Clash of the Titans (or How Not to Write a Movie)

“Clash of the Titans” is one of the summer’s biggest blockbusters, having surpassed the all-important $100 million mark. Financial, it’s a hit, but story wise, it’s a crushing failure.

There’s an old saying among writers that you show, don’t tell. That means you show characters interacting to tell a story, rather than just have characters tell the audience what’s happening. That right there is the biggest fault of “Clash of the Titans.”

The movie relies on short fragments to advance the plot and make us care for the character. Unfortunately, we barely see our hero interacting with his adopted family before they get wiped out. Then we’re supposed to believe that our hero loved his family. He may have, but given the short screen time his family appeared, we as the audience feel no more emotions towards the hero’s family than we would seeing a total stranger walk past us and get hit by a car. We might feel bad that they got hit by a car, but we wouldn’t have an emotional investment in the result as much as if that person getting hit by a car was our lover, relative, or friend.

“Clash of the Titans” continually makes this mistake of telling us what’s going on rather than showing us. The gods constantly tell us what’s going on and expect us to believe what they say while feeling deeply moved by what they tell us. At the end of the movie, we’re supposed to feel that Zeus really does want our hero to succeed (since Zeus is the hero’s father). Yet nowhere during the movie do we see Zeus exhibiting much care about our hero until the very end. Then this revelation comes across as phony, sudden, and unconvincing.

Some strange woman who has watched over our hero since birth is the love interest, but other than a minor scene where this woman helps the hero learn how to defeat the Medusa, we see little interaction between these two characters. Without seeing them sharing emotional moments together, we don’t feel there’s much love between the two, which we’re expected to feel by the end of the movie.

Giant scorpions pop out of nowhere to attack our hero, two centaur-killing guys pop up to lend a hand, then disappear, only to return at the end to help our hero, much like Hans Solo returned to help Luke. The only difference is that we got to see and learn to like Hans Solo but we know nothing about these centaur-killing guys in “Clash of the Titans.” They pop up, fight some giant scorpions, and then disappear, only to return at the last minute to save the day. It’s like watching a stranger celebrating a birthday. We can only look at this scene and shrug as we say, “Who cares?”

The big finale of any movie is the final battle between the hero and the villain. In this case, the hero is a half man, half god while the villain is Hades, an all powerful god. Should be suspenseful, right? Wrong.

Hades pops up to fight the hero and the hero throws a sword directly into Hades’ heart, killing him. It probably took longer to write this sentence than it did to see the hero vanquish the villain so quickly. There was no suspense, no fear that the hero might actually lose, no build up of tension whatsoever. The villain pops up, the hero kills him, end of story. And for this we’re supposed to feel satisfied?

“Clash of the Titans” is a perfect example of what’s wrong with movies today that rely on visual effects and nothing else. Think of dangling a set of car keys in front of an infant and that’s what these types of movies are like. Lots of visual effects with no substance behind them. Strip away the visual effects and you’re left with a haphazard story where characters advance the plot by telling you what other characters are feeling, and you have a dull, dry, boring story.

It’s also a box office hit. Figure that one out.

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