Nostalgia is a strange and powerful thing. Take the 1981 adventure epic Clash of the Titans, for example. For years it sat on the shelves, a film of interest only to A) those who'd seen it as children, B) those who want a really silly refresher course on Greek mythology, and C) hardcore movie nerds who worship at the altar of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen. Titans was neither reviled as insipid nor adored like a Jason and the Argonauts (deservedly) is -- but Clash of the Titans certainly had its place among the swords & sandals epics.

But now that a remake has reared its snake-laden head, everyone is falling over themselves to mislabel Clash of the Titans as some sort of unheralded classic, which does a grave disservice to Louis Leterrier's remake -- a film that, on its own, is a perfectly mindless, bombastic, colorful, and enjoyable piece of matinee-style popcorn entertainment. Part of me wishes that WB had simply canned the remake idea and forged ahead on an "original" Greek mythology quest ... but this new-fangled Clash of the Titans will keep me suitably entertained until a true classic of "mythology cinema" makes its entrance.

The story is essentially hodge-podge of various Greek legends: the Medusa, the Kraken, the Pegasus, the Stygian Witches, and several very fancy gods flit through the proceedings, but the central focus is on a young fisherman known as Perseus. Through a series of events that don't seem to interest the movie all that much, Perseus is thrust into the role of noble hero, and his ultimate goal is to defeat the god Hades as revenge for the death of his family. Unfortunately, A) Hades is a god and is therefore unbeatable, and B) Perseus and his crew must contend with a half-dozen disparate creatures before figuring out how to put Hades down.

Enjoyably unladen with excess plot or overtly brainy ideas, the new Clash of the Titans wants little more than to dazzle your eyeballs for one lazy afternoon (and perhaps bring in a few 12-year-olds for repeat viewings), and by that measure the flick is a smooth success. Come to think of it, the new Clash would make for a perfectly entertaining double feature along with Neil Marshall's new Centurion epic. Titans is an unpretentious, non-ironic, and impressively fast-paced piece of big-budget escapism -- and even when the flick gets something wrong, it's moving too quickly for you to care all that much.


(One new touch I did appreciate is this: the screenwriters found an interesting way to make the gods' roles a bit more compelling. In the original Titans, humans were little more than playthings for the gods on Olympus. In the remake, the deities actually need the prayers of humanity to give them strength. The angle is neither new nor brilliant, but it adds a nice wrinkle to a dramatically lopsided relationship.)

Does the new Titans have a slightly bland lead actor? Yup. Does it have pacing issues in Act I and a small sense of confusion when it comes to keeping the peripheral characters involved? Indeed it does on both counts. Is the dialogue often pulpy and are the characters frequently a bit goofy? (Especially the Greek God characters?) Yes, yep, and absolutely on all counts.

But here's the thing: Aside from the HUGE difference between stop-motion Harryhausen magic and today's non-stop CGI explosions, there's nothing wrong with the new Clash of the Titans that wasn't wrong with the first one. (Laurence Olivier as Zeus is both as commanding and as silly as is Liam Neeson as Zeus.) Dare I posit that the new version may also inspire youths to cinematic geekdom the way the original did for my generation? Sure, why not? It's a fun flick, and fun is a valuable asset these days. And as wonderful as Harryhausen's old creations are, there's also a lot of artistry to be found in the remake's impressive CG effects.

Not nearly as serious as Braveheart or Troy; considerably less stylized than 300, and infinitely more amusing than the Mummy sequels, the new version of Clash of the Titans is a perfectly diverting piece of B-movie lunacy, complete with all the "shortcomings" you often find in films of this crowd-pleasing sub-genre -- and also boasting some rather kinetic action scenes, a few unexpected chuckles, several beautiful women, and tons of monsters that (fine) aren't as cool as Harryhausen's creations -- but are certainly nifty enough to warrant your 105 minutes, provided you like this sort of stuff. Like I clearly do.

{Special note: If I were you I'd avoid the 3-D version of Clash of the Titans. It's a stunningly ineffective post-production "3-D conversion," and this is not a film that was actually created with 3-D in mind. I've not seen the "traditional" version yet, but I'd be willing to wager my entire blu-ray collection that the 2-D looks a lot better than the chintzy 3-D version does. More on that issue right here.}