Fortune Is Allied To The Brave: Clash Of The Titans (1981)

I am riding the wave of repetitive blog posts in the New Year!  While it was not a goal of mine to compose a single blog for every day of the year,  as conferences and school will, undoubtedly, get in the way, I am currently afforded plenty of free time and know that there is little excuse as to not make an earnest endeavor to tackle this possibility.  I am also plowing through movies at a fast rate and figured that reflecting on at least one a day would be beneficial.  As such, viewing Clash of the Titans yesterday proved to be the most promising blog post, not because it was in any way the best viewing experience of the day, but more so because it offered me the best chance to navigate a theoretical framework, this one inspired by existentialism, a near and dear philosophical framework of mine that I have become far too detached from in recent years.  Clash of the Titans is a film that has become adored some three decades later not for it being a particularly key narrative offering in the fantasy genre--the middle portion actually drags quite a bit--but has been noted for its interesting use of claymation in a moment when special effects were still moving into the world of CGI, but not completely feasible.  Works like this and Repo Man attempted audacious things with lesser special effects forms and in both cases excel at this incredibly.  What manages to make Clash of the Titans that much more enjoyable is the variety of noted performers who offer their services to the narrative, whether they be the likes of Maggie Smith who would have still been establishing herself as an actress, or the more prolific performances by the great Laurence Olivier and star of the most adored of Twilight Zone episodes Burgess Meredith.  Hell, this film even includes Ursula Andress in a non-Dr. No role which is also a nice thing to see, as she has become unfairly attached to that film.  Clash of the Titans, at first glance, would appear to be a very childish narrative with the special effects magic to reinforce such notions, yet as the narrative unfolds and ethical boundaries become crossed, it becomes rather evident that not only is this a tale with enough tragedy and happenstance to prove quite adult in its scope, it is also a film that considers whether or not the presence of a divine force is truly a blessing, or if the bizarre workings of the natural world are simply out to get even the most well-intentioned of persons.

The Clash of the Titans focus on the deliberations and defiances between the gods of antiquity as the plan to move for power with their respective mortal beings, some of which are through divine ordination their offsprings.  Zeus (Laurence Olivier) in particular is concerned with the well being of his own child Perseus (Harry Hamlin) who is but a small child who has been banished alongside his mother to a remote island to live out his days, an act undertaken by Thetis (Maggie Smith) who has allowed for her own earthy child Calibos (Neil McCarthy) to run wild and act in the most vile of manners.  As such, Zeus with his infinite power has turned the evil Calibos into a figure that properly reflects his own terrible actions.  In a vengeful act, Thetis relocates the young Perseus to a remote island where he is to fend for himself, while attempting to reclaim the kingdom an act which is predicated upon him achieving the affections of a young princess, as well as returning the head of Medusa to a city.  If Perseus fails to achieve this task, Zeus and Thetis come to an agreement that he will release the monstrous Kraken upon the land, much to the concern and confusion of Poseiden (Jack Gwillim).  While Thetis does her best to put up obstacles for Perseus, Zeus is able to recruit the help of the other goddesses in the temple, specifically, Athena (Susan Fleetwood), Aphrodite (Ursula Andress) and Hera (Claire Bloom).  In doing so, Perseus is provided with a set of weapons and devices that makes his navigation of the new lands slightly less challenging, although he still is forced to face off against a variety of mythological beasts, including giant scorpions and Cerebus, al leading to his eventual confrontations with both Calibos and Medusa.  Fortunately, Perseus is also afforded an earthly guide through the figure of Ammon (Burgess Meredith) a poet and oracle of sorts that helps Perseus to translate the messages from the gods and make the best use of the gifts he is given.  While it would appear as though Perseus simply lacks the necessary strength to overcome the powerful Kraken, a last minute boost from his animal companion Pegasus proves enough to succeed, thus making his status as a king amongst men certain, even pushing to a reality where he might achieve the status of a Titan himself.

I think the last time I discussed the notion of game theory here on the blog was in regards to the surprisingly enjoyable and decently executed The Cooler, wherein William H. Macy's character represents a figure who is some how divinely unlucky, predisposed to have the world against him, although it is later evidenced that his playing in a larger game of performances and backstabbing had something to do with this.   Nonetheless, game theory denotes a reality where contingency and chance play as much a role in the occurrences of a character as do their skill and prowess, often times luck, or the lack thereof making for the ultimate deciding factor.  Indeed, I would most comfortably apply the ideas of game theory to the likes of film noir where they are most fitting.  With this in mind I still think a case could be made for Clash of the Titans working within this framework in a notable and interesting way, if not outwardly evidenced in the way that Perseus and other figures within the narrative are literally the pawns of the gods rivalry, ones that can be molded, moved and revived merely by a waving of their respective hands.  This realization takes the paranoia latent in the game theory as it relates to something like a crime thriller and puts it into its most realized form as it is a game, and regardless of what Perseus, Calibos or any other earthly figures might attempt, it is still contingent upon the gods playing a larger game with their bodies.  Of course, that is not to say that the skill and precision of the earthy manifestations do not still play a factor.  While both Zeus and Thetis could do their best to give various advantages to their pawns a randomness is still at play.  Suffice it to say, the battle between Medusa and Perseus could have gone a variety of ways and from a statistical standpoint (something key to game theory) Perseus should have lost out, but his low victory percentage is raised ever so slightly by possessing a shield and sword as to make victory feasible.  This paired with his own self-growth made for a push to Titan like statistical probability, all overseen by the hands of Zeus, that allow for him to easily destroy the Kraken.  Game theory, by pure narrative necessity, might be at its most realized in Clash of the Titans.

Key Scene:  The Medusa battle, despite using a now well-dated special effects method is still incredibly cinematic and highly engaging.

This film is well worth your time, but probably is of keen interest to me from a theoretical standpoint, as such I strongly urge a rental first.

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