And so the hero marches forward to find a mystical treasure and defeat a great evil save the most beautiful woman in the land. That’s essentially the heroic fantasy narrative that is so common that it’s become part of the public’s perception on fantasy in general. One could make the argument that this sort of thing is redundant, but this film is sort of a guilty pleasure for me. Sure, I usually prefer more original and more high-brow fantasy fare, but I can’t really object to this film, and there’s a part of me that wants to take it for what it is, if mainly because this was the last film featuring old-fashioned animation from the legendary Ray Harryhausen.
The premise of the film is based loosely on Greek mythology, specifically on the myth of Perseus slaying Medusa, one of the more popularly remembered of all Greek myths. In terms of narrative, it’s quite predictable. The hero is always this strapping young lad selected by the gods above, and his primary motivation seems to be a typical damsel in distress. Of course, what more can I expect? Back in the time this film was made, film producers didn’t know how to interpret mythology as any other kind of film.
That being said, it’s not entirely bad. In fact, I could make the argument that when you watch the film, you pretty much know what you’re expecting. Then again, I’ve always been a sucker for fantasy of all kinds, and there are particularly memorable moments from the film that I still enjoy. I also suppose that the acting isn’t too bad, though there aren’t a lot of likable or memorable characters to speak of. Fittingly enough, only the gods of Olympus give particularly good performances in the whole film, while the main protagonist comes across as an unrelatable knight in shining armour at best, and a privileged jerk at worst. The acting often comes across as a little hammy, but it’s not too heavy-handed. If I thought it was, I wouldn’t even consider watching it again.
Even if the film is a little wooden in terms of plot and characters, it definitely succeeds in terms of presentation, despite the somewhat outdated swords-and-sandals approach the film seems to be recalling. The film’s exotic set pieces definitely convey the setting, and who could forget the creature effects, courtesy of the inimitable Ray Harryhausen. Of course, by the time the film was released, contemporary advances in special effects would have rendered Harryhausen’s techniques obsolete, but had the creatures been designed with computer effects, this film might have been completely boring because it would have just been another CGI film. There’s always a kind of charm that stop motion animation has which the computers can’t recreate no matter how hard we try today. If anything, this film is an example of how old-fashioned techniques can still be effective. The film itself is a bit silly and occasionally veers towards camp, but it’s the little things that give this film its merits as decent entertainment.
- Score: 67%
- Grade: C