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Wrath of the Titans Review

Sam’s Rating: 4/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 5.0/10
(2 reviews total)

 

2010’s Clash of the Titans, though a remake of the 1981 film, could trace its roots back to the “peplum” craze of the 1960s when bodybuilders played Greek warriors and gods in campy stories with hilariously cheap sets. “Clash” was a revival of that trend’s worst aspects, bringing back the wooden acting and plot goofiness of its forbearers but wrapped up in $125 million dollars of CGI and post-conversion 3D.

“Clash” was not a good movie, not even close, something that would have forced Warner Bros. to pump the brakes on its franchise plans had it not made scads and scads of money at the box office. The newly released Wrath of the Titans shows clear signs that Warner Bros. was aware of its mistakes, namely bringing in a new writer and director.


So it’s a shame that even with fresh blood, “Wrath” is the same mix of familiar action and goofy mythology that characterized its first outing. Demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) is enjoying life as savior-turned-fisherman when apocalyptic parole for the imprisoned titan Kronos threatens to upend his seaside retirement. Deadbeat dad Zeus (Liam Neeson) getting captured by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) is the last straw before it’s time for Perseus to break out the ol’ sword and sandals for more monster slaying and mythological sightseeing.

As a study in Greek classics, “Wrath” takes an everything but the kitchen sink and blender approach, combining characters and creatures from across the Hellenic board and setting the mixture to puree. It’s as big a mess as ever, but a noticeably more confident one. That’s partly due to a reworking of the established material.

“The greatest stories are written in the stars” soothed demigoddess and accidental love interest Io at the beginning of “Clash,” though she fails to mention that those stars are fans of rewrites. She’s absent this go around (read: dead), replaced by Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), who was the damsel in distress in part one, but is now a feisty warrior princess. The comic relief is shared between newcomers Hephaestus (a delightful Bill Nighy) and Agenor (Toby Kebbell), who should satisfy anyone wondering what Jack Sparrow would have been like if played by Russell Brand.


The rejiggering does, for the most part, make the gods and men at the center of the story more watchable. Worthington as a lead still maintains the resonance of old porridge, but Neeson and Fiennes are both more enticing, with increased screen time for the former and less Voldemort-style rasping from the latter. The theme of family remains dominant, a challenge for any writer, considering the kind of cavorting Greek gods are known for. Even when dealing in legendary levels of familial vendettas, Perseus’ daddy issues don’t really hold much interest when the fate of the world is at risk. 

But it’s hard to expect relationship advice from a series that’s most memorable for the memetic “release the Kraken,” especially when the ads feature plenty of swords a-slashin’ and beasties howling. Director Jonathan Liebesman handles most of his action scenes well, using long takes and greater scope than his predecessor to make Worthington’s reaction shots to CG monsters more engaging, aside from a limp-noodle Minotaur brawl. The action is a nice showcase for the pretty effects and set designs that assuredly ate up the majority of the prodution budget. Filmed in native 3D this time around, shots designed specifically to exploit the extra dimension are kept to a minimum, and the effect blends in almost unnoticed, for better or worse.


Yet it’s all as dramatically featherweight as ever because the mythology is a veritable utility belt of writing cop-outs. The powers of godhood are loosely defined so as to fit whatever purpose present circumstances call for (the one consistency seems to be Perseus’ ability to withstand repeated ass-kickings). The gods can now trace back mortal prayers to their origin (thanks Patriot Act!), without much reason for it beyond providing excuse for dramatic entrances. And how are you supposed to understand the stakes of a fight when you’re not sure who’s immortal to what, when and to who? When told that gods don’t die, Perseus replies, “they do now.” It’s as though he inherited Zeus’ power to simply make something so by saying it. 

There’s such a careless, make-it-up-as-you-go sensibility to the film that it becomes reminiscent of a game of Dungeons & Dragons. You can tell those involved had a lot of fun creating this fantasy, but lord if it isn’t a dull affair when you’re watching it play out from the sidelines. Wrath of the Titans can hold its head a bit higher than its predecessor, but it’s a modest improvement for a franchise that needed a Herculean one.

Simon thought: “Flashy, plotless blockbusters for the modern, A.D.D. generation (that would be “Always Death and Destruction”) are more commonplace than ever, but that isn’t to say schlock doesn’t have its place when its action is staged competently and its leads entertaining to behold in a world of mythological mayhem. Wrath of the Titans does little to approve upon the original, nor does it try any real deviation from the blockbuster mold. The biggest asset is that Liebesman takes a grittier, more stunt-oriented approach — aesthetically at least — that’s worthy of praise. Although muting over the atrocious dialogue would have been a luxury, this lightweight adventure clips along at a steady pace and really only stumbles in that regard when the battle pauses for exposition and side expeditions. Wrath may be one of the seven deadly sins, but at the very least this action-steeped epic doesn’t make the carnal wrong of being boring.” Rating: 6/10

Rating
5.0

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