Wrath of the Titans – movie review
If the Greeks think things are tough in their country right now, Wrath of the Titans can provide ample solace that things were once a whole lot worse. Serving up more action and better visual effects and 3D than the 2010 Clash of the Titans, along with a barely-there screenplay that merely functions to notify Perseus which enemy or monster he should hack or skewer next, this is a relentlessly mechanical piece of work that will not or cannot take the imaginative leaps to yield even fleeting moments of awe, wonder or charm. But the elements, as they say, are present to produce a sequel that should approach the Olympian box office heights of its predecessor, which erupted for more than $493 million worldwide.
The entire plot of Wrath of the Titans – which is set several years after the events of Clash of the Titans finish – is set up within the first few minutes, and it never looks back or tries to add much after that. It isn’t that it is a bad story, it is just very, very simple. But with a movie like this, there really isn’t anything wrong with that, at least in theory.
Unlike Norse, Greek mythology would amount to little were it not for abundant father-son conflict and this tale features two mighty generations of it. Buried deep and out of sight in a particularly unfashionable part of the underworld called Tartarus is Chronos, imprisoned there by his sons Zeus (Liam Neeson), Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston).
However, Hades has a change of heart and, allied with Zeus’ vicious son Ares (Edgar Ramirez, replacing Tamer Hassan in the role), captures Zeus and proceeds to begin transferring the latter’s considerable powers to their restless dad. Enter Zeus’ half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington) – who if around today would be a Golden Dawn activist I’m sure! – who for a decade has been recovering from his battle with the Kraken by modestly working as a fisherman and being an exemplary single dad to son Helius (John Bell).
Soon Zeus (Liam Neeson) appears before Perseus to tell him that the walls of Tartarus that imprison the dreaded Titan Chronos, are breaking down, which spells doom – for the poor, soon-to-be squished humans. Zeus is soon captured by Ares (Édgar Ramírez) and Hades, who plan to squeeze the juice out of him in order to re-vitalize Chronos, who will then murder the world. Perseus realizes he can no longer opt out, so he sets out to rescue his dad and save the world with the help of his old friend Andromeda, who is now queen – and also now blonde (Rosamund Pyke who replaces Alexa Davalos) – and the comic relief side-kick, Agenor (Toby Kebball), along with several expendables.
All of this is established within the first thirty minutes of the movie and from then on it is essentially one long action sequence with a few bits of drama salted in, mostly credit to Fiennes and Neeson who have as much dialogue in one small cut as Worthington and Pike have in an hour of the movie. The plot does what it needs to, and offers just enough scaffolding to support the multiple explosions, fights, and action scenes that dominate the movie. The consequence is that it is almost totally devoid of emotion, and the movie lacks heart of any kind. But it is pretty and somewhat exciting.
As so many versions of Greek myths and the gods’ actions existed even in ancient times, one can’t take issue with the way they’re employed by screenwriters Dan Mazeau, in his debut, and David Leslie Johnson (Red Riding Hood) and co-story writer Greg Berlanti (Green Lantern), other than to note that the gods here, claiming undue neglect by humans, behave like petulant mercenaries as anxious to fight as some kid might be to play a video game.
After a mettle-testing battle with the marauding Chimera, a notably aggressive flying, fiery-mouthed beast with two large heads and snapping snake’s head at the end of its tail, Perseus sets out to rescue Zeus along with Andromeda, so delectably decked out in a snug-fitting leather outfit and Poseidon’s wayward son Agenor (Toby Kebbell, resembling a Russell Brand clone). They in turn are joined by one-time god of craftsmanship Hephaestos (Bill Nighy), who, also appeared in my last movie review – The Iron Lady – as Airey Neave MP. Hephaestos is the only one capable of negotiating the complex labyrinth leading to the underworld.
While the relentless Ares tortures his chained father, whose arms are slowly consumed by fire, Perseus must fight off Cyclops triplets, an only glancingly viewed Minotaur and, perhaps weirdest of all, some wild fighting machines called Makhai, which have four weapons-wielding arms and twin twisting bodies atop two legs (and, yes, Perseus does get to ride Pegasus).
When he finally emerges with the intention of laying the world to waste, Kronos could legitimately be considered the original mountain man; formed out of burning rock, he towers over all and can set fire to anything in sight with the wave of an arm. Shrewdly designed, he cuts, arguably, a pretty awesome figure, and his destruction presents Perseus with a challenge more or less on a par with what Bruce Willis faced in Armageddon. The aftermath strongly suggests that the twilight of the gods has arrived, with humans now left to their own devices to make their way in the world without divine intervention.
The world of Ancient Greece in Wrathis surprisingly colourless, despite some incredible art design. The world created is imaginative and detailed, but the colours are drab and gray. This may be to give the movie a more neutral background for the effects, which stand out. If so, it worked. The effects are incredible and visually this is an incredible movie.
From an entirely technical standpoint, Director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning) turns in an exceptional movie. The effects are Oscar-worthy, and they meld seamlessly into the action. There is a lot of CGI in this movie, but it is actually difficult to tell where it begins and traditional effects begin. The 3D is also used exceedingly well for this type of movie. It can be a bit dizzying at times as you speed down crevices and through landscapes, and things fly out at you often, but it is in keeping with the type of spectacle movie it is.
As most of the dialogue is shouted or bellowed, it’s rather beside the point to speak of the performances, other than to say that Sam Worthington looked marginally more at home on Pandora than he does in the Greece of myth.
The biggest problem with Wrath of the Titans is that it lacks heart, but it does exactly what it sets out to do and not a bit more. It is like my two cats Lynx and Lamb. They are fun to enjoy, but you won’t get much intellectual stimulus from it. Wrath of the Titans is pure spectacle. If you go into it expecting something epic and memorable, you will be disappointed. But if you go in looking for a big, dumb, flashy popcorn movie where things blow up real pretty, you will go away happy.
A thin and unimaginative storyline still shouldn’t keep the Clash of the Titans sequel from reaching Olympian box office heights. But if you pop out for a minute to buy a coke (as my date did!) you might miss the plot. So you may have to buy the DVD anyway!
Reviewed by Mark Cotterill, Preston, Lancashire