Crash of the Titans

By Alyssa Rosenberg

Well, we know Zack Snyder won’t be able to resist a washed-out color palette or a lot of abs, but maybe he’ll make Henry Cavill less shouty as Superman than it appears he’s going to be as Theseus?

I find the minor trend of gods-interfering-in-human-affairs movies intriguing, both because it doesn’t appear that anyone has a good idea about how to do them well, and because they’re becoming a funny little step in credentialing promising young action stars. Mads Mikkelsen aside, Clash of the Titans felt like the result of a bunch of prestige actors getting left alone with a large supply of disposable pie tins, effects dudes, and high-grade weed. Troy is mostly a chance for Brian Cox to snark and Brad Pitt to be mean to little kids/naked with the ladies. Percy Jackson & The Olympians drags the gods down to the high school level rather than imbuing them with any real majesty.

There are two really obvious challenges in making gods-come-to-earth movies. First, while a lot of people believe in the work of the divine in the world these days, it’s less common to believe that the gods are dropping in for a date with the local hottie or to jump into conflict zones for the hell of it. It’s hard to resonate to the idea of gods who are not just approachable, but mercurial, interventionist. Second, superheroes have basically taken on the roles of Greek-style gods in our movies. And while we approach them with awe, we don’t exactly accord them reverence. It’s hard to code the difference between gods and superheroes when they’re doing essentially the same things on screen: kicking ass and getting chicks. And I wonder if that’s part of the problem Thor, Kenneth Branagh’s movie adaptation of the Marvel comic about the Norse-god-turned-superheroic-Avenger, has been having connecting with audiences overseas (of course, it could just be that Australians like watching Vin Diesel steal things and the Rock punch things, because who doesn’t). In a world where movie science can transform a nerdy teenager or replace a man’s broken heart and broken conscience, it’s hard to elevate audiences to an even higher level of wonder.