Sunday, 27 February 2011

Clash of Titans 1981 and 2010, The legends of Perseus

I watched one film yesterday which struck me as appropriate for the circumstances. “Clash of the Titans” This was the 2010 remake of the 1981 film which I remembered well.

The films are loosely based on the story of Perseus, the Greek Hero who killed the Gorgon Medusa and claimed Andromeda who he rescued from the sea Monster, the Kraken, sent by Poseidon after her mother Queen Cassiopeia set herself above the sea nymphs

The official legend is that King Argos disappointed that his only child was a daughter, consulted the Oracle at Delphi and was warned that one day he would be killed by he son of his daughter. The King therefore imprisoned his daughter to keep her childless but when she was found to be pregnant ( by the God Zeus and played by Laurence Olivier in the 1981 film) he casts her and the child on the sea in a coffin. In the legend and in the two films this is found by a fisherman who brings up the boy. In the 1981 film and official legend the mother makes it safely to shore with her son but in the 2010 from he is found dead.

In the legend the brother of the fisherman is in fact the King of their Island and he falls in love with the boy’s mother and initiates a plot to disgrace and send away the son so her can take the mother. The King holds a banquet at which guests are told to bring horses to give as gift and because Perseus has no horses he is told to bring back the head of the Gorgon knowing that to look at her face is to be turned to stone. The reason why Medusa has a head of snakes is that she lay with Poseidon in the temple of Athena and Athena upset by the desecration turned the hair of the girl.

There are different versions in the two films from original story in which Perseus is advised by Athena how to obtain the weapons to defeat Medusa including shield to see her reflection and a sword from Zeus to cut off her head as well as a container to bring back the head. Hades provides the helmet of invisibility. After getting the head of the Gorgon, Perseus is able to escape on the horse Pegasus which springs from the neck of the Medusa.

In the 1981 Calibos son of the sea goddess Thetis (Maggie Smith) is to marry Andromeda the daughter of Queen Cassiopeia(Sean Phillips). He is a cruel being who has destroyed all the flying horses of Zeus except for Pegasus. Zeus turns Calibos into a satyr creature outcast and in revenge his mother transports Perseus to the land of Andromeda and her mother where he has to answer a riddle to marry her or be burnt at the stake (Puccini’s Turardot theme) Perseus wins a battle with Calibos and answers the riddle correctly and wins Andromeda. At the wedding her mother compares her daughter’s beauty to that of Thetis which results in the girl having to be given to the Kraken as a virgin within 30 days or the Kraken will destroy the community.

In order to get to the Kraken Perseus has to defeat Gorgon Medusa and encounters the three blind witches who share an eye between them led by (Flora Robson). In this film it is Aphrodite (Ursula Andress) and not Athena who has punished Medusa. Perseus battles with a two headed dog and after getting the head of Medusa he has to battle with Calibos and giant scorpions but manages to find Pegasus and returns just as his bride is to be sacrificed to the Kraken.

The 2010 film is just as complicated and begins with the defeat of the Titans by their sons Zeus (Liam Neeson) Poseidon and Hades (Ralph Fiennes) after Zeus got Hades to create the Kraken from his flesh. After the defeat the reign and power of Zeus is enhanced by the worship of human kind while Poseidon rules the seas and Hades is left to control the Underworld, a fate he resents. The story then jumps to Pete Possethwaite as the fisherman who finds Perseus but with his unidentified mother dead and brings him up as his son with his wife and younger daughter. They lead a happy life although his substitute father knows that one day his son will go off to find out who he really is. Unfortunately they encounter the soldiers of Argos destroying a giant statue of Zeus which falls into the sea. For some reason not explained in the film this incenses Hades (who I would have thought would have applauded the action and is therefore a monumental film flaw) who unleashes his wrath on the form of Harpies to set about the soldiers. For some inexplicable reason Hades then also lets his wrath destroy the fishing vessel thus killing the surrogate parents and their daughter with only Perseus escaping.

For some unexplained reason the King and Queen of Argos have also launched a war on the Gods and their soldiers finding Perseus bring him to their monarch. The king talks of victory and to the horror of her daughter the Queen says the girl is more beautiful than Aphrodite.

