Wrath of the Titans (2012) / Action-Fantasy
MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence
Running time: 99 min.
Cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebbell, Edgar Ramirez, John Bell, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay: Dan Mazeau, David Leslie Johnson
Review published June 22, 2012
This 2012 sequel to the remake of Clash of the Titans goes off of the beaten path of known Greek Mythology and uses the characters for a whole new adventure. Set about a decade after the events from the first entry, the demigod Perseus (Worthington, Man on a Ledge), half-human son of Zeus (Neeson, Unknown), is now a father living a normal life as a fisherman, only wanting to take care of his son Helius (Bell, A Shine of Rainbows) and protect him from harm. However, trouble comes to him when Zeus's father Kronos, brother Hades (Fiennes, Deathly Hallows Part II), and son Ares (Ramirez, Vantage Point) for a coalition to escape the underworld prison of Tartarus. Humanity has been progressively becoming less dependent on the gods, and the gods are in danger of losing power to the point of becoming mortal themselves without adoration, rendering the very walls that hold the gods in Tartarus weaker. The underworld trio's plot is to drain the power from Zeus and inject it into Kronos to grow powerful enough spring free into the world above. Perseus joins forces with Andromeda (Pike, Barney's Version), fellow demigod Agenor (Kebbell, Prince of Persia), and the Greek forces to try to thwart the plans, hoping to free Zeus and save humanity from becoming overpowered by vengeful gods.
No longer labored by the heavy expectations of the original 1981 Clash of the Titans' legion of fans, Wrath of the Titans has a mostly clean slate to do with what they will in the vast realm of Greek Mythology. The problem with this sequel is that it is still bogged down by the action-oriented expectations from Louis Leterrier's treatment, which emphasized special effects and tough bravado before story and characters, and, despite respectable box office returns, most who had seen it were not exactly clamoring for more. After breaking the interest of the original's fans, and by not garnering a new audience through the remake, there is no where to go except to try to carve a new audience out of the few passively interested parties still looking for big effects and lots of violent confrontations.
It's by some sort of small miraculous feat that new director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle Los Angeles, The Killing Room) manages to not only best the Clash remake, but to also energize the visuals and swordplay with enough panache to turn tepid spectators into eagerly anticipatory fans who might show up for a third movie, should there ever be one. He employs the same shaky-cam effects that he has used in the past, which may disturb those susceptible to it, but it does make the viewer feel more a part of the action on the ground. The CGI department runs rampant all over this one, but it is admittedly incredibly rendered CGI, befitting tale of epic proportions -- perhaps the best I've seen of its type since the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I'm not one to be overtaken by a movie for visuals alone, but the work that has been done on Wrath surprised even me, with its level of detail and imagination that makes it easily one of the best looking films of the year.
The cast is quite good in name, though the film is far from the best work from most involved. However, Neeson and Fiennes give the gravitas necessary for their respective roles as the yin and yang of Ancient Greek gods, and even work quite well together in trying to put the closest thing to emotion in to their roles in which they struggle with the potential of their own demise. Worthington, as with the first film, has little to do but look brawny and push forward the plotline, though there is a bit more nuance in that Perseus must deal with his son and father, and his acceptance of his own role as both. Rosamund Pike takes over the role of Andromeda, perhaps due to her prior experience and believability in holding down the action sequences called for from her role as warrior-queen rather than stock beautiful damsel in distress. The monsters are gorgeously rendered, and save for a rather disappointing model for the Minotaur, they do elicit a good deal of awe when called upon.
The run time is a meager 99 minutes, but it doesn't feel excessively truncated, perhaps due to less need for background now that the first film introduced most of the characters and their primary motivations. At the same time, given that there could have been an extra 10-20 minutes to beef up the rather lean screenplay, it might have proven beneficial to hone a more poetic and lyrical treatment befitting a tale of its magnitude. Or even just to add a little comic relief to what is mostly a grim and straightforward action-adventure, save for a typically goofy performance by Bill Nighy (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Deathly Hallows Part I) as Hephaestus.
In the end, Wrath of the Titans will probably only please action-adventure-fantasy fans, for its sumptuous visuals and a few well-developed epic battles, but few else. Certainly, it won't restore faith in the fans who adore the 1981 release. If you like the first entry, you should surely give it a shot. If you didn't, keep the expectations solely to the level of witnessing a spectacle, and perhaps you'll find it at least passable entertainment that achieves its not-so-lofty aims to dazzle and destroy.
©2012 Vince Leo