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Review: 'Titans' reigns as enjoyably cheesy film

Tom Charity, Special to CNN
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sam Worthington plays the role of Perseus in "Clash of the Titans."
  • The story of Perseus, the bastard son of Zeus who takes on the mighty Kraken
  • There's no excuse for the film's abominable retro-fitted 3D

(CNN) -- There's never a bad time for a toga party, right? The story of Perseus -- the bastard son of Zeus who takes on the mighty Kraken -- will endure long after Louis Leterrier's enjoyably cheesy movie has been forgotten (or, inevitably, remade in 4D).

But for now, and for young men especially, Leterrier's version is the one that counts, and it will just have to do.

It's a mixed bag: Three credited screenwriters have labored in the footsteps laid down by the 1981 Ray Harryhausen "classic" (hardly his finest hour) -- that is, they've taken the myth as an excuse to showcase as many special effects sequences as they can muster. That's not a bad strategy when it's clear from the laughably clumsy opening that they haven't a clue how the ancient Greeks spoke to one another.

The clunky dialogue is delivered in various shades of tone deaf Antipodean, English, Irish and European by the likes of Sam Worthington (Perseus), Gemma Arterton (as his spiritual guru/love interest) and Liam Neeson (Zeus). Neeson's old "Schindler" nemesis Ralph Fiennes brings a touch of class to Zeus's brother Hades, while the great, growly, scene-stealing Mads Mikkelsen (Le Chiffre in "Casino Royale") makes the strongest impression among the mortals.

Video: Sam Worthington as Greek God 'Perseus'
Video: Release the Kraken ... again!
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Mikkelsen's only serious competition in the scenery-chewing stakes comes from the Kraken itself, a toothy sea monster who is built up for an hour and three quarters, then comes on for five minutes -- wisely doesn't say a word -- and walks away with the picture.

In Harryhausen's day, effects meant stop-motion photography of artfully modeled monsters, including a three-headed dog (excised here) and a golden mechanical owl (who makes a cameo appearance for old time's sake).

Today's CGI creatures may not have the same charm, but they're considerably more agile and fluid, and the action scenes have tremendous dynamism.

Leterrier comes from "The Incredible Hulk" and "The Transporter," and he's evidently more comfortable running than walking. A showdown with gigantic angry scorpions is the movie's first big set-piece, and it's exciting enough to make you forget you've seen these critters before -- or something very similar, in "Transformers."

The three Graeae are ghastly, touchy-feely crones with one eye between them, and Medusa is a giant snake who slithers around her lair like a heat-seeking missile - though I preferred the aplomb Uma Thurman brought to the role in "The Lightning Thief."

Like his namesake Percy Jackson, Perseus has daddy issues -- he's a demi-god who wants to prove he's all man. After "Avatar" and "Terminator Salvation" Worthington has cast-iron credentials on that score. We can see why Perseus would resist invitations to join the Immortals. Mount Olympus looks like a colossal bore, a resting home for eternity. You wonder what they find to talk about all day. At least on Earth there are monsters to mash and quests to be quested.

iReport: Critic says "Avoid at any cost"

If it's bad enough to be good in places, there's no excuse for the film's abominable retro-fitted 3D, a process that perversely flattens out the images into two planes, foreground and background, and renders this one of the ugliest epics in history.

It's a shame to see filmmakers jumping on a bandwagon like this, and missing. You'd be well advised to seek out the picture's 2D venues -- or wait for the DVD.