Wrath of the Titans
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Screenplay by Dan Mazeau, David Johnson
Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, Édgar Ramírez, Toby Kebbell, Danny Huston, Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson
How long is Wrath of the Titans? 99 minutes.
What is Wrath of the Titans rated? PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action.
Less Convoluted Than The Original,
The Mythological Sequel ‘Wrath’ Ramps Up The Stupid
I should begin by stating that I didn’t like Clash of the Titans, the remake from 2010. I found it an uninspired-at-best, terrible-at-worst take on what should be a rousing adventure. While it’s easy to condemn its personality-less special effects, senseless plot, and horrible everything, my biggest problem concerned the Greek gods. Greek mythology is filled with some truly great stories featuring some incredible characters. Despite their relative omnipotence, the Gods are amoral, flawed, sadistic, and fascinating. By ignoring key elements of these legends, Clash seemed to boil down their personalities to Zeus = Good, Hades = Bad, with everyone else essentially set dressing.
For example, the original movie revolved around a battle between brothers Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Zeus (Liam Neeson), yet I don’t think their third sibling Poseidon (Danny Huston, in Clash and Wrath) did anything or had any lines. Nonetheless, the God of the Sea makes a somewhat extended appearance in this film. As does Ares (a recast Edgar Ramirez). As does their father Cronos (CGI Rock Monster). But instead of fixing their mistakes, the filmmakers of Wrath made this second outing even more ridiculous than the first. And ridiculous is the best word I can think of to explain this film. Not ridiculous-good or ridiculous-bad, just ridiculous.
In Zeus’ opening narration, we learn that his half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington) has become something of a celebrity due to his defeat of the Kraken. However, people have stopped believing in/praying to Gods, which causes them to lose their powers and turn mortal. The implications of these theological quandaries are mostly unexplored. Also left unexplained is how actually seeing a God or God proxy in action caused Gods to fall out of favor with the public.
Regardless, by the start, Perseus has decided to hang up his sword. Retiring to the country, he lives alone with his son Helius (John Bell), as his wife Io (Gemma Arterton, not appearing in this picture) had recently died. Living his Will Munny life, Perseus does not want to take up the mantle of defender ever again, even after Zeus begs him to come out of retirement for one last mission. Further solidifying his place as this form of classic hero, Perseus even says to a nurse “just fix my body and leave my soul alone.”
Meanwhile, in the realm of the Gods, Zeus, Ares, and Poseidon visit Hades in the Underworld to discuss their encroaching obsolescence, dwindling powers, and the re-rising of Cronos. Shockingly, this meeting is an ambush as the mob boss-ian Hades attacks his brothers, and Ares turns turncoat, linking himself with the God of the Underworld. Back on Earth, Wrath continues following the path of the conventional Western as Perseus’ village is attacked due to Hades, and Perseus must reacquaint himself with his demigod side. Soon thereafter, he learns from the grievously injured Poseidon that his father is kidnapped and being held captive in the land of the dead. With all the typical elements in place, Perseus dons his silver star (well, armor), and sets off on a quest to rescue his father and reap vengeance. Along the way, he recruits Queen Andromeda (a well-recast Rosamund Pike); Agenor (Tony Kebbell), the roguish son of Poseidon; and glorified extras. Kebbell’s performance makes me wonder if the role was originally meant for Russell Brand.
At the paltry running time of 99 minutes, none of the action sequences are given enough time to gel. The labyrinth that allows Agenor, Andromeda, and Perseus into the Underworld never has the sense of disorientation, hopelessness, and impossibility that a good labyrinth should have. Nor should this type of maze be solved simply by beating the Minotaur to death. The Underworld itself is equally disappointing with its stale mix of grey rocks and CGI lava. We aren’t even given the river/island/air of souls that is generally the most striking and disconcerting element of the region; there are no souls at all in this Underworld.
The Gods don’t fare that much better than in the first film. For starters, we don’t see any of the female Gods; we just have the four mentioned above, plus Hephaestus (Bill Nighy, as Drunken Gandalf), a God and the God’s weapon maker. Nevertheless, the most intriguing relationship in the film is between Hades and Zeus, not because of Fiennes and Neeson playing off one another, but because of how comical it is. Zeus actually says, “I know there is still good in you” to his brother. By the end of the film, they share a “we’re getting too old for this shit” moment and begin fighting alongside the humans. Say what you will about the original Clash of the Titans, but I don’t believe that the Gods actually appeared on Earth in that one. They take various forms, possess statutes, etc., but I don’t think a human or even a demigod sees their true form. In Wrath, Zeus is treated at a human army hospital.
Director Jonathan Leibesman of Battle Los Angeles replaces Louis Leterrier from the first film, and he brings to the sequel an understanding of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Many shots seem like low-rent mimics of memorable images from the Jackson films. Hephaestus even has his “None shall pass!” moment. This comparison is made even more unfavorable with the presence of the excellent The Hobbit teaser prior to this feature.
As a swords-and-sandals “epic,” a term I use very loosely, Wrath begs comparison to this year’s earlier John Carter. While Wrath will almost certainly do better, because it would be practically impossible to do worse than one of the biggest bombs of all time, it is not the better film. For all of Carter‘s flaws, and there were many including blandness, beigeness, and the lead, it had greater substance, scope, and creativity than Wrath. At the very least, Carter respected its source material, which Wrath, even with its more iconic and interesting background, unfortunately and all too obviously doesn’t.