Once every so often, there comes a movie that breaks new ground. A film that exceeds all expectations, blows everyone away, and changes the way we make, and view films. A film that is near flawless in every way. A film that no matter how many times you watch it, you never get sick of it, constantly spotting new details and extra little subtle nuances present in the subtext. Well, it will come as no surprise to you, I’m sure, to learn that “Wrath of the Titans” does not fall into this category. On the contrary, in fact. It is a film so abundantly flawed it is hard to see anything to recommend it. The only ground it breaks is in the film itself, by the ill-tempered monsters that come popping up from out from beneath people’s feet and set about wreaking havoc. The only people it blows away are the easily impressed, and the extras in the film. I’d say I found it disappointing if it weren’t for the fact that my expectations really weren’t that high to begin with. “Clash of the Titans” set the bar nice and low in 2010, and now, two years later, if this sequel has raised it at all, it is by a figure imperceptible to the naked eye. Apart from one or two minor improvements, “Wrath of the Titans” does not seem to have learned from its previous mistakes, opting instead to plod along down the path of its predecessor, on a general heading for the realm of forgettability.
The signs were there from before the film even started. They didn’t bother taking our phones from us, for starters. Normally when one attends a film premiere or preview screening, it is a condition of entry that you surrender your phone at the entrance and leave it with security staff until afterwards in order to prevent piracy. This evening I walked on in, and never once was there even the slightest interest given to my phone by anyone larger than myself. Even the distributors must have had low expectations. Finally the lights dimmed, and the film began meandering along its idea of a plot. We rejoin Perseus (Sam Worthington), about ten years after the events of the first film, who now has a son, but has lost his wife. (Presumably Gemma Arterton’s wise decision to distance herself from this doomed franchise as quickly as possible.(Well, according to IMDB it was due to a scheduling clash with her role in the upcoming “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” but who knows…?)) The action wastes no time kicking off. Perseus, working as a simple fisherman, is approached by his father, the god Zeus (Liam Neeson), and informed that he’s in a bit of a pickle, and may require his son’s assistance. It seems Zeus’ brothers Hades (Ralph Feinnes), Poseidon (a barely recognisable Danny Huston) and his other son Ares (Edgar Ramirez) have teamed up to help stop the prison holding their demonic father Kronos captive from falling apart, and they require Perseus’s help if they are to prevent him from breaking free and unleashing death and destruction upon the world. Perseus isn’t interested, but then Hades and Ares betray Zeus and Poseidon. They capture Zeus, but Poseidon just barely escapes to come and inform Perseus of the problem. Not a bad little idea for a story, except that it is completely devoid of any discernible premise, and the script sounds like it was written by a ten year old. Much like the first film. Perseus has a dream about the chaos to come, and within less than a minute of his waking up from it in a cold sweat he is battling a foul tempered, two-headed, fire breathing…um..flying thing… they never do explain exactly what it is.
Sam Worthington is as wooden as ever as Perseus, and basically plays an ancient Greek version of himself, Australian accent and all. Liam Neeson has also returned as Zeus. Neeson, with his deep voice and commanding presence is well cast in the role, even if the hollow story line and clumsily written script does seem to be a bit of a sad waste of his talents. Similarly with Ralph Feinnes as Hades, who plays his character very well. Edgar Ramirez is also well cast, but my favourite is Bill Nighy’s brief but memorable role as the eccentric Hephaestus. Nighy brings a refreshingly comic tilt to the film with his bumbling, Pythonesque character, who has lived as a recluse for much of his life on an island said to be non existent, but of course is found in five minutes by our ever resourceful heroes with a dash of suspended disbelief and a few all-too-convenient plot points in the script. In fact, I would go so far to say that Nighy’s performance is one of the film’s few saving graces, if not the ONLY saving grace. Meanwhile, the film needed a sexy love interest to replace Gemma Arterton, so they brought back Queen Andromeda from the first film. Unfortunately, Alexa Davalos was also unavailable (co-incidence?), and so Rosamund Pike has stepped into the role. Sadly, the former Bond girl is quite forgettable, save for being involved in ***SPOILER ALERT*** one of the weirdest movie kisses I have ever seen! ***END SPOILERS***
For entertainment value, the film is not too bad. It has some exciting fight scenes with towering Cyclops, winged monsters, snapping serpents, and one seriously pissed off Kronos, played by a seething, writhing, computer generated lava monster guy. None of the previous film’s signature giant scorpions or enormous Krakens return, but with some new baddies the stakes are upped a bit, even if those baddies are largely similar to those of the first film in nature and capabilities. The 3D presentation has improved as well. When “Clash” came out in 2010, it did so in the wake of “Avatar” when 3D was the hot new thing, and every major film was enthusiastically leaping onto the 3D bandwagon. Consequentially, its 3D was done in post-production, which never looks any good. “Wrath” is actually shot in 3D and while admittedly I dislike 3D, it does look considerably better, particularly during the elongated crash-zoom sequence through the bowels of the Earth to the underworld to catch up with Zeus, Hades, and company. While the film may leave something to be desired in the story department, if it is massive creatures wreaking havoc and devastation upon mere mortals that entertains you, “Wrath” delivers.
“Wrath of the Titans” may not be a ground breaking instant classic. It may be flawed to the hilt, with mostly wooden, one dimensional characters, and a script so bad it’s actually funny. But if you enjoyed “Clash” you’ll probably enjoy the sequel, as it is largely more of the same with one or two minor improvements. Just keep your expectations nice and low, and you’ll avoid disappointment.
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