Available on DVD

Jason and the Argonauts

Jason -
Jason London

Pelias -
Dennis Hopper

Hera -
Olivia Williams

Zeus -
Angus Macfadyen

Hercules -
Brian Thompson

Argos -
David Calder

Hypsipyle -
Natasha Henstridge

Medea -
Jolene Blalock

Aertes -
Frank Langella

Phineas -
Derek Jacobi

Orpheus -
Adrian Lester

Mists of Avalon
Krod Mandoon and the Flaming Sword of Fire
Sword of Xanten

Episode 1

Jason learns from a centaur that he is a rightful king dispossessed by an evil uncle who holds his mother in thrall. He journeys back to his homeland to face his death, but instead finds himself on a quest to the end of the earth in order to gain the golden fleece, the only thing that can save his mother from death. Along the way there are dangers both mortal and supernatural.

So beloved is the great Ray Harryhausen film of JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS that it is a brave person who takes on the remake and sadly the opening of this two parter shows exactly why. The story has everything that you could look for in a Greek myth - there are lost kingdoms, sea voyages, gods and monsters - and yet it proves to be rather dull and unexciting.

It doesn't help that the main character is played by a pretty boy with little skill or depth. In fact Jason London seems to have only his first name and his 'pleasant face' to recommend him for the role. Around that central hole there are more much more capable actors such as Dennis Hopper's evil king, David Calder's shipbuilder Argos, Natasha Henstridge being gorgeous in a role that requires her to, well, to be gorgeous, Olivia Williams and Angus McFayden as the fickle gods and Derek Jacobi who is utterly wasted as the blind seer Phineas.

The main problem here is the unfocussed script that never really manages to get all the elements to gel together. It starts off well with a great sacking of the city sequence that sets up the plot, but then Jason ambles around a bit, gathering together a crew of mismatched folk each with a great 'talent' which is then barely used or commented on afterwards. Zeus and Hera keep popping up in the clouds (an imagery that really never works) and prove to be immense distractions, whilst the threats created by a giant rock man in the ocean, the sirens who want to kill their guests (not turn them into pigs) and the clashing rocks (here 'black rocks') are all pretty unimpressive. The only standout moment is the battle with the harpies in the temple of food. The creatures are quite well realised and make up for the very poor CGI centaur that appears for no good reason early on to tell Jason the plot.

Then the story keeps flashing off to Colchis where a seer (Jolene Blalock from STAR TREK ENTERPRISE) keeps warning a prince (James Callis from BATTLESTAR GALACTICA) that Jason is on the way. This will probably come to something in the second episode, but it just distracts in this one.

This is a fun myth and so it's surprising that the adaptation here is so missing in fun, in liveliness, in a sense of the joy of being. The second half is going to have to really come up with something special to make this even remotely memorable.


Episode 2

Having braved the dangers of the sea to reach Colchis, Jason finds the path to the Golden Fleece blocked by, amongst other things, a mechanical bull, a giant fire-breathing lizard and plant warriors. Even having claimed the fleece, he must return home to face the greatest peril of all, the man who stole his kingdom.

The episodic adventures of the opening half of this two-parter give way to trials that are at least geographically stable. The mechanical bull makes his entrance very impressively, but then proves to be very poorly rendered when Jason climbs aboard like some rodeo rider. The fire-breathing lizard is better, but rather out of place in this mythology, but the warriors that grow from the dragons' teeth prove to be a much better idea than final product. Jason London also completely fails to sell this sequence, merely going through a preset set of motions without trying to make it look real.

In fact, London's performance is poor throughout. He spends most of his time looking like he's about to fall asleep. Exactly what emotion he is trying to convey is never clear, but they all seem to centre around half-closed eyelids. It doesn't help when the likes of Frank Langella and Dennis Hopper prove able to steal the whole show from under his feet with only a few minutes' of screen time. Jolene Blalock comes to the fore as Medea, the gorgeous princess whom the Gods make fall for Jason, though her meeting with Zeus leaves the audience with a great sense of 'Huh?'.

In the end, this might satisfy the younger members of the audience, but everyone else will be looking for the remote control.







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