O come, let us sing to the Lord;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock
of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs
For the Lord is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
The story of Perseus has been told and retold through the centuries, as is well testified by two current productions that we might term mythology-lite, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, set in our own time (see the review in our last issue), and now this remake of the old epic more cherished because of its special effects than for its dramatic quality. This new epic is just the film for adolescents who love computer-generated special effects. Filmed in wide screen 3-D, the action thriller will especially delight fantasy fans.
The script makes a number of changes in the classic myth, but the main plot is recognizable, with our hero Perseus (Sam Worthington), sired by Zeus (Liam Neeson) who had sneaked in and impregnated Perseus’ mother. Her outraged husband had then killed her and placed her in a box along with the infant and then cast it into the sea. The humble fisherman Spyros (Pete Postlethwaite) finds the box and raises the infant as his own son.
Growing into a young titan, Perseus soon is off on his adventures to rescue humanity beset by calamities unleashed when Zeus, worried that humans are no longer worshipping the gods. This deprives them of their power, so he allows his ambitious brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) to launch assaults on the kingdom with the aim of turning the people back to the gods. This latter will remind some of God’s agreement with Satan in the book of Job. An underdeveloped subplot is the story of Princess Andromeda (Alexa Davalos) who becomes a sacrificial virgin to appease the gods, and one whom we might expect to mate with Perseus.
Young viewers will love the epic battle in the underworld with Medusa, and then topside with the mega-monster the Kraken, but for adults the best thing in the film is Liam Neeson as Zeus. He looks more like King Arthur in his shiny medieval armor than a Greek warrior-god. The film’s best line, or at least the one most likely to be quoted—” Release the Kraken!”
One might think that there is little to reflect upon or discuss in this sword and sandals adventures. One would be right, except that the film does offer an opportunity to compare the old religion that Christianity displaced with the faith that had its antecedents at roughly the same time that the Greek myths and legends were being formed.
1. Who are the various gods? What do they represent or have charge of? How is this conception a compartmentalization of the universe? Compare this to the view of God or Psalm 95 or in Isaiah.
2. Where do the gods reside in Greek mythology? How is this special understanding a limitation—at least when compared to the Hebrew understanding of God? Note in Solomon’s prayer at the temple dedication recognition of the tension between the transcendence and the immanence of God. Is there such a tension in polytheism?
3. What do the two brothers Zeus and Hades represent—and how does the film’s depiction of them show this? (Zeus’ white, shining armor; the dark attire and swirlingness around Hades.)
4. What is the Greek understanding of the creation of humanity? Compare this to the creation stories in Genesis. How in the film are the gods dependent upon humans? (Remember, Cassiopea says, “The gods need US! They need our prayers! What do we need the gods for?” ) The Psalms often invite us to “worship the Lord,” but do you think this is because God needs our worship, or because we need to do so?
5. Compare the revolt of the humans in the film and the revolt in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3.
6. Still another comparison worth exploring, the deal between Zeus and Hades in regard to humans and the bargain between God and Satan in regards to Job.