Dir: Jonathan Liebesman. US-Spain. 2012. 99mins
A generation or two ago, fantasy genre adventures like Wrath Of The Titans still had some semblance of DNA connection to their B-picture forebears, the matinee serials that featured swashbuckling, sword-slinging heroes and backlot action shenanigans. That’s less true these days. Now, they’re enormously budgeted machines, tentpole franchises designed to necessarily wow with state-of-the-art digital wizardry and seemingly interchangeable heroes and circumstances.
Location filming, including extensive work in the Canary Islands, gives Wrath Of The Titans a bit of space and scope that Clash lacked.
Such is the case with this inoffensive and slick if still rather middling upgrade over 2010’s Clash Of The Titans, which ladles mythological spectacle on top of silly end-of-the-world boilerplate, and puts its characters through an effects laden steeplechase that squeezes out a few moments of synthetic bedazzlement that evaporate upon exiting from the theatre.
While critically lambasted, Clash Of The Titans was a worldwide box office success, raking in $493 million, with almost two-thirds of that coming from overseas. Wrath Of The Titans should prove if not lastingly memorable then at least similarly profitable, likely along the same sort of audience split.
Years after his legendary defeat of the monstrous Kraken in the first Titans, demigod Perseus (Sam Worthington) lives out of the limelight, with his 10-year-old son Helius. But owing to humankind’s lack of prayer, the collective power of the gods is weakening, as is their control over the imprisoned Titans and their leader, Kronos.
After initially spurning the entreaties of his godly father Zeus to join forces with the gods and turn back impending doom, Perseus finds his cousin Argenor (Toby Kebbell), and, along with warrior queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), travels to the underworld, ruled by his duplicitous uncle, Hades (Ralph Fiennes). There Perseus does battle with his half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez), aiming to free an imprisoned Zeus from he and Hades’ own father, Kronos, before the latter becomes powerful enough and unleashes a wave of destruction that will eradicate the Earth.
Director Jonathan Liebesman, fresh off directing the big-budget Battle: Los Angeles, showcases the needed touch with creative landscape destruction. Cinematographer Ben Davis’ work offers an improvement on the drab color palette of the first movie, and the 3D, while not as crucial and well used as in many animated films, is smoothly integrated and agreeable in a fashion again much better than its predecessor.
Location filming, including extensive work in the Canary Islands, gives Wrath Of The Titans a bit of space and scope that Clash lacked. The action set pieces are mostly effective, and also well differentiated; Perseus’ battle with a two-headed dragon is all crashing brute force, while the penultimate battle with the giant Kronos, embodied in flame and billowing smoke, has enthralling widescreen grandeur.
Fueled by often risibly vague dramatic dialogue (“Things are happening in the world”) and a mishmash of somewhat incongruous mythologies, Wrath Of The Titans is far less convincing as a piece of drama. It often lumbers to move the story forward, playing like a fairly harebrained mash-up between Troy and The Lord Of The Rings, absent any compelling narrative arcs.
Paradoxically, however, the orgiastic effects work actually seems a good fit with the streamlined story, which wholesale ignores the knotty familial complications of its plot. This is a showcase for below-the-line artistry, and in this regard it succeeds.
Worthington seems more self-assured and rooted in his character this go-round, even if Neeson and Fiennes are hit-and-miss in their attempts at injecting solemnity into the proceedings. A scene-chewing Bill Nighy, as a useful source of information to Perseus and company in their trip to Hades, aims for comedic relief, but seems a bit tonally out of step with the rest of the movie.
Carlos star Ramirez, however, brings a palpable measure of howling pain and angry jealousy to the film, giving his scenes an emotional charge otherwise missing in the paper-thin characterisations.
Production companies: Legendary Pictures, Cott Productions, Furia de Titanes II, A.I.E., Thunder Road Films
Domestic distribution: Warner Bros. Pictures
Producers: Basil Iwanyk, Polly Johnsen
Executive producers: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Callum McDougall, Kevin De La Noy, Louis Leterrier
Screenplay: Dan Mazeau & David Leslie Johnson, based on a story by Greg Berlanti & David Leslie Johnson & Dan Mazeau
Cinematography: Ben Davis
Editor: Martin Walsh
Production designer: Charles Wood
Visual effects supervisor: Nick Davis
Music: Javier Navarrete
Main cast: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Rosamund Pike, Edgar Ramirez, Toby Kebbell, Bill Nighy, Danny Huston, John Bell, Lily James, Alejandro Naranjo, Freddy Drabble, Kathryn Carpenter