Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans 05

Don’t you hate it when you’re hanging out at home and a family member pops in to ask you for some annoying and time-consuming favor when you’ve got your own thing going on? That’s exactly what happens to Perseus in Wrath of the Titans. The family member in question is the great god Zeus, his dad. The favor is saving the world. And what Perseus (played by Sam Worthington) has going on is trying to raise his ten year old son as a single father. Perseus should tell Zeus, “Didn’t I just save mankind from you and Uncle Hades like a few years ago?” But then what kind of hero would he be?

Wrath of the Titans takes place roughly ten years after the movie Clash of the Titans. In between the two films, most of mankind has stopped worshipping the gods. This has caused the gods to lose some of their power because according to Zeus (played by Liam Neeson) the gods’ strength comes from mankind’s devotion . I’m not sure how that makes sense given that the gods existed before humans and given that Zeus was almost ready to wipe out humanity in the first movie, but whatever; let it be as Zeus has spoken. So in this now weakened state, the gods are struggling to keep the once-defeated Titans from uprising. Zeus is recruiting as many gods and demigods as he can find in order to help. And though there must be scores, if not hundreds, of gods in Greek mythology, Perseus is among a small handful who agree to help.

Sam Worthington as Perseus

On this adventure, Perseus is joined by Poseidon’s half-human son, Agenor (played by Toby Kebbell), who provides most of the film’s comic relief. Rounding out the team Queen Andromeda of Argos. You won’t recognize her from the first film as she’s play by a blonde Rosamund Pike this time instead of brunette Alexa Davalos (I guess when you go from Princess to Queen you can afford a stylist.). The three enlist the help of Hephaestus, the lame blacksmith of the gods, also known as the god of fire. He’s played wonderfully by Bill Nighy, who gives what is easily the best performance of the film. It’s a shame his appearance is so brief.

Perseus, Andromeda, and Agenor

As most sequels go, the scale of the movie larger than its predecessor. First, the stakes are higher. Hades, the villain in Clash, has teamed up with Ares, the God of War and son of Zeus, to release the Titan Cronos from his imprisonment in Tartarus.  His freedom surely means the extermination of mankind and possibly of godkind. Cronos is portrayed as this colossal being made of fire, at least a hundred feet tall if he’s an inch. He’s terrifying. There’s an amazing sequence in which he grabs a handful of men from the earth and then drops them back down. Hundreds and hundreds of men rain out of the sky. The scale of this scene is utterly engrossing, breathtaking even.

Cronos versus Perseus

Which brings to me the special effects, which are also larger this time around. Larger and better done. This movie looks great, from the gorgeous locations to the intricately designed and massive set pieces. And then there’s the 3D. I didn’t see the first film in the theater, but I heard that the 3D was pretty bad as it was added in post-production. The technology must have improved significantly since 2010 because the 3D here was great even though it was added in post-production again. It’s the first time since Avatar that I thought the extra dimension actually benefitted the movie. The depth of field gave you a better sense of the sheer magnitude of the scenes and thus of the world. There’s a scene where the camera moves deeper and deeper into the bowels of the earth, picking up speed as it goes, and in 3D the effect is excitingly dizzying. It’s the first time I heard people in a theater go, “Whoa” because of the 3D.

Yet, aside from what this movie does well, it’s still a mostly by-the-books action movie. There’s a hero who needs to save the day. The actual details of how he does it aren’t as important as how much butt he kicks doing it. The acting is serviceable, but doesn’t really go that deep. The dialogue is clunky and does way too much exposition. Andromeda, who is a strong female character in charge of the entire army of Argos, is still only there mainly because Perseus needs a love interest. At least there’s Bill Nighy.

Perseus and Andromeda

Bill Nighy as Hephaestus

Sam Worthington makes a fine hero. He can do all the things required of an action star, and he looks good doing it, but you don’t ever feel any connection to him as a person. You definitely never worry that he’s in any real danger or that he may fail. These are the same issues I have with most action movies. However, some of them will occasionally makeup for these shortcomings by the actual action of the movie.  Wrath of the Titans does just this and better than it did in the first movie (which I only finished watching the same day before I saw the sequel). Still I’d really love for these movies to do something better with character development. The first movie was all about the conflict between father and son. It could have been interesting to see Perseus wrestle more with the father/son issue now that he is a father. What mistakes does he make? Too bad he spends most of the movie away from his son, Helius. It’s a missed opportunity.

Perseus and son, Helius

They also missed an opportunity to include more of the Greek gods. There is a surprising lack of them in this movie. Zeus must have one awful recruitment campaign. I understand the difficulty in telling a personal story about Perseus while including more of the gods; it could easily become overstuffed with irrelevant characters, which I wouldn’t like either, but it just stretches credulity that no other god would be willing to help. At one point, Poseidon (played by Danny Huston) states something like, “All the gods have fled.” This just annoyed me as it seemed like such an easy way to brush aside a major flaw. After all, one of the reasons we love Greek mythology is because of how massive and incestuous and confusing it is

So if you’re looking for an exciting but light-hearted action movie set in the Greek mythological times, this will do the job, though I can’t imagine you’ll still be thinking about it once you’re in the theater parking lot. And if you’re a big fan of Greek mythology, you may find it disappointing, though there are some pleasant surprise appearances from mythological characters. I went in not expecting much and ended up enjoying myself. Your mileage may vary.

 

DirectorJonathan Liebesman (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning, Battle Los Angeles)
Writers: Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson (Orphan, The Walking Dead),  and Greg Berlanti (Dawson’s Creek, Green Lantern)

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