipedia does it well but even better is to read Robert Graves’s excellent book “The Greek Myths”.

Now for the good parts of the movie, hmmm let me think...

I’m thinking, I’m thinking…

Still thinking…

OK, computer-generated imagery – yes they were good, as one would expect nowadays with any of the fantasy films. Medusa and Pegasus were OK…

It is really not worth watch this bombastic, self-touting film, we thought it was a waste of our time. If you do watch it, do it with a group of friends and play spot the silliness while quaffing beers and eating pizza and laughing and joking. Should be a good night then...

No comments:

Post a comment