Zeus is angered by the rebellion against his power at which Hades joins in and gains permission to destroy Argos appearing at the court and turning the wife into an old woman approaching death. He insists that Andromeda is to be sacrificed to the Kraken. He recognises Perseus as a Demi god and arranges for Zeus to know who in turn fails to acknowledge or help his son. These Gods are therefore despicable bastards and therefore my sympathy is with the rebellious Argos although his wife was foolish not to appease the female Gods, bitches as some were known to be.

Understandably Perseus was hesitant about joining Argos in his rebellion and is imprisoned by the King. He encounters Lo who is an ageless woman cursed because she refused Poseidon and who sets about educating Perseus on his lineage and that he can take his revenge against Hades by destroying the Kraken. So he does a deal with the King to save his daughter while Hades enlists Calibos to stop Perseus and gives him superhuman powers. Unfortunately Perseus has an identity crisis and resists help from the Gods in case this makes him into one and this results in his not being able to protect his helpers. Fortunately he is helped by Demons of Arabian mythology and they join forces to help overthrow the Gods.

Perseus also goes to see the Stygian witches and their one eye who advises that if he gets the head of Medusa it can be used to turn the Kraken into stone. However they warn that death will befall his helpers so the majority depart and he must fight the good fight almost alone. Perseus succeeds and gets the head but on leaving the underworld he sees Calibos attempt to kill Lo. Perseus manages to kill Calibos who pleads with him not to become like a God while Lo becomes gold dust and goes to Mount Olympus. Perseus rides Pegasus in an attempt to complete his mission.

In the original legend it is only after he has the head of Medusa that he visits the Kingdom ruled by Cepheus and Cassiopeia who boasts she is as beautiful as the sea nymphs which angers Poseidon who sends his created sea monster to kill and destroy. The King must offer his daughter to the monster who is tied to a rock. Perseus uses winged flying sandals to kill the monster and free Andromeda and claiming her in marriage. Her previous betrothed battles with Perseus and it is he who is turned to stone by having sight of the Gorgon’s head. Andromeda has a son by Perseus. On returning home and finding his mother has been pursued by his father brother, Perseus kills him also using the Medusa head and makes his father King. However because it is all legend there are variations of the mythology which explains the variations and changes in characters, chronology and emphasis.

On his way back to Argos after taking the head of Medusa in the 1981 film Perseus is knocked off Pegasus and falls into the sea as he is about to rescue Andromeda. He is rescued by Bubo a large owl given Perseus by Athena to replace his lost helmet of invisibility. It is also Bubo who locates Perseus when he is lost wounded in the swamp and to tries to stall the Kraken from getting at Andromeda. Perseus turns the Kraken into to stone with the head, which he then throws into the sea and emerges with Andromeda to the applause of he people of Argos. The couple marry and have children protected by Zeus who orders that the other Gods do not pursue them. As with the legend the two becomes constellations of stars to remind humanity of the values of heroism and bravery.

In the 2010 film Hades believing that Perseus has not survived the Medusa tells Zeus that the destruction of Argos will give himself the power to overthrow the Gods and end the reign of Zeus. Zeus counters with the news that Perseus lives and Hades sends his harpies to Kill Perseus as he returns but they fail and the Kraken is killed. Hades taunts Perseus that he cannot destroy him but Perseus sends him back into the Underworld using a bolt of lightning conducted by the sword of Olympus.

In the theatre version of the 2010 film with one eye on a sequel, Andromeda offers Perseus the Kingship of Argos following the death of her father in battle with the Kraken. He declines. His father offers him a place on Olympus as a God but this he also declines. Zeus warns that Hades will return and threaten humanity but this only reinforces his son’s determination to continue adventuring! There is an alternative ending on the DVD that Andromeda falls into the sea from the support which had been built high over the water from the city so that the Kraken could claim her without destroying and killing anyone or anything else. They come out of the sea together and the embrace with a passionate kiss. He confronts Zeus saying he does not want to be a god before flying off on Pegasus to live happy ever after but presumably only after a sequel or two!

There is a tenuous moral link between the film and the events in Libya, viz that the Gods will only remain worshipped and retain their power if they are good. If only.

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