“Wrath of the Titans” really captures the spirit of its 2010 predecessor — that spirit being uninspired and underdeveloped. If the goal was not to work on improving the quality of the sequel, Warner Bros. succeeded.
While the action improves in the hands of director Jonathan Liebesman (“Battle: Los Angeles”), the sequences are still equally as contrived and shallow. New writers Dan Mazeau and David Johnson also appear to use the script of “Clash of the Titans” as a bible of some sort for constructing their film, using overly grandiose dialogue much like the first did to convey horribly obvious foreshadowing and to bash us over the head with themes relating to our hero’s journey.
Even those who did enjoy the first film will find “Wrath’s” story to blatantly disregard the events that preceded it. The film takes place several years after “Clash” and we find Perseus (Sam Worthington) has been raising a son he had with Io, who definitely died before giving birth to anything in the first movie. Anyway, Perseus, who the series continues to play as this annoyingly reluctant hero, has determined to live life as a fisherman and ignore his demi-god power. When Zeus (Liam Neeson) comes to Perseus and warns him the gods are losing their immortal power due to humans not praying to them anymore, Perseus tries to push it out of his mind. Then all hell breaks loose, rather literally.
Zeus is crossed and captured by his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and son Ares (Edgar Ramirez). The plan is to offer him to their father, the imprisoned titan, Cronos, in exchange for assured immortality. This starts a chain reaction of monsters being unleashed from the Underworld and upon the Earth. The god Poseidon (Danny Huston) charges Perseus with traveling to the Underworld and saving Zeus, though he must arbitrarily seek out some people and things to get there.
“Wrath” essentially makes up the rules of its Greek mythological world, creating a situation in which gods are mortal yet can’t seem to just obliterate each other. It’s a grittier portrayal than “Clash,” in which the gods wore shiny armor and came off as theatrical, but with the PG-13 rating, they comically slug each other (and humans) with their transforming weapons.
Most video games are more exciting and entertaining than “Wrath of the Titans” — and their story lines make more sense too. Although even the dialogue clearly states Perseus must go from Point A to Point B, the story creates all these intentional roadblocks that feel like obligatory stops on the way to the grand finale vs. Cronos rather than points along the journey that develop the story and especially the characters.
We meet up with Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and Agenor (Toby Kebbell) to make things more colorful, not out of necessity. Pike is clearly above this material yet is polite enough to do everything she can to make the dialogue convincing. At one point she passionately pleas that Hephaestus (Bill Nighy) help them enter the prison Tartarus to find Zeus. It would be a nice speech in a film in which anyone cared about what was going on, or was actually convinced Hephaestus might not eventually have a change of heart.
Kebbell is meant to provide comic relief as Agenor, son of Poseidon, who is painted as a lazy liar — a Jack Sparrow-type character — yet despite plenty of warnings in the script, never turns on our hero and never appears to pursue his own interests. In terms of the humor, it works in touches here and there, but almost all the jokes in the film completely backfire, especially an awkwardly self-aware reference to Neeson’s famed “Clash” line “release the kraken!”
Liebesman’s on-the-ground, guerilla style works in the first major action scene in which Perseus fights a three-headed, winged take on a chimera, but it doesn’t work as well in the more fantastical set pieces that follow. The CGI works well and there’s interesting stuff to look at, but it’s all meat and no bones. The cyclops fight scene has some great in-your-face qualities, but for some reason Liebesman is fond of really hammering that quality home by having all the monsters drooling on each other or the human characters.
Most of the battles are random, especially a scene in the labyrinth of Tartarus in which its unclear whether or not Perseus fights the Minotaur, a beast that resembles Lou Ferrigno with horns. He’s dispatched quickly and the quest to find Zeus continues as if nothing happened. Again, like a video game, the fights come off like mini boss battles at best.
“Wrath of the Titans” mostly comes off as apathetic. Scenes, characters and sequences are rolled in and out without any concern for being convincing, yet the dialogue is written as if all of it has in fact been convincing. In its defense, “Wrath” is a quick and painless exercise, but even its most basic entertainment value can’t overcome its absolute purposelessness.
Wrath of the Titans
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman
Written by Dan Mazeau and David Johnson, Greg Berlanti
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Rosamund Pike, Toby Kebbell