At the moment when Sam Worthington, trapped inside a giant scorpion, sword-hacked his way through the dorsal carapace and poked the upper half of his body through the opening as if it were a sunroof, I fell in love with "Clash of the Titans."

We already had witnessed a high-velocity aerial attack by harpies, a rebellious king zapped by Zeus' lightning bolts that render his skin the texture of a burnt weenie, several smoke-and-cinders appearances by Hades, and a monster assassin's lopped-off hand skittering away like a big pink crab. When it became clear that the film would be one long crisis with brief pit stops for quick infusions of plot, I decided to enjoy the ride. This movie literally puts its heroes -- and us -- through hell and out the other side. You fight this kind of stuff, it'll tear you to shreds.

It goes without saying that "Clash" is all flash, trash and crash, a tasty hunk of baloney, mindless yet shamelessly thrilling. It is untroubled by fidelity to the 1981 adventure of the same name, let alone to Greek mythology. It pillages folklore from around the globe, tossing in a squad of Arabian Djinn and a Kraken sea monster from Scandinavia (and/or the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies). In the sequels I expect to see a Chinese dragon, Bigfoot and a chupacabra.

The story begins in Argos, where Perseus (Worthington) ponders his fate. He's a demigod, the mortal son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), who feels more loyalty to the humans who raised him with love than the all-powerful father who abandoned him. When the deities of Mount Olympus orphan him, he's eager to side with men in their battle against the cruel, capricious gods. The Olympians draw on human prayers for their strength, except treacherous Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who thrives on fear.

Zeus dispatches Hades to knock the mortals back into line. They have 10 days to acquiesce. Otherwise, Hades will "release the Kraken," a threat so melodramatically cheesy it has already replaced "that's what she said" as the all-occasions pop-culture punch line.

The movie kicks into life in the frantic and near-nonstop battle sequences as the mortals take on the gods' minions. Director Louis Leterrier ("The Incredible Hulk," the Ed Norton one) keeps tension in the story by sadistically winnowing down Perseus' legion. You know the marquee star will survive, but you fret about the colorful supporting characters.

Worthington has a hearty masculinity, and he's remarkably resourceful at hacking and slashing. He's sort of a stiff, though, even when the movie gives him comedic opportunities. When he's 20 fathoms down, trying in vain to save someone from drowning, he bellows "NOOOOO" in a gush of air bubbles. People around me were giggling, and rightly so. Worthington has a Shatneresque heaviness about him; even as a slime-covered chest burster popping out of that giant scorpion, he doesn't seem to be in on the joke.

The laughs in the film come from the heavyweight actors slumming through their roles. Neeson is all deadpan decorum even when he's wearing a ludicrous suit of armor that makes him look like Lady Gaga's grandpa. Fiennes oozes deliciously creepy perversity, bugging his eyes, croaking his lines and slithering around the set in a preposterous wig. The old pros understand that what is most entertaining about "Clash of the Titans" is inextricable from what is most absurd.

A word on the film's much-discussed post-production 3D effects. They add nothing to the experience. Skip the glasses and buy a bigger bucket of popcorn.

Colin Covert • 612-673-7186