A sequel nobody asked for to a remake nobody wanted tries to desperately validate its existence in Wrath of the Titans.
WARNING: SIDE EFFECTS INCLUDE MILD SPOILERS, MIGRAINES, DIZZINESS AND POSSIBLY CANCER (okay, not so much)!
Ten years after his defeat of the Kraken, demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) lives a quiet life as a fisherman with his son Helius (John Bell). He is brought back into the realm of heroics when his father Zeus (Liam Neeson) is kidnapped by Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Ares (Edgar Ramirez) who intend to use Zeus’ power to unleash the titan Kronos, father of the gods. As this would end the world, Perseus is a little upset. He enlists the help of fellow demigod Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and the former-sacrficial-virgin-now-warrior-queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) as allies in his quest to find all the key items and defeat the final boss.
2010’s Clash of the Titans had no good reason to exist. The 1981 original was widely beloved, and very few people thought it needed an update or any improvements. Indeed, as the final film of special effects legend Ray Harryhausen, it was something of a sacred text. Replacing Harryhausen’s surprisingly soulful stop-motion creatures with CGI and shoddy 3D effects was uncalled for, but the result was a mildly amusing trifle disguised as an epic adventure, and certainly not one that required a subsequent franchise. Mammon works in mysterious ways, however, and the film’s nearly half-billion global box office take meant that a sequel was started almost immediately. Of course, the need for such a thing never crossed anyone’s minds.
Swift Wind really needs to spend less time in the sun.
Only a handful of people from the first film returned for the sequel, both in front of and behind the camera. Director Louis Leterrier was replaced by Jonathon Liebesman, and screenwriters Dan Mazeau and David Leslie Johnson replaced the first film’s team. Gemma Arterton either wouldn’t or couldn’t return to play love interest Io—her official excuse was conflicts with Hansel & Gretl: Witch Hunters, which says everything—so her character was killed off in-between films. Alexa Davalos similarly declined to return as Andromeda and was replaced with Rosamund Pike, who’s a much better actress, but couldn’t look less like Alexa Davalos if she tried. Even the role of Ares was recast, but that’s a minor concern seeing as how the character was so unimportant to Clash‘s story. Aside from a handful of references to the first film, Wrath is essentially a reboot of the franchise as well as a sequel.
That’s unfortunate, because Wrath is a confusing, chaotic, empty-headed mess that can’t even be bothered to be exciting enough to register as either good or bad. While the first film (and the 1981 original) was loosely based on the myth of Perseus, Wrath is like Greek mythology as seen through conversations with 10-year-old boys. It’s as if all of Greek myth was thrown into a hat and names drawn out at random. Perseus traditionally takes on the Kraken (although this is a name coined by the films) in myth, but not the Chimera, the Cyclops or the Minotaur, as he does in the film. Those belong to the myths of Bellerophon, Odysseus and Theseus respectively. Agenor is an obscure figure, to put it mildly, and Andromeda has never been depicted as a warrior woman, but since Xena was copyrighted, the writers had to improvise. And once again, Hades is depicted as an analogue to the Christian Devil, right down to the pitchfork.
Andromeda Everdeen: Warrior Princess. Check local listings.
The result makes the film feel like an unfortunate video game adaptation, with all the flat acting, clunky dialogue and headache-inducing graphics that implies. It’s a PG-13 version of God of War, but without that series’ go-for-broke Grand Guginol excess or charismatic protagonist. An extended sequence in the Labyrinth, intriguingly depicted as a massive series of clockwork slabs, feels like an overlong Quick Time Event (press “X” now!). Fights that should be relatively epic, like Perseus against the Minotaur, arrive with little fanfare and end in seconds. Even more telling, in-between boss battles are interminable, un-skippable cut scenes featuring tons of repetitive, highly inorganic conversations. Virtually every scene features some kind of expository word dump, and nearly everybody uses a different accent. Ancient Greece was apparently a vast empire that included Australia, England, Spain and South Africa.
Part of the static nature of the film lies in the lead, Sam Worthington. Only slightly less wooden than he was in the first film, Worthington is a decent action star (he’s great at shouting emphatically) but is only mediocre in all other aspects of this thing called acting. He’s Jason Statham without the animal magnetism, but with a ridiculous looking, unholy hybrid of mullet and afro on his head. No matter how many times Hollywood insists on making the argument that Worthington is the next Big Action Star, nobody’s buying it. Not that the other returning actors—Liam Neeson and Ralph Feinnes—do much better. Worthington is at least in some ways ideally suited to this kind of mindless action, while Neeson and Feinnes are not afraid to outwardly acknowledge how much better they are than their material. Neither of them tries very hard, and if their characters didn’t constantly refer to each other by name, it would be difficult to imagine either of them as the deities they’re supposed to be.
Get used to that look; you’ll see it a lot in the next 100 minutes.
As for the supporting cast, don’t get too attached to them unless they have their own downloadable wallpaper on the film’s official website. It often seems like the action sequences only exist to winnow away the cast. Both Rosamund Pike and Toby Kebbell give the film more effort than it deserves, although Kebbell’s one-note comic relief character quickly becomes tiresome. At least Pike seems like she’s at least sort of getting into it, which is more than can be said for most of the players. Edgar Ramirez similarly seems to relish his role as Ares, and he’s so much more appealing than Worthington that it doesn’t take long to root for the bad guy. The most amusing of the cast, though, is Bill Nighy in an extended cameo as the god Hephaestus, who’s been banished to earth for unspecified reasons. Nighy plays him as Star Trek‘s Scotty by way of Gollum, and he comes and goes far too quickly.
Liebesman’s previous film, Battle: Los Angeles, was little more than a string of poorly-choreographed battle sequences strung together by plot points as afterthought, and Wrath is more of the same, but this time in sandals. The battles have little sense of perspective and space, often ending up in places that seem far removed from their starting points, and Liebesman lacks Leterrier’s sense of spectacle. The 3D effects often don’t help, although they’re executed many times better than in the first film, since Wrath was filmed in 3D and not post-converted like the first film. However, aside from the occasional moment like the chimera’s snake head getting right up in the audience’s business, they only serve to muddy the action scenes all the more. Perseus’ final battle with Kronos lacks the adrenaline of the first film’s Kraken battle, even though it steals many of that sequence’s camera angles and direction, but it’s still surprisingly exciting. Like the first film, the monster designs are mostly fantastic: the chimera and Kronos are appropriately vicious and epic, and twin-torsoed demons called the makhai are intriguing. However, the cyclopses are painfully rendered and look ancient compared to the relatively and impressively photorealistic CGI in the film.
Just give me my paycheck. Hades needs a new toga.
There’s no good reason for this film to exist, yet it does, so the least it could do is be amusing. However, Liebseman takes his material far too seriously, and the cast members who realize how silly everything is can’t counteract those who don’t care or those who simply can’t rise above it. The film is too lifeless to be bad, but it’s too inert to be any fun. As a highly awkward cameo from Bubo, the mechanical owl from the 1981 original reminds us, sometimes it’s better to just leave things alone. But try telling that to Liam Neeson’s mortgage.
Rating: 4 out of 10 / C-
JOHNNY M is a frequent FBOTU contributor whose mythology classes are now useless. <a href="http://www.fanboysoftheuniverse.com/index.php/forums/member/21/" title="