Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Outside The Visuals, There Is Nothing Extraordinary (Or Extraordinarily Bad) About Wrath Of The Titans.

The Good: Amazing visual effects
The Bad: Everything else – plot, characters and acting – is homogenously average.
The Basics: An excellent popcorn movie, Wrath Of The Titans is a bit of a letdown for those who look for something more substantive from film.

Sequels tend to take a lot of flack, arguably because they most frequently try to capitalize on the popularity of something that succeeded without actually providing viewers with much that is truly new. So, when a remake of a b-rate fantasy movie succeeds at