Quick note: Halloween quickly approaches, my favorite time of year. To celebrate, I will be participating in Coffin Hop next week. This is an event sponsored by writers of horror and dark fiction. To be honest, I don’t totally understand how a blog hop works, but I will be (hopefully) posting a piece of flash fiction, announcing publication of a short story e-book, and giving away some books. You’ll also be able to explore the work of other talented horror and genre writers. So stop by (a few times) and help me celebrate Halloween.
And now, back to my irregularly scheduled program…
A couple of days ago, in need of some light action-adventure, I watched Clash of the Titans (2010). I was saving this movie on my DVR for this very purpose. I had forgotten that I’d already seen the movie.
It seems odd that I would forget a movie that I had probably seen within the last year. Especially when it’s full of monsters and magic and men in short skirts – like just the sort of thing I should like. So why did it take a full ten minutes of film time for me to realize I’d seen it before?
Aside from the obvious reason (I had another birthday last week – dang things just keep piling up), I suspect I forgot the movie because it is, well, completely forgettable. And I don’t just mean the acting. It would be delusionally optimistic to expect good acting in a movie featuring giant god figures, sea monsters, scorpions as big as Greyhound busses, and humanoids that appear to be made of wood. I don’t watch such movies for the acting. Nor do I expect brilliant plotting, so that can’t be the problem, either.
But I do expect the plot to be coherent, and that is where the disappointment begins.
The story of Perseus from Greek mythology is convoluted and full of interesting characters. It is a quest story, in which Perseus completes a series of strange and dangerous tasks, slaying the sea monster and winning the hand Andromeda along the way. The story presents a moviemaker with lots of appealing material to work with.
Unfortunately, these moviemakers didn’t make coherent use of it.
Let’s start with the sea monster. In the following clip, Zeus delivers what has become the movie’s most immortal line.
Pretty scary, eh? As CGA monsters go, this one is pretty good. Except that a Kraken is a Norse sea monster from the cold waters of the Norwegian Sea. And a Kraken is a giant squid. No clawed hands attached.
It’s hard to imagine why the moviemakers didn’t use the Greek name Cetos (or Ketos) for the monster. That would totally end-around the squid confusion. I suspect it’s because they didn’t know how to pronounce Cetos. (Note: In Ovid, the sea monster is called the “Draco,” which means “dragon” in Latin. There is a Draco in this movie, but he’s human. And he’s working with Perseus to defeat the Kraken. Irony abounds.)
While we are on the subject of misplaced creatures, take another look at the film clip. What’s that stirring in the background behind the Almighty Zeus? Why, it’s a bald eagle, best known as an American national symbol. Because is found only in North America! Don’t the Mediterranean Islands have eagles of their own?
And then there’s the addition of the bark-faced people during the battle with the giant scorpions. I can let the scorpions ride. At least scorpions do live in Greece. But those bark-faced people turn out to be Djinn. Which, last time I checked, were part of Persian mythology. What exactly does the inclusion of a Persian Djinn person to Perseus’s troupe add to the story? I mean, besides another character available to die at the right time? If that’s all they needed, why not use something Greek, like a centaur or minotaur?
These foreign creatures were not the only instances where the moviemakers needlessly altered the mythology. At the start of Perseus’s quest, he is told he must go to Norn Mountain to seek answers from Stygian witches. These witches are indeed from Greek mythology. (They are called the Graeae, but I can hardly blame the moviemakers for changing their name to “Stygian witches.” I’m not sure even the Greeks know how to pronounce Graeae.)
But Norn Mountain? Norn? Really? Maybe I just didn’t hear that right.
Enough nitpicking. None of these deviations actually ruined the movie for me. I’m easily entertained. Monsters and magic and men in short skirts, remember? No, for me, the deathblow for this film’s credibility was the fiasco that passes as a love story between Perseus and Io. This deviation is so wrong and awkward that I can’t even find a good analogy to express myself.
You see, it would be awfully hard for Io to have adventures with Perseus when she spends most of her time disguised as a cow. (No, really – read it here. )
Why on earth did the moviemakers choose to throw Io into the mix when they had a perfectly good love interest in Andromeda? If They wanted a strong female character to join Perseus’s quest party, how about some random Amazon? How about making her an equal with the other warriors in his crew, rather than a weak love interest? If the addition of Io is a deflection of the “rescue the maiden” story, why not instead make Andromeda a strong enough character to withstand accusations of sexism?
What were this movie’s writers thinking?!
Clearly I’m making too much of this (especially since the movie was released two years ago). Bad movies have been made before. Mythology has been abused before. It’s just…WHY? The story was practically written for them. Why did they have to make it worse?
Will no one ever make a decent movie using Greek mythology?
(Feel free to make suggestions in the comments, if you know of a good Greek mythology movie that I’ve missed.)