This weekend, we will all feel the Wrath of the Titans. The follow-up to the 2010 remake of the fantasy epic Clash of the Titans once again finds Perseus, again played by Sam Worthington, matching wits, and steel with the ancient Greek gods (as well as the dreaded Titans). Along with Worthington, actors Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes return as gods Zeus and Hades respectively. These actors, themselves titans of the screen, got us thinking about our favorite cinematic depictions of deities. Get yourself in the mood for this spring blockbuster by paying them homage.
Liam Neeson is far from the only actor to play the supreme deity of Mt. Olympus. In the original Clash of the Titans, the mantle was donned by one of the greatest actors who ever lived: Sir Laurence Olivier.
But as iconic as Olivier’s Zeus remains, one of my favorite portrayals of that mythic patriarch was that created by Luke Evans in Tarsem Singh’s Immortals. Though the movie overall isn’t stellar, Evans’ take on Zeus captures the god’s trademark fiery temper. His edict about the gods not intervening into the fates of men is upheld with a thunderous vengeance. One particular god who dares defy him faces his explosive wrath—a wrath surely no titan could match.
Moving from Greek to Norse mythology, there are few denizens of Asgard mightier and more notable than Thor, the God of Thunder. Last year, Marvel brought this deity, whom they had translated to a comic book uber hero, to the big screen in a stunning 3D epic.
Chris Hemsworth was faced with the daunting task of not only making Thor believable and heroic in his own mythic realm, but also to maintain that sincerity once he is suddenly transported to our dimension. Hemsworth plays mighty and vulnerably out-of-place to perfection and it’s his performance that elevates the film. Plus, how badass is that hammer?
One of my favorite Disney animated films is 1997’s Hercules. Of the many fantastic elements of the movie is James Woods’ hilarious take on the Greek god of the underworld: Hades. The film plays up the rivalry between Zeus and Hades, but tamed down a bit for kids.
Woods lends a frantic, comical snark to Hades, but equally entertaining are the moments wherein he flies completely of the handle. The animators design Hades with a perpetual blue flame encompassing his head, which bursts to dizzying heights when he’s angry. One can imagine the joy that would have come from watching Woods record these scenes in the booth.
So many actors have played The Big Guy in films that it’s hard to keep track. The short list includes such names as George Burns, Charlton Heston, and even Alanis Morissette. But in 2003’s Bruce Almighty, possibly the definitive portrayal of the man upstairs was crafted by none other than Morgan Freeman. To be fair, Freeman had a major advantage right out of the gate in that the timbre of his voice is naturally rich and, frankly, angelic. But the wisdom, the ironic humor, and the effortlessly imposing presence he brings to the role make this a lovable God you can believe in no matter what your individual faith.
This one is a bit obscure, but I highly, highly recommend the 2006 film version of Japanese manga/anime Death Note. The story revolves around a young man who comes into possession of a bizarre notebook. Any name he writes in the book will cause the bearer of that name to suffer a heart attack and die within seconds. The notebook formerly belonged to Ryuuk, one of the many gods of death. The design of this animated character, coupled with his unhinged physicality and diabolical chuckle, makes Ryuuk one of the most outlandish and captivating gods ever committed to celluloid.