Just got back from seeing the new CLASH OF THE TITANS. It was good. I wouldn’t say great, but I enjoyed it. Still, there was something that kept it from winning me over completely. Considering that this is a movie with giant scorpions, a gorgon, harpies, and a kracken, that’s saying something.
Let me preface this by repeating that Clash was good. It is a solid adventure film with some cool monsters and a story that gets it to where it’s going. I liked the characters, and I did like it quite a bit. But there was just something missing, that final bit of satisfaction that makes a movie more than just enjoyable. That something special that leaves you satisfied.
Satisfied is the only word I can come up with. It’s like enjoying a good meal versus savoring a delicious one. It’s like a fun night with friends versus a wonderful night. What’s the difference? How do we spot it? How can we even possibly categorize such a vague quality? The answer: We can’t. But we can try. Or at least I can try and you can read about it.
I think it’s all about FUN VS COOL. These two qualities are not necessarily opposed to each other, but I feel that they don’t always get along well. While it’s absurd (and arbitrary) for me to attempt to define these qualities, this is my blog, so I’m allowed to try.
FUN is lithe and enjoyable and carefree. Fun is allowed to laugh, to smile, to feel joy. Fun is a child blowing bubbles without being self-conscious about it.
COOL is distant. Cool wants you to think it doesn’t care, but it does. Cool wants you to like it very badly, it just doesn’t want to admit it. Cool is a guy in a leather jacket, sitting on a motorcycle, revving his engine to tell you how much he doesn’t care about what you think about him, and he’ll prove it by making as much noise as possible until you notice him not caring.
FUN draws you in. Fun is inclusive. Everyone can have fun if they go in with the right attitude.
COOL pushes you away. Cool doesn’t want you to be part of the club because if too many people are in the club, then it’s not cool anymore. Not everyone can be cool. In fact, most nobody can.
Perhaps this is what separates the old Clash of the Titans from the new Clash of the Titans. The original is a fun film. It never takes itself too seriously. It wants to take you on a journey into fantasy, and it doesn’t try to justify or excuse itself. The new Clash doesn’t exactly apologize for itself, but it is trying very hard. It’s like a cool person you meet who you could really, really like if they’d just top trying to prove how cool they are.
Neither film has much in the way of humor. But there is a wonder in the original Clash that is largely absent in the new one. This has as much to do with the time of their making, as we’ve become so accustomed to spectacle that even an awesome sea monster the size of a city rising from the ocean depths no longer impresses us much. Instead, we balk at the FX or dismiss it as something pedestrian, ordinary. We are not the same folks who watched the original King Kong and had to stifle our gasps. We’ve become spoiled. So much so that we’re even looking for the chance to be disappointed. Never mind that the worst FX in the new Clash makes even movies barely 5 years old look dated. Never mind that the goal of FX is not to convince us that monsters are real (which they can never do) but to allow us to convince ourselves, to play make-believe for a few hours. Now we don’t want to play. We want everything to be done for us, and we complain if it isn’t done exactly to our satisfaction.
The humor of the original Clash was the pure, unbridled joy of watching a hero fight giant scorpions and face down Medusa. The new Clash succeeds in making this look less fun. It makes being a demigod adventurer almost seem like a chore at times. Much as the modern superhero genre wants to rob superheroes of their joy in pursuit of “realism”, the new Clash dabbles occasionally in bloodshed and tragedy that make it more realistic, but at the loss of something special.
Last week, I saw HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, and I said how much I loved it. I also mentioned how it would probably make me be harder on Clash. I was right. But I was right for a reason I didn’t see coming.
Dragon is a fantasy adventure. It has great characters, a thrilling story, and some amazing action. So does Clash. But Clash never smiles. (Well, one character smiles when he “Spits in the eyes of the gods” and it is indeed a crowning moment of awesome.) Dragon introduces us to characters we grow fond of. So does Clash. But Clash kills off most of them. (Even the Djinn who, in my humble opinion, deserved a spinoff movie of his own.) Dragon says this is fun. Clash says I am cool.
Again, this might sound a little harsh. I did enjoy Clash, and it’s a good enough movie and pushes enough of my buttons that I’ll probably end up buying it as this is a movie I could watch over several times. But I just can’t see myself doing so with the unbridled enthusiasm that I have for The Incredibles, Kung Fu Panda, or Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. All of which are both cool and fun without any problem balancing these sensibilities.
But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe grownups aren’t supposed to like fun anymore. It would explain why I often find myself shoved in the Young Adult genre. Because I strive to make my books fun. Maybe I’ll never be a serious writer as long as I refuse to amp up the body count or apologize for loving robots and raccoon gods. Or maybe I’m just ahead of my time.
Or maybe I’m full of crap.
Whatever. These were my thoughts. I hope you enjoyed reading them.
Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,