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One of the most legendary adventures in all mythology is brought to life in Jason and the Argonauts, an epic saga of good and evil. As a mere boy Jason, the heir to the kingdom of Ancient Greece, witnesses the murder of his father at the hands of his ruthless uncle, Pelias. After narrowly escaping death, Jason flees his home and returns twenty years later to reclaim the throne. Upon learning of his return, Pelias sentences him to death. To save his life, Jason promises to deliver the most coveted gift of the gods to his uncle - the Golden Fleece. Joined by the Argonauts, a stout-hearted crew of sailors, he embarks on a perilous voyage to capture the Fleece and fulfill his destiny. Written by
Ron Borgstedt <email@example.com>
JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS (TV) (Nick Willing, 2000) **1/2
When I acquired this, I had actually ordered the original 1963 classic at the time I had no use for it, so I gave the disc to my father; however, following the recent passing of Dennis Hopper, I decided to check it out regardless and, as it turned out, fairly enjoyed this epic of Greek Mythology. Being a good 75 minutes longer than the movie version (which was sparked by Ray Harryhausen's iconic stop-motion animation and a marvelous Bernard Herrmann score), this runs the risk of crumbling under its own weight but, for the most part, the plot retains much of its inherent sense of adventure and fantasy.
While I do not usually condone remakes, I think one has to make concessions for essentially timeless material such as this; thankfully, when this came out, there were still enough thespians (in its case, the afore-mentioned Hopper, Frank Langella and Derek Jacobi) around who could be depended upon for this kind of larger-than-life fare but with Hopper now gone (not to mention the likes of Oliver Reed, Richard Harris and Alan Bates), it cannot last for much longer! That is not to say that the younger members of the cast do not have sufficient talent to carry the film, but they do lack that extra ounce of personality and charisma demanded to portray demi-gods with conviction.
Anyway, comparisons between the two versions of the tale is inevitable and though, as I said, the narratives are reasonably similar, this does add its own stuff (necessary to pad out the running-time) while omitting or changing others. For instance, the demonic Harpies (designed by the Jim Henson company) and the fighting legion of the dead (actually grown from seed this time around!) are here, and so is Poseidon (though he is depicted as a monster rather than a savior in the 'moving rocks' sequence, which is subsequently rendered pointless), but not the statue that comes to life. The hero is then made to tackle a mechanical bull, while his entire crew falls prey to an island of murderous females (a scene which had already appeared in the peplum HERCULES UNCHAINED ); the latter character also turns up here (as he did in the original), along with a black Orpheus (in keeping with the 1959 Oscar-winning film of the same name). Inevitably, the CGI-rendered special effects are not a patch on Ray Harryhausen's charmingly archaic Dynamation stuff and the recurring imagery of Zeus and Hera watching over mortal subjects from their Olympic abode in the skies grew too cheesy for words at times!
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