Clash of the Titans

It’s been a week since Clash of the Titans opened, and I’ve already forgotten the movie, for the most part. There’s too little there worth remembering, as the handful of good moments are overwhelmed by an excess of chaff and a terrible structure. (Read my thoughts on the film, or listen to the /Filmcast discussion.)

Devin at CHUD hasn’t forgotten the film, however, and has gone so far as to assemble a massive slate of information about what featured in the original cut of the film and how a lot of it changed. It’s a sad portrait of how one movie is abruptly turned into another. The worst part is that we can piece together what happened, but not why. (Note: there are spoilers here for Clash of the Titans.)

Anyone who watched Clash of the Titans with even a vaguely critical eye knew that the film had endured massive cuts and restructuring at some point. You don’t hire Danny Huston to stand around in eyeliner for fifteen seconds as Poseidon. You hire him and the other actors playing Olympian gods, shoot their scenes, and then at some point succumb to an avalanche of idiot studio notes, leaving them on the cutting room floor.

According to Devin, “nearly two thirds of the business with the gods was edited out of the film, and the very tenor of the god scenes was changed in fundamental ways.” I’m not going to copy/paste or fully re-summarize Devin’s work here, but the basics are these:

The original script, and the first cut before reshoots, presented a very different story. The thematic concerns were different, the character relationships were different, and the climax was different.

Originally, Zeus was more explicitly a bad guy, rather than a manipulable sorta-buffoon who, for no reason, tries to help Perseus — i.e. the character he’s supposedly trying to stop. It’s the fault of Zeus that people are rejecting the gods, and that leads to an understanding on the part of some Olympians that he could bring them to ruin.

The quest of Perseus was quite different, too. He wasn’t simply taking action against the gods. The character originally had a love interest in Andromeda — the character he loves in the original film — which added thematic heft to the story. That is, Perseus doesn’t believe that any human should be subjugated by or sacrificed to the gods, and he’s fighting for that belief.

The original version also saw a different version of Io, the character who becomes a strange romantic interest in the release cut. She was more of a sister than a potential lover, and she isn’t resurrected at the end. (As, basically, a fuckdoll for Perseus, no less.) The men who accompany Perseus on his quest have more personality and purpose. And Hades isn’t the bad guy — Perseus is strictly after the Kraken.

In other words, in the original script and an earlier cut, before reshoots, nearly everything I hated about the release cut was different.

So why were all the changes made? That’s what Devin doesn’t know. It may be difficult to track down where all the various notes and changes originated. I’d love to know that part of the equation, because it would provide a much clearer window into the process that led to a summer snooze.

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