I've always been interested in mythology, and so when The
History Channel's latest Blu-ray release, Clash of the Gods, arrived at
DVDTalk, I jumped at the chance to review it.
Maybe I shouldn't have moved so quickly.
While it does retell some of the more interesting stories from
Greek and Roman mythology, the hour long show is padded way too much
special effects are anything but special.
Aside from a couple of episodes, each show looks at a Greek
myth and tells the interesting story of an ancient god, hero, or
monster. They cover Hades and the
trials of Odysseus, and the half-man half beast Minotaur.
There are also episodes on the Norse god
Thor, Beowulf, and the monsters from The Lord of the Rings.
The show does a good job or telling the tale while also
getting expert opinions on the meaning and reasons for the myth. In the episode on Medusa, for instance, they
relate how Medusa started out being a very lovely priestess of Athena. Since Athena was a virgin, all of her
priestesses had to be pure too. While
this priestess was able to resist the advances of all of the men she
encountered, the same couldn't be said when it came to a god. Poseidon took a fancy to the gorgeous girl
and raped her in the Temple
of Athena in Athens. The goddess was furious at this vile act
taking place in her temple. She wasn't
angry at Poseidon however, after all, boys will be boys, but at Medusa
turned (painfully) into a monster. With
snakes for hair and boars tusks to go along with a rictus grin anyone
looked at her would turn to stone. She
was exiled to an island where she created a garden of stone statues -
men who attempted to slay her but were frozen by her gaze.
Interspersed with the telling of the legend are various
professors and author who are experts on the legend, giving their
interpretation of how the myth arose and why it was important to the
Greeks. They hypothesis, for example,
that Medusa's appearance was inspired by what people look like after
been dead for a few days.
While the stories themselves are interesting and the
commentary by the scholars is often good, the show is severely marred
deep-voiced narrator, whose purple prose-filled comments are terribly
top, some terrible graphics and cinematography, and most of all, being
First the narration:
yes, I can see the need for someone to tie this all together,
every myth have to be the most important, the most horrific, or most
(sometimes all three) in the ancient world?
The writing is really bad for the narration and they would have
much better cutting out all of the hyperbole and letting the stories
Based on the cover, I thought the legends were going to be
illustrated by CGI renditions of the monsters and greater than life
characters. I mean even the newest
incarnation of Doctor Who has passable CGI animation, surely The
Channel can cough up the cash for some rudimentary special effects. Not so apparently. The
graphic for the monsters are
horrible. Basically they used Terry
Gilliam-style animation for most of their creatures, 'cutting out' an
(via computer of course) and moving the arms and legs to create motion. These flat, 2D renditions were almost
humorous and not impressive in the least.
The Hundred Handers (aka the Hundred-handed Ones) were shown
whole 8 arms which waved up and down attached to a motionless torso and
face. For the gods and heroes themselves,
they dressed actors up (nothing wrong with that) and inexplicably
faces. Even babies had face paint as did
important characters that were just human.
I assume that's because the creators assumed that anyone
wouldn't be able to tell two people apart without some dramatic
difference. They did have some cheap CGI
animation in the
Thor episode for the Midgard Serpent. It
didn't look great, but it was much better than anything else in the
There's a lot of evidence that the writers had a very low
opinion of their audience. This is one
of the most repetitive shows I've ever seen.
They could have easily cut it down to half and hour and still
had to cut any of the content. They
repeat the same information over and over and over.
Even my 13 year old son asked why they
mentioned that Zeus was king of the gods so many times.
Before each commercial break they'd tell you
what you'd just heard, and what was coming up.
Then after the break they tell you once more what had happened
and what was going to happen, just in case you couldn't remember that,
was king of the gods after two minutes worth of commercials. Come on.
Give your audience credit for having some intelligence.
These ten episodes come on two Blu-ray discs enclosed in a
single width standard case.
The 1.78:1 looked okay for the most part, thought they did
their best to make it look crappy. Most
of the 'reenactments' and animations had a haze overlaid over the image
they were filmed behind a dirty lens.
This is an old trick to make the special effect look better. If you can't afford great SFX, have your
movie take place at night, or in the rain, so that the defects will be
to see. Unfortunately they couldn't make
all of Hercules 12 tasks take place at night or in the rain, so they
us a 'stylized' image looks like crap.
The disc did a good job of reproducing this, but it still looks
unimpressive on a screen.
The DTS 2.0 uncompressed soundtrack was fine, but the show
could have been much better with full surround sound.
These days many TV viewers have 5.1 (or more)
systems and there's no reason why a show with action scenes such as,
gods clashing, shouldn't come with a 5.1 audio.
There are no extras.
I had high hopes for this show, but it falls very
short. How can you go wrong with
something as interesting and exciting as ancient mythology? By assuming your audience is full of dunces
repeating everything over and over and over.
I could forgive the wretched special effects and the
narration, but not that. If you're
really interested in ancient mythology, this might be worth a rental.