Review: 'Wrath of the Titans' is Just the Same Old Blockbuster Joke
by Jeremy Kirk
March 30, 2012
Wrath of the Titans wasn't beholden to any original it was remaking. Its predecessor, 2010's Clash of the Titans, was a remake of the "classic" 1981 sword-and-sandals epic that didn't use much from the original film aside from title, character names, and basic plot beats. Wrath, at a conceptual level, was free to use any classic tales from Greek mythology to connect its own moments of blockbuster action. There was room to come up with something interesting with engaging moments of drama to grab its audience. However, it doesn't do that, and while Clash was a mess of CG, monster violence, Wrath of the Titans is a huge bore.
This bore just happens to have CG, monster violence and monsters make their presence known with the slimmest of slivers in terms of story to explain why they're even there. Early in the film, Zeus, the CEO of the God Corporation they've got going on here played by Liam Neeson, appears to his half-human/half-God Perseus, played by Sam Worthington. Zeus explains that man's lack of faith in the Gods has weakened them to the point of ruin. Kronos, father to Zeus and his brothers Hades, played by Ralph Fiennes, and Poseidon, played by Danny Huston, has been imprisoned for thousands of years, but he will soon have enough strength to break free and cause the end of the human world forever. Perseus, now a widower raising his 10-year-old son, Helios, and tying to lead a simpler life, must travel to the underworld and put an end to Kronos' rise all the while fending off civilization from havoc-wreaking titans.
That's as expansive as you could make the story Wrath of the Titans is working with here. For as much depth as it brings, Zeus may as well have shown up on Perseus' fishing boat, said, "Shit's going down, and the Gods needs your help…again," and been on his merry, God-like way. Screenwriters Dan Mazeau and David Johnson - with story credit for Greg Berlanti - knew they needed a simple story to drive the action. Director Jonathan Liebesman, who did a fine job making energetic action with little story in last year's Battle: Los Angeles, and the wonderful team of CG creationists he brought on board would have to do the rest. Maybe the actors could add something here or there, but no one in this cast is in the mood to bring energy to their day job.
Sadly, Liebesman isn't fully on board here, either. A few sequences aside, including a nice spin on the classic Greek tale of the labyrinth, the action in Wrath of the Titans is of the medium-shot-and-move-the-camera-a-lot variety, not shaky cam by any means, but never interesting. The end of the labyrinth scene has Perseus battling the fabled Minotaur. Don't act like that's a spoiler. You should all know what comes at the end of the labyrinth. But what could have been a fine moment of horror, building the creature up, hearing him stomping through, maybe even killing some nameless extras, and creating a nice, suspenseful atmosphere, turns into a slash-and-grunt minute of film with choppy editing. That's just one fight sequence. There are dozens in Wrath of the Titans just like it.
Liebesman pulls off a nice shot in an earlier battle scene involving Perseus and a two-headed beast, a very long take with Perseus running in the foreground, the beast trotting in the distance. But even that scene becomes stilted and dull once that shot ends and the hacking and screaming begin. There's never any sense of excitement with the action, and it's made all the more frustrating knowing this film had a director who could have pulled it off.
The action aside - it's the most important element to this $100m+ actioner, so it shouldn't be cast aside so quickly, but there are other gripes to be had - there's never even a sense of connection with any of the characters. Even though we've been through an adventure with some of them before, they may as well be strangers for all the emotional weight we feel for them. Andromeda, the princess from Clash who is now Queen of her people, has been recast with Rosamund Pike. She gives the part her all, but we never get a sense of familiarity with her that should have been built-in. Even Pegasus, the winged horse and Perseus' trusted sidekick, returns, but he may as well be a taxi cab our hero grabs between challenges for all the camaraderie the two characters get.
Speaking of Perseus, he's the hero here, plain and simple as it can get. There are no undertones with him, nothing that might bring a sense of the grey to the character that keeps him from being a sword-wielding block of vanilla extract with luscious hair. Worthington doesn't do the character any favors, either, choosing to deliver lines, hit his marks, and go home unscathed rather than really try to bring something of enthusiasm out of the film. It's a movie star we see in the lead of Wrath of the Titans, not an actor, and married to a film as bland as this, it ends up being just forgettable.
It's a shame when you see something that has moments of scope, where you see a giant hand raising up over human beings and you realize it's attached to something that could step on Godzilla, and, for an instance, you become terrified. You wonder if the whole thing wasn't too ambitious for the people in charge of bringing it to life, and then your assumptions are confirmed with tedious action, a severe lacking in story or character, and not even original bursts of humor. Bill Nighy and Toby Kebbell as two of Perseus' journeymen provide those bursts of humor, but it's all levity that's become cliche at this point, jokes we've heard a thousand times before. Wrath of the Titans is a blockbuster joke we've all heard countless times before. The setup could have been different, but this is what you get when film makers take the easy way out. The same, old joke. With giant, CG, monster violence. Again.
Jeremy's Rating: 3 out of 10