Wrath Of The Titans

Wrath Of The Titans

**

Reviewed by: David Graham

Another remake births another unwarranted franchise continuation, as Hollywood once again plunders Greek mythology for the post-Lord Of The Rings fantasy crowd. The much-loved but far from perfect 1981 Clash Of The Titans had charm in spades and a classic mythical flow to its adventure, faithfully though not slavishly followed for the 2010 update.

Despite its colossal cost and some bracing set-pieces, that film offended many fans of the original, Avatar's man-of-the-moment Sam Worthington making a decidedly anachronistic Perseus with his shaved bonce and Aussie brogue, while the post-converted 3D merely served to tone down the Mediterranean sun. Wrath's trailer promised improvement, with the now lank-locked leading man looking (if not sounding) the part a little more and the epic scale of the action seeming to be enhanced by the extra dimension rather than diminished. But it's a sadly soulless experience, feeling stretched and stiff despite its relative and merciful brevity.

Copy picture

After conquering the fearsome Kraken, Perseus has retired from saving the day, settling down as a fisherman and becoming a father. A widower to the damsel he rescued from distress, he still bears a grudge against the Gods, so he is unmoved by the imploring return of his father Zeus (Liam Neeson). Hades has hatched a diabolical plot to unleash his all-powerful father Kronos from his underworld prison in Tartarus, which would mean certain destruction for the human race.

Compelled into action to protect his adolescent son, Perseus finds himself teaming up with warrior queen Andromeda and the wayward son of Poseidon in a mission to find the fabled Spear Of Triam, which may be the only weapon capable of returning the resurrected Kronos to his hellish tomb.

Initially, this entirely unnecessary sequel seems to be on the right track; there's an agreeable whiff of fromage about Neeson's early exchanges with Perseus, and the first attack is thrillingly visceral, recalling Liebesman's front-line sensibility in the otherwise weak Battle Los Angeles. However, it's thoroughly depressing to soon see the whole endeavour derailed by the well-known shortcomings of both its star and director.

Worthington is as nebulous a charisma void as ever, sucking all the life out of everyone and everything around him, while Liebesman is reasonably capable with action but proves a total hack when it comes to handling anything remotely resembling drama. Hollywood really ought to learn not to entrust its mega-budget franchises to proven mediocrity-peddlers like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning helmer; he's not quite as wishy-washy as the Brett Ratners of the realm, and at least he doesn't stoop to the sub-Matrix stylistic overload of the execrable Underworld franchise's Len Wiseman (soon to be seen committing cinematic sacrilege with Total Recall and Ninja Turtles remakes), but even Louis Leterrier managed to inject a bit more vitality into the predecessor's set-pieces.

Wrath's over-sized creatures are rendered with impressively detailed CGI, but - aside from the climactic and ass-kicking Kronos, who takes forever to actually show up - there's little build-up to their appearance or excitement in their reveal, as the design is disappointingly bland for the most part. They suffer from unavoidable comparison to Tarsem Singh's ultra-stylised take on the same material with Immortals; even though that wasn't a particularly good film either, it did at least take a memorable approach with flesh and blood humans decked out in Eiko Ishioka's outlandish costumes.

The sole non-animated beast here is an admittedly impressive Minotaur, turning up from out of nowhere only to be unceremoniously slain in about two seconds flat, the audience only getting a good look at the excellent and horrific make-up when it's lying lifeless on the floor. The labyrinth is the ideal setting for a menacing game of stalk and bull-fight, but instead we're papped off with more sub-wrestling nonsense. The underworld is brilliantly conceived and throbs with dank gloom, but our heroes' trials are all over too soon, while most of the locations fail to achieve the fantastic spectacle the genre demands, lacking even the gritty authenticity of the recent Conan remake.

It's never clear how the characters' mortality works; why are gods dropping like flies left, right and centre when the humans (or half-humans, whatever the hell that means) are surviving all manner of ungodly punishment at every turn? Crucially, any sense of peril is lost, since everyone seems to be able to just dust themselves off and stroll on to the next stage no matter how huge or heavy-hitting their fallen foes, while Pegasus and the plot's various treasures are acquired with an unsatisfying ease.

Videogame logic takes over, suspense goes out the window, and the narrative cruises on auto-pilot between 'bosses'. The journey itself doesn't even seem especially momentous, Liebesman ever-eager to get to the next battle. By the time he's got a tag-team of deities doling out Harry Potter-style magical mayhem on the battlefield, it's impossible to care how it's all going to play out.

Clash at least had a classical structure to honour, but Wrath never feels like a compelling quest, rarely making sense in terms of character motivation and all seeming rather perfunctory when it's not just plain pointless. The action sequences are unforgivably incoherent - it's often hard to tell what's happening to whom, as with a Cyclops encounter where it's only afterwards you realise there's actually been three baddies running around.

The villains also seem like an afterthought, Ralph Fiennes dealt a particularly short hand with a peculiarly neutered and lily-livered Hades as Edgar Ramirez's fiery Latin Ares (perhaps a sign of laughably racist typecasting) glowers and strops with pubescent petulance. The nominal goodies don't fare much better, Toby Kebbell and Bill Nighy floundering as embarrassing comic sidekicks while Rosamund Pike and Neeson look noble and at least adopt fitting registers, but fail to bring conviction to such lousy screen-writing.

There's certainly plenty of bang for your buck here - although a little more hard-edged violence would have given the action some real kick - and the grand finale proves worth the wait, Kronos and his henchmen wreaking devastating havoc on a hopelessly ill-equipped and disposable army. The visuals are ravishing in places, and the 3D has its moments, especially during Pegasus' airbourne acrobatics, which pulse with old-school derring-do of a WWII biplane dogfight.

In the end though, the whole thing feels half-hearted and ultimately underwhelming, the script devoid of sparkle and the actors failing to find a consistent tone or any significant entertainment value with the legendary characters. If the Titans return for a third round, they'll have an Olympian mountain to scale to make up for the sins of their forerunners.

Reviewed on: 08 Apr 2012
Share this with others on...
The quest is on to rescue Zeus from the underworld.
Amazon link

Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Writer: Dan Mazeau, David Johnson, Greg Berlanti, Beverley Cross

Starring: Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Sam Worthington, Rosamund Pike, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, Toby Kebbell, Édgar Ramírez, Lily James, Matt Milne, George Blagden, Reg Wayment, Lamberto Guerra, Jimi James, Alex Claus

Year: 2012

Runtime: 99 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: US

Festivals:


Search database: