This afternoon I spoke to Clash of the Titans writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi about the upcoming monsterfest featuring Sam Worthington, swords, and a really giant kraken. They gave me hope that this adventure tale won't take itself too seriously.
io9: How did you update this movie for the new millennium?
Hay: All those signature creatures are there; we wanted to do that. I think the way the action is pulled off is different. A lot of the new stuff revolves around the characters, who Perseus [Sam Worthington] is.
Manfredi: We focused on the interactions between the men and gods, and the journey of Perseus. He's a demigod – a man and a god. And he's trying to figure that out at a time when man is questioning his relationship to gods who have ruled with an iron fist. Our feeling is that he resists the god side of him. He chooses the side that is a man.
Hay: The Greek gods are not always benevolent. They can be capricious and lean heavy on punishment – Perseus is struggling with that. His family is collateral damage in a conflict between gods and man. In a way, it's about his relationship between himself and his biological father. He's been raised by a man he loves very much, but then he finds out his real dad is a god who he hates.
Why do you think Hollywood was interested in doing this remake now?
Manfredi: Honestly I'm surprised that there haven't been more movies with Greek mythology in them. Especially since it's the root of superhero movies clearly. 300 is sort of in this vein, and though it's not about gods there's a connection to what we're doing obviously. And as movies like Lord of the Rings make clear, there's a huge interest in fantasy.
Hay: Also, this is one of those titles that people have affection for. But they also think it could be exciting to see what could be done with it using today's FX special effects. Tron is the same way. People are excited to see it redone.
io9: At the same time, people think of the original movie as cheesy, sort of a midnight movie. Are you playing with that at all in the remake? Is there a sense of humor?
Manfredi: There's definitely a sense of fun in the movie that resonates with people who have seen the original. For me, the original special effects have a backyard quality – and I say this affectionately, as a fan. Those effects let you in on the movie making process - that stop motion kind of pulls back the curtains on how movies are made. And yet it's still scary and exciting. Medusa was terrifying in the original.
Hay: The effects in the original have a direct line to your imagination, because they're not photoreal. To me that type of adventure and fantasy movie is one that I have such affection for that I think it feels natural to translate that to the present. And to preserve a sense of fun, of not taking itself seriously, while the characters do take themselves seriously. Cheese is in the eyes of the beholder.
What we love about [director Louis Leterrier] is that like us, he has a very unabashed love of genre movies and so there's nothing cynical about the approach. He's very much going for it. That's Louis' approach. Trying to squeeze awesomeness out of every moment.
io9: Do you think of the monsters as characters or more as scenery?
Hay: The monsters have specific and tragic backstories. Medusa has sad and dark tale of betrayal by the gods. Calibos is created out of his own anger and pain and the giant scorpions come from him. There's something behind every monster. They all have an origin story.
That said, the scorpions are less characters, and more about "it would be just plain awesome to have giant scorpions" - there's a childlike thing there. And same with the kraken. Just the scale of it, the fact that it's this mindless destroyer - there's something scary about that being its sole character trait. It exists to destroy things.
Manfredi: We were always trying to think of what makes each monster scary. With the kraken, it's the scale. With Medusa, it's her backstory.
io9: What about Bubo? Is there any Bubo in this movie?
Hay: [laughter] Oh Bubo – they did shoot a loving cameo, and I believe it has made the final cut. There's a moment that's a tip of the hat to Bubo.
Manfredi: Bubo is very controversial. He's polarizing. Some people really hate him. But we did include him just a bit. [more laughter]
io9: You guys were executive producers on the documentary Dungeonmasters, about D&D players. Were you D&D fans? Did that influence you at all as writers?
Hay: Yes we're D&D fans. Playing D&D and all the associated games when I was a kid – to me, that's the root of me becoming a screenwriter. Those fantasy worlds, that kind of adventure, that kind of imaginative way to spend your time was my first way into creativity.
Manfredi: In all those role-playing games, there are blanks to fill in, and it's up to you to populate and describe that world. I gravitated toward the more geeky Top Secret. Really the game I played all the time was Call of Cthulhu.
io9: That's awesome. When is there going to be a good Cthulhu movie? You guys are into giant monsters - why don't you write something?
Manfredi: We've talked about a Cthulhu movie. It would be amazing. We're trying to do that. The question is how do you approach it.
Hay: It's funny how Cthulhu has seeped into so many different movies. Even the kraken in Clash, if you look at him from the right angle . . .
io9: Or Cloverfield.
io9: I know you guys are working on adapting [comic book] RIPD. Where is that project at?
Hay: we hope that will happen soon. They're pushing to put it together. We've loved it for a long time. The studio, Universal, is marshaling the forces.
io9: Since it's about undead police, will it be a zombie movie?
Manfredi: No, it's not a zombie movie. It's closer in tone to Men in Black or Ghostbusters. Really it's a monster movie like Clash. Except with undead monsters.