14/04/2010 at 12:51 pm Leave a comment

April, 2010

There’s the Kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean (which now looks suspiciously like the troll from Lord of the Rings); strange desert creatures resemble taller, more mystic cousins of the Jawas from Star Wars, and endless shots of buff men fighting in short-short tunics (a-la Spartacus, Gladiator, 300). A drowning scene is eerily familiar to that in Casino Royale, but with less impact as it’s toward the beginning, not the end. It goes on and on, here’s even Sam Worthington being the first man to successfully fly a forbidden creature (in 3D). Oh alright that’s a plot-point spoiler but so obvious from the moment Pegasus flies into view. I must transgress my golden rule this once. The film reads like an Oscars montage for the 00’s, except not. Like a committee came up with a sort of pastiche of the mega successful blockbuster franchises from recent years, and tacked on a plot.

There is predictable debate over whether the film is faithful to the ‘original’ 1981 Olivier epic. It is and it isn’t, but that version is so far removed from the actual Persean myth I wonder why not just come up with something new entirely? Interpretation of the subject is a convention of art over generations; from Salvador Dali to Benvenuto Cellini, not to mention countless spoken word and live re-enactments since the days of Ancient Greece. I for one have always been impressed with Perseus’ resourcefulness and reckless abandon in achieving the impossible, matched only by his arrogance he’s always been a wonderful metaphor for civilisation. Possibly the original Hero With a Thousand Faces, his tale of a call to action has provided the template for millenia of effective storytelling. So how should we interpret this latest incarnation? With a petulant, pouting Perseus who doesn’t want to end up like his Dad (but does), symbol of the dawn of man, yet with one hand still reaching for Olympus. The original encounter with Pegasus was set as a test from Zeus – here it’s unmistakeably an outright gift from the Gods, without which the mission would go epic fail. Perseus is practically cheating by the second act turning point. Is it perhaps a statement about humanity’s emerging adolescence that he still can’t stand on his own two feet?

At least in the original versions the irony was intentional. The fantastic realms of Greek mythology have always provided a fertile ground in which to sow the seeds of sophistry, and theatre is no exception. I can’t help but feel that some of the Greek writers were natural sceptics of religion, although writing for an audience with a sense of faith so deeply ingrained in the culture must have been tricky. As such we’ve ended up with such wonderful devices as the self-fulfilling prophecy or deus ex machina to subtly illuminate the paradoxes of religious countenance. The first stories about the Gods’ epic struggle for (shall we say) cultural relevance date back to around 400 BC, where, no doubt they were also depicted in full splendiferous 3D as well; that of live performance. Here we have battling God-Brothers desperate to cling to their grip on the people- with Nimbinesque hippy priests beating the drums of religious fervour lest they end up all punished. I’m wondering what Richard Dawkins might make of all this, as a metaphor it’s terribly muddled.

But I guess existentialism in art has not really been cool since the 40’s with Sartre chomping his Gitanes on the Left Bank of the Seine and writing plays about the ascent of humanity toward control over our destinies. He knew the fate of Argos (which is that of all people) is steeped in tragic irony, and used this crack in human nature to peer into the void. There’s nothing of the sort here, it’s bile over substance… really quite a feat, to recreate an epic Greek myth without once relying on the conventions of tragedy. I mean, there’s plenty of bodies piling up, which must be very sad for the families of those involved, but not much in the way of a particular character’s flaws causing the downfall of everything they hold dear. Complexity doesn’t really come into play. Even the 3D effect gives the impression that we’re looking at a series of cardboard cutouts placed in the fore and aft of screen. Which given the depth of the plot, may well be a deliberate aesthetic choice after all.

I can only pray this isn’t the first of a trilogy…

Entry filed under: Film REVIEW. Tags: , , , , , , .

critic watch: DR- WHO WROTE THIS, ANYWAY? STUFF I LIKE #4: The Shield

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VICTOR SANCZ vassanc [AT] gmail.com

since 2009

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