Here we are, back at the end of the world in 2012. Only this time it's 2012 BCE, as the gods of Olympus set out to take "man" in the form of early Greek civilization back to the stone age in a fit of Olympian pique.
Warner Bros. has revived "Clash of the Titans," the ultimate '80s sword-and-sorcery epic, as a vehicle showing off the state of movie special effects in 3-D. The new film even references and scoffs at one of the puppet-animation characters (the mechanical owl) from the original 1981 film, as if to say, "Look what we can do now."
What we can do now makes for a sometimes fun ride, a digital bastardization of Greek mythology with digital eagles, giant scorpions, wraiths and a Kraken — the sea beast to end all sea beasts.
What hasn't improved is the silly, archetypal story, or the stagey arguments among the gods of Olympus — Liam Neeson is Zeus, in chrome armor that glows in soft focus.
Men from the island of Argus are rebelling against the gods, burning temples, tearing down gigantic statues. And since the Olympians live on prayers from the faithful, Zeus looses Hades (an almost unrecognizable Ralph Fiennes) upon them.
"You are specks of dust beneath our fingernails," Hades hisses. Olympic trash talk.
Hades wants a sacrifice — the lovely Andromeda (Alexa Davalos). But not if Perseus (Sam Worthington) has anything to say about it. He's a demi-god. Zeus tricked his mom into Olympic sex. He's grown up knowing Pete Postlethwaite and Elizabeth McGovern are his adoptive parents, though he has wondered about that ageless beauty, Io (Gemma Arterton), who looks over him from the shadows.
And like the demi-gods of "Percy Jackson and the Olympians," he's got daddy issues.
Perseus sets out on a quest — to consult with witches, visit Medusa in Hades and find a means to defeat the Kraken and keep Hades at bay.
Worthington is emerging as the new Charlton Heston — an actor big enough to fill a big screen with his bigness. But he plays every role the same — always a crewcut Marine, here battling beasties in the distant past. His out-of-place haircut and unflattering hemline do the "Terminator"/"Avatar" star no favors.
The guy who really chews the "Titans" scenery is Mads Mikkelsen, the Dane who made a meek Bond villain ("Casino Royale") but who makes a fierce warrior, Draco, who prepares Perseus and escorts him on his journey.
Louis "The Incredible Hulk" Leterrier directed this, and he benefits from terrific production design and art direction. The flinty, shattered shale hills of Wales and volcanoes of Tenerife provide backdrop for the palaces and temples of this Clash. Olympus looks like the Emerald City of Oz, without the emeralds.
There isn't a serious moment in it, and the light touches come from one-liners and supporting players. For all the impressive (but not dazzling) effects, the scattered jokes and stentorian acting (especially from the Olympians), there's not much here that will stick with you after the popcorn's gone. But as any ancient Greek could tell you, that's sort of the point.
CLASH OF THE TITANS
2 1/2 stars
Cast: Sam Worthington, Gemma Arterton, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Mads Mikkelsen
Director: Louis Leterrier
Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Industry rating: PG-13 for fantasy action violence, some frightening images and brief sensuality