A film review by Craig J. Koban April 3, 2012
WRATH OF THE TITANS
2012, PG-13, 99 mins.
2012, PG-13, 99 mins.
Perseus: Sam Worthington /
Zeus: Liam Neeson /
Hades: Ralph Fiennes /
Andromeda: Rosamund Pike /
Hephaestus: Bill Nighy /
Poseidon: Danny Huston /
Ares: Edgar Ramirez /
Agenor: Toby Kebbell
Being a half man/half god
kind of…blows, especially if you have just saved the entire world from
the mighty Kraken and just want to lay low, get married, make babies, and
live the modest and quiet life of a noble fisherman.
beginning of WRATH OF THE TITANS It seems that Perseus (Sam Worthington) -
the half-breed bastard child of Zeus (Liam Neeson) and a human mother –
has now become a legend for his aforementioned defeat of the
mountain-sized creature (shown in the climax of 2010’s CLASH
OF THE TITANS) and, for a better part of a decade, he has managed
to eek out a life of relative seclusion with his 10-year-old son, Helius
(John Bell), but his wife, IO (played by Gemma Arterton in the last film,
a no show this go around) has long since died. But just when Perseus thinks that he has hung up his amour and
sword for good, his poppa and other gods come along with a dire emergency
that requires his aid. Poor
Perseus, just went he wants out, the gods come and - to paraphrase the
great Michael Corleone – “pull him back in!”
Yeah, that deity Zeus is the ultimate killjoy for his son. He arrives without warning to tell Perseus that people have began to stop praying to all the gods, which has had a negative side effect of making the gods less powerful and, in turn, could eventually render them as weak as mortals (atheism is their kryptonite). Worse yet, since faith in the gods is slipping, the walls of the underworld prison of Tartarus are also weakening, which really sucks, seeing as Zeus imprisoned his own sibling, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) there in the last film for being a very naughty god. Worse yet is that Hades and his son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez) are plotting to release Kronos (father to Zeus and Hades), who would unleash the apocalypse if released. Zeus pleads with his son to aid him in stopping his brother and nephew’s dastardly plans, but Perseus respectfully declines. The man just wants to be left alone and fish.
goes to the underworld to confront Hades, only to be attacked and
wounded by the demons that Hades unleashes on him (for a guy with the
reputation of Zeus, he goes down pretty easily) and – Great Odin’s
raven! – Ares steals Zeus’ magical lightning bolt! Now that Zeus is captured and weakened, Hades plans to literally suck the
omnipotent powers right out of him and transfuse them to the hibernating
Kronos. Hmmmm….do you think that
Perseus will find out of this plot, come out of monster-god-bashing
retirement, hook back up with old allies like Andromeda (Rosamund Pike,
replacing Alexa Davalos) and new ones like the half-god Agenor (Toby
Kebbell), come to Zeus’ rescue, overthrow the Titans, stop Kronos,
and save the world?
like CLASH OF THE TITANS, WRATH OF THE TITANS should not be taken too
seriously. Both it and its
predecessor have fun with their own inherent schlockiness and cornball
elements as a giddy, muscular, and monster-jam-packed mythological fantasy
epic. These films seem
to find the right blend of being solemn and silly, which is a hard
dichotomy to effectively pull off without coming off as unintentionally
laughable. As far as pure
popcorn entertainments go, WRATH OF THE TITANS succeeds at not taken
itself as gravely as a heart attack because it inherently just has a
sense of whimsical reverence with the inherent material.
seriously people, do we go to see films like this for their keen insights
into the human – or non-human – condition and for searing drama or do
we go to them for their monsters, mayhem, and visual effects spectacle?
I believe it to be the latter, and WRATH OF THE TITANS is dutifully
crammed with all sorts of mankind-hating monsters that engage in
obligatory, but proficiently handled and satisfying battles with the
heroes. When the walls of
Tartarus breaks a Chimera is unleashed that ravages Perseus’ village in
an early sequence. Later,
Perseus and is “fellowship” are attacked by a squad of giant Cyclops
that packs a real visceral wallop. From
there we get Perseus’ mano-a-mano donnybrook with a minotaur and, in the
film’s fever pitched climax, the Kronos is unleashed in the form of a
humanoid creature of immeasurable size made up of rock, lava, and ash that
spits out molten hot magma at his targets.
WRATH OF THE TITANS exists for moments like this, and it certainly
performances sometimes can get lost in these movies, but there are some
standouts, like Neeson and Fiennes reprising their roles as battling and
squabbling brothers that once again understand how to play these
larger-than-life (literally!) roles just broad enough to not emerge as high
camp; they are able to make even the most groan inducing of lines simmer
with a gravitas and weight. Worthington
may not be a performer of range, but he brings the requisite fist-pumping
and teeth-clenched bravado to his role as he did in the first film.
New to this entry is the great Bill Nighy, who brings some sly comic
relief as Hephaestus, the former weapons maker of the gods who holds the
key for Perseus making the ultimate weapon that will defeat Kronos
(that, and he’s a bit of a kooky ol’ schizophrenic).
Toby Kebbell also provides some merriment as his likeably
self-aggrandizing half-god. Rosamund
Pike is here for window dressing, but she sure is fine window dressing.
To be fair, she is given far more to work with than Davalos had in
the first installment.
Louis Leterrier has not returned for directorial duties this time and has been replaced by BATTLE: LOS ANGELES helmer Jonathan Liebesman, who blends the film’s real and unreal elements with a workmanlike precision and competence (even though he devolves at times in some instances of jittery, shaky-cam hysterics when framing the action, which is not what we want when we yearn to drink in and engage in the film’s wondrous sights). Liebesman does find some innovation in one nifty sequence that involves Perseus and company navigating through unfathomably complex stone labyrinth and does a much better job than his predecessor at utilizing 3D effects for a much more fluid and engaging effect. CLASH OF THE TITANS became the poster child of how wretched an after-the-fact multi-dimensional unpconversion could be, but here Liebesman and his effects wizards seem to have taken care in shooting the film with 3D in mind and not the other way around.
I have heard many
critics criticize WRATH OF THE TITANS for being more of a mass marketed product
than a movie. That’s a
partially fair sentiment, but as far as movies-as-products go, WRATH OF
THE TITANS is a well-made product that delivers on intended blockbuster
extravaganza promises. The
film is a manufactured engine to engage and thrill us with its imagery and
swords and sandals action. I
liked the monsters. I liked
the virtuoso visual effects work. I
liked seeing great thespians like Neeson and Fiennes ham it up without
outright hamming it up. I
liked the half-god versus god WWE-like fisticuffs.
I liked seeing the film’s hero fly right into the mouth of Kronos
- going in for the kill - packing serious forged-by-the-gods heat.
WRATH OF THE TITANS thrusts itself at viewers with the swiftness
and force of a Zeus-like lightning bolt and neither looks
back or apologizes. It’s
not a Kraken-sized fantasy masterpiece, but a diversion worthy of mortal