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Wrath Of The Titans: Debunking The Movie’s Myths

I went to watch Wrath Of The Titans today, to the astonishment of many people, myself included. Because I absolutely loathed the first movie in this so-called Warner Bros. franchise, Clash Of The Titans (for a couple of reasons I will outline below), and I was quite annoyed when I heard that the sequel for the movie was being made. But you may or may not have heard about my new profession these days, which is being a film journalist, and along with the job, comes a certain responsibility to review movies as objectively as possible. (In theory, anyway.) So I dragged myself to the cinema to watch Wrath Of The Titans in 3D and tried to enjoy it. When I came out of it, regardless of what I thought about the movie, my fingers were just itching to type a hate letter to Hollywood. And that letter would bear the subject: CAN YOU PLEASE, FOR ONCE, GET YOUR GREEK MYTHOLOGY RIGHT?

The Clash Of The Titans Fiasco

I had two main reasons for intensely disliking Clash Of The Titans. The first was because the filmmakers completely ruined Perseus (Sam Worthington) and Andromeda’s (Alexa Davalos) romance. I don’t actually care that Andromeda, even in the legends, is a damsel in distress, waiting to be rescued by a hero. Their love story is part of Perseus’ identity as one of the few (or perhaps even the only) hero of Greek mythology who actually got a happy ending at the end of his life. It distinguishes Perseus from his fellow heroes: Theseus (lost his seat on the throne; got thrown off a cliff), Bellerophon (got too cocky and wanted to join the gods in Olympus; got thrown off his Pegasus) and Jason (died alone and unhappy, even tragic, because Hera hated him). How was I supposed to buy this portrayal of Perseus who, while he defeated the Gorgon Medusa as per the legend, fell in love with another woman instead?

Io herself presented me with another, albeit a more minor, reason to dismiss the movie. Io is originally a mythological character famous for being a woman whom Zeus fell mightily in love (or in lust, as Zeus often does) with. The jealous Hera threatened to kill her so Zeus turned her into a heifer to hide her from Hera’s wrath. In the end, he ended up bedding Io anyway. So the idea that Perseus, who is Zeus’ son, involved in an intimate relationship with Io, Zeus’ lover, is all kinds of icky for me. In this regard, I seriously thought Clash Of The Titans’ team of writers were insulting the intelligence of many people, especially the Greek myth buffs, because they seemed to be saying, “Oh, don’t worry about Perseus not getting together with Andromeda. Who cares if we put him together with Io? As long as the actress playing her is hot, we can put Perseus with anyone and make the story work.”

Well, Mr. Beacham, Mr. Hay and Mr. Manfredi, it didn’t work for me so stuff it.

The second reason that set my blood boiling about Clash is the fact that their main monster was the Kraken. The Kraken, as many people know, is a sea monster that usually inhabits the confines of Norse mythology. Greek mythology has sea monsters (Perseus did have to battle a sea monster to save Andromeda) so why did they have to borrow the Kraken from Norse myth? (Somehow I think Disney was at fault here, thanks to their Pirates Of The Caribbean films.) As exciting as it was to see a gigantic tentacle-y monster wreaking havoc over Argos, it was quite dispiriting for a Greek myth buff like me to see its presence in the movie. Greek mythology is filled with scary monsters of its own, so why replace them with a scary octopus? I could say the same of the djinn that became part of Perseus’ group but I’m not even going to bother

Know Your Greek Monsters

When the news of the sequel came out, I wondered whether they were going to ‘borrow’ any other monsters or not, and whether they were going to look any good. Well, I had my answer today. Naturally, they didn’t get everything right in the movie and still couldn’t quite stick to the ‘canon’ of these mythological creates. I can forgive them more easily this time simply for the fact that the filmmakers chose a line-up of 100% Greek myth monsters. If you watch the movie and then wonder whether or not these creatures were portrayed as they were in the stories, I hope my entry will be able to jump start your research into the violently magnificent denizens of Greek mythology.

[Spoiler warning: the following entry contains images and descriptions from the movie Wrath Of The Titans. I try to avoid spoiler by not discussing crucial plot points but tread carefully as inevitably you may find spoiler-y bits in it.]

1. Chimera (Chimaera)

One of the monsters to appear in Wrath Of The Titans is a Chimera.

