Clash of the Titans: Recreating the mythology
Feature by Jack Foley
AS Clash of the Titans makes its way into cinemas, we take a look at the mythology surrounding some of the film’s characters and greatest creatures, as well as some of the work that went into bringing them to the big screen.
These include such legendary foes as The Medusa, The Kraken and The Stygian Witches.
PERSEUS, THE HERO:
The mythology: Perseus was the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty. He is credited with being the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians.
The movie incarnation: Perseus, having just lost the only family he’s ever known, is torn between the two worlds: that of man, in which he was raised, and the world of the gods, where many believe he belongs.
Sam Worthington portrays the demigod who is reluctant to embrace, or even accept, his birthright as the son of Zeus. But who must in order to win the challenges that lie ahead…
Zeus: – The King of the Gods, the ruler of Mount Olympus and the god of the sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His symbols are the thunderbolt, eagle, bull, and oak.
Liam Neeson plays Zeus in the film version and, according to director Louis Leterrier, has something of a dilemma to face: “Zeus, more than any other god, loves humans,” he explains. “He created them, and he is torn because he loves them so much he doesn’t want to strike them with all his might and destroy entire armies. So, he has found cunning ways to get them to obey…but the times are changing.”
Hades: – Hades refers both to the ancient Greek underworld, the abode of Hades, and to the god of the underworld.
In Leterrier’s film, Hades – played by Ralph Fiennes – convinces his brother, Zeus, to let him put fear into the hearts of men, saying that fear will bring their prayers back to Zeus and, along with them, Zeus’ power over them.
But in reality, human fear makes Hades stronger, not Zeus. Acclaimed actor Ralph Fiennes plays the part of the cunning underworld ruler eager to take his rightful place in the heavens.
In Greek mythology, Medusa was a gorgon sister, a female monster, and a daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. According to a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid, she was originally a beautiful maiden and priestess in Athena’s temple… but when she and Poseidon, the “Lord of the Sea”, were found laying together in Athena’s temple, the enraged virgin goddess transformed her hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn anybody to stone.
In bringing the legendary character to the screen, visual effects supervisor Nick Davis’ team also used a combination of CGI and motion capture to bring her to life.
Unlike any incarnation of Medusa before, this version of the lethal character not only has a head crowned by snakes, but also a body that is half-human, half-snake, and able to hunt her unwanted visitors with stealth and steel.
Digital effects turned Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova into the gorgon whose looks do kill.
Kraken is a mythical sea monster of gargantuan size, which was originally said to have dwelt off the coasts of Norway and Iceland. It was a focal point of the 1981 Clash of the Titans thanks in no small part to the stop motion effects work of Ray Harryhausen.
In Leterrier’s update, the design phase for the Kraken took a period of approximately five months.
Davis relates: “Aaron Sims, our character designer, worked with Louis and me and the art team until we had something everyone was happy with, and then the people at MPC (Moving Picture Company) took over to work through the texture, and so on.
“The water was also a huge element. The Kraken rises out of the sea, so it’s got water cascading off of it on a massive scale, but part of it is always in the water, thrashing around. It was quite a challenge.”
Adds Leterrier: “The Kraken is mysterious, it’s a legend, so we didn’t want to reveal it right away. Nick, Aaron and MPC did an amazing job creating this unfolding sea monster.
“There is transparency in the scales, because this is a monster that hasn’t lived in the sun for thousands of years, so there would be subsurface transparency and light would come in and bounce into the shell.”
The Stygian Witches:
Otherwise know as the Graeae – ‘old women’, ‘gray ones’, or ‘gray witches’ – The Stygian Witches were three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth among them. They are one of several trios of archaic goddesses in Greek mythology.
In recreating them for Leterrier’s film, the witches each had three sets of body parts, five sets of heads, and were almost completely blind during filming. To create the all-seeing Eye, 25 prototypes were required.
Three final eyes were made-one as the main eye, one which was more durable and could be tossed around, and a green one for use in CGI effects.
Pegasus: The winged horse:
In Greek mythology, Pegasus was a winged horse sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa.
According to Leterrier: “Pegasus is a winged horse, he’s the companion of the gods, and no human has ever ridden one. He initially fights Perseus, which is yet another obstacle for our hero to overcome…”
In order to create the illusion of Pegasus flying, two Friesian stallions – a large, black breed of horse originating in the Netherlands – were used for the role: Bonce worked as the main Pegasus, with the stunt rider riding Gallo.
The visual effects team developed a complex system of putting tracking markers on the horses and using special cameras to track the motion very carefully. Completing the illusion, wings were placed on afterward, via digital imaging.
The giant scorpions:
Though not immediately apparent in the mythology, the giant scorpions form an integral part of both the 1981 and 2010 Clash of the Titans movies. In the former, they were created from the blood of the decapitated head of The Medusa; for the latter, they emerge from the blood of Calibos’ severed hand.
In recreating them for the 2010 movie, a special effects team was assembled and led by effects and animatronics supervisor Neil Corbould – who, ironically, as a teenager, worked on the original Clash of the Titans, adding feathers onto Bubo the owl.
He built a full-scale rig to act as a makeshift scorpioch, in order to give the actors something with which to interact during the fight sequence.
Nick designed a fantastic 3D scorpion, which the crew then used as the design for a physical model for the rig. The effects team then used a remote system to operate the rig via joystick controls. There was also a ride-rig, or computer-programmed gimbal, with the shell of a scorpioch on top of it.
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