Spawned by Typhoeus and Echidna, the Chimaera had three heads – lion, goat, and snake .Its body was also mixed having the front part of a lion, middle of a goat, and snake for a tail. It breathed fire. It ravaged Lycia, killing cattle and setting fires until it was killed by Bellerophon. (Greekmythology.com)

Wikipedia’s description makes it even clearer: “upon the body of a lioness with a tail that ended in a snake’s head, the head of a goat arose on her back at the center of her spine”. Sometimes it’s also described as being able to breathe fire as well. It went on a rampage and brought natural disasters to the kingdom. As commanded by King Iobates of Lycia, Bellerophon fought the monster from Pegasus’ back. It was one of the many monsters associated with the original rider of the Pegasus.

 

The movie version got it mostly right. If we disregard the fact that the writers ‘borrowed’ the monster for another hero, the Chimera in the movie was effectively scary. The design was even more grotesque than the illustrations I’ve seen of it, so I will give a point to Wrath‘s art department for at least bringing to life a truly dangerous monster.

VerdictHIT

2. Cyclopes

The second monsters that appeared in Wrath Of The Titans is probably not a monster, per se, because they are humanoid. Nonetheless these creatures are hostile towards Perseus & Co. and unless a Cyclops comes with the name of Scott Summers, you should not get overly friendly with them.

The Cyclopes were gigantic one eyed monsters. The most famous is Polyphemus, the Cyclops blinded by Odysseus. Hesiod mentions only three (not a race or tribe): Arges (thunderbolt), Steropes (lightning), and Brontes (thunder), obviously storm gods.They were born to Gaea and Uranus. They were also the first smiths. When Cronus came to power he imprisoned the Cyclopes in Tartarus. The were released by Zeus and fought with him against the Titans. As a reward for their release the Cyclopes gave Zeus his weapons of lighting and thunder. (Greekmythology.com)

For more info on Cyclopes and their fascinating stories, start by clicking on Wikipedia. Alternative spelling is Kyklopes.

The Cyclopes, being the godly masters of blacksmith, fashioned the Big Three’s – Zeus, Poseidon, Hades – ultimate weapon. They are, respectively, a thunderbolt, a trident and a helm of invisibility (Hades in the movie has a different weapon, though). Due to their association with weaponry they’re also associated with Hephaestus, but Polyphemus is the son of Poseidon and a nereid. (There’s another fictional cyclops son of Poseidon, who is very adorable, and a lot nicer than Polyphemus but I digress.)

 

Wrath‘s art department got another monster right. It’s great to see proper Cyclopes in the film. They are said to be Hephestus’ works, which goes with the legend, so I will give them another point for getting it right. They didn’t look stupid, either, because although in the myth Polyphemus is a brute, he is definitely cunning, although no match for the brilliant Odysseus.

VerdictMOSTLY HIT

3. Minotaur & the Labyrinth

Following the 2011 film, Immortals starring the ‘Man of Steel’ Henry Cavill and directed by The Fall‘s Tarsem Singh, you would think the filmmakers of Wrath would want to avoid ‘the competition’ by featuring a Minotaur. But the filmmakers are bold enough to not mind the competition and included not just the Minotaur but the labyrinth it inhabits in the film for Perseus to take on.

In Greek mythology, the Minotaur was a creature with the head of a bull on the body of a man or, as described by Roman poet Ovid, “part man and part bull”. He dwelt at the center of the Cretan Labyrinth, which was an elaborate maze-like construction designed by the architect Daedalus and his son Icarus, on the command of King Minos of Crete. The Minotaur was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. (Wikipedia)

The legend of Minotaur in the labyrinth is actually a very extensive one and closely tied to the legend of the island Crete. Not just the creature itself, mind you, but the labyrinth is the most important part of the story because after a hero finds the Minotaur, how will he survive if he doesn’t find a way to get out? (For more on the legends of the Minotaur, the labyrinth and Crete, visit this website.)

The story that I’m familiar with comes from a series of Greek myth books by Yannis and Menelaous Stephanides, which I mentioned in Me & My Books page. Theseus in a version of the stories went into the labyrinth to face the Minotaur with the help of King Minos of Crete’s daughter, Ariadne. She had been advised by Daedalus to tell Theseus how to get out – using a ball of thread so he could trace his way back. Theseus promised her, should he get out alive, he would take her away from her father’s kingdom and tyranny. This happened but then Theseus was visited by Athena on their journey home to Athens and, for some reason, was told to leave Ariadne on a beach. Later, the wine god Dionysius took her for a wife.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think Wrath‘s version of the Minotaur and the labyrinth scene quite hit the mark. For one the Minotaur looked a lot like a troll from the Harry Potter movies with its dumb expression and huge teeth. I was expecting a real bull-headed creature, but Wrath‘s Minotaur had a mostly human-like visage that didn’t do anything to me. The labyrinth is better; it looked sentient but also crude and dangerous. So I guess only half a point can be awarded for Wrath‘s Minotaur and labyrinth. Also, clearly since Perseus was once again given a borrowed-from-another-hero monster, I was itching to complain the whole time.

Verdict: Minotaur – MISS; Labyrinth – half a HIT

4. The Machai

For once, Wrath managed to introduce to me a creature of Greek myth that I wasn’t familiar with. The Machai (Makhai or Machae) are not very popular in the stories I’ve read so I had to research them properly for the first time today.

THE MAKHAI (or Machae) were the gods or spirits (daimones) of battle and combat. The spirits Homados (Battle-Noise), Alala (War-Cry), Proioxis (Onrush), Palioxis (Backrush), Ioke (Onslaught), Alke (Battle-Strength) and Kydoimos (Confusion) were probably all numbered among the Makhai. (Theoi.com)

Unfortunately, that’s all I can find out about the Machai. Wikipedia says they are “sons or daughters of Eris, siblings to other vicious personifications like the Hysminai, the Androktasiai, and the Phonoi.”

Eris is, of course, the goddess of strife and discord – she’s the one who instigated the initial conflict between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite at Peleus and Thetis’ wedding, which in turn became the source of problem that resulted in the Trojan War. Despite Eris’ fascinating role in these stories, however, there’s still not much mention of the Machai anywhere else.

The movie’s portrayal of the Machai is the first image i”ve seen of these demons so I’ll have to take their word for it. Honestly speaking, this is one of the best monsters in the film. I like them even better than the Chimera because they look even more dangerous. They’re fast and strong and absolutely vicious and bloodthirsty. I wish there were more of them in the film, actually. This scores another full point from me for Wrath‘s art department.

VerdictMAJOR HIT!

5. Cronus the Titan

Clash had the Kraken. Wrath has the Titan. I have problems with this but I will discuss them later. But Cronus, the titan, is one of the deadliest and most important figures in Greek mythology. He is one of the big reasons the Titanomachy (war between the titans and gods occurred) and without him there would be no Greek myth stories to tell at all.

KRONOS (or Cronus) was the Titan god of time and the ages, especially time where regarded as destructive and all-devouring. He ruled the cosmos during the so-called Golden Age, after castrating and deposing his father Ouranos (the Sky). In fear of a prophecy that he would be in turn be overthrown by his own son, Kronos swallowed each of his children as soon as they were born. (Theoi.com)

His Roman name is Saturn. To avoid confusion, please read up on Chronos, the Personification of Time, as well. Apparently, they are two different entities. I can’t explain it better because I’m confused as well and I’ve not read up properly on Chronos (although I know a lot about Cronus) so do use Google for this.

Anyway, the reason why Cronus is very important is because he is the son of the creator of our universe according to Greek mythology, Ouranos (Roman: Uranus). He castrated and killed his own father (with a scythe) but was then told that the karma would hit right back at him, that Cronus’ own son will kill him. So he ate the lot of them: Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Hestia and Demeter. The only one that got away was Zeus, who was hidden by his mother (the titan Rhea) and substituted with a rock. After Zeus reached adulthood, he engaged his father in war and finally defeated him and became the ruling god of Olympus. Very interesting family dynamics here.

One of the most haunting images I’ve ever seen of Cronus comes from Francisco Goya. But Goya was allegedly inspired by Peter Paul Rubens’ own painting from 1636 of Saturn Devouring His Son (Poseidon, perhaps). I’m always both appalled and amazed whenever I see these paintings. Their images are so powerful and so fitting to the mythical legend of Cronus that his malevolent yet powerful image is forever imprinted in my mind.

 

And this is the very reason why I was extremely let down by Wrath Of The Titans‘ depiction of Cronus. Instead of showing an evil powerful figure, the filmmakers reduced Cronus into a creature. A monster that looks like a giant walking volcano in the spirit of the Chimera and the Machai. Honestly, what were they thinking, lumping Cronus with these creatures? This figure doesn’t deserve this treatment. Those who haven’t always been haunted by Goya’s and Rubens’ paintings will also find Cronus in the this film lacking. This ‘creature’ is simply too big and is never properly outlined. Like the Kraken before him, Cronus’ shape could only be seen in bits and parts. There’s so much fail with Cronus that I don’t even know where to begin. No point at all for them for coming up with this poor cinematic interpretation of a titan.

However, coming back to the comparison with Tarsem Singh’s Immortals, I have to admit Wrath did a better job in interpreting the titan’s image than the other movie did. Immortals‘ titans looked even less like the titans I know from the stories.

+ Verdict: BIG TIME MISS!

Final Notes

Although a self-professed Greek myth buff, I’m not a scholar or an expert in the subject. What I know, I read from various books and websites. Yannis and Menelaos Stephanides’ book series on Greek mythology is my primary source and I highly recommend them. They are not, of course, the absolute authority on myths but their stories do have a way of sticking in your head so they are also very useful for young readers. As it is with myths, the stories and legends can’t be proven (that’s why it’s called a myth), but some stories are more widely accepted than others. And the Stephanides brothers’ version is rather widely accepted, I suppose.

The Ultimate Encyclopedia Of Mythology by Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm (Hermes House, 2006) is also a good source to start your research into not just Greek mythology but also other myths from around the world: Roman, Egyptian, Norse, Celtic, Persian, Indian and Far Eastern.

(Amazon.com)

For the Greek mythology section, it doesn’t always provide a comprehensive entry for some entities (I couldn’t find anything about the Chimera in here) but the more prominent figures are all in there so, again, if you need a starting point for your research, this book will provide it. Personally, I use it to initiate my research on the other myths that I don’t know about (everything besides Greek and Roman) and I find it quite useful. The entries are more encyclopedic and not written as stories so it’s probably a bit boring but the images  are quite beautiful so I personally find it fascinating instead.

Some of the websites I visited while writing up this entry are: Wikipedia (Greek mythology) | Theoi.com | Greekmythology.com | Igreekmythology.com

And if like me you’re iffy about the Clash and Wrath Of The Titans franchise’s way of using Greek myth in their plots, you can always find alternatives in the following great reads/slightly decent Hollywood films:

+ The Percy Jackson And The Olympians series by Rick Riordan

+ The Heroes Of Olympus series by Rick Riordan

+ Age Of Zeus by James Lovegrove

Jason And The Argonauts (1973) directed by Don Chaffey

+ The Odyssey (1997) directed by Andrey Konchalovskiy

About mavieenlair18

Writer. Journalist. Blogger. Reader. Fan.

5 responses »

  1. It seems to have been the purpose of the film-makers to take as many names, places, and creatures from Greek mythology and then scramble them all and create some sort of story out of it. I really don’t understand it…

    Reply
    • Yes, and that has always been the case. The old Clash Of The Titans (1982) did the same thing with mythology but the remake didn’t quite ‘mix’ it very well. That’s Hollywood for you, I guess.

      Reply
  2. This is exactly the third blog post, of your blog I
    really browsed. But yet I really like this one, “Wrath Of The
    Titans: Debunking The Movies Myths Bookerie” the best.
    Regards ,May

    Reply
  3. Thank you so much for the in-depth analysis. We finally watched this movie on DVD last night and the mythology connections drove me crazy. Many kids growing up today probably don’t even know (or care) about the tales and origins of mythology and how it came to define cultures and their norms, and the names of things we take for granted even today – planets and the solar system. OTOH our 26 year old son loves this stuff and I will send him the link to your blog.

    Reply
    • You are absolutely right – a lot of schools don’t regard tales of ancient myths as very important in the education of youths today. (My teacher in high school actually said, “We’re not going to discuss this Greek and Roman myths section at all in the textbook. It’s not very important for your education.” Shows you what she knows!) I’m glad that there are some people who do care, though. I hope this post is useful for your son. Thank you for reading.

      Reply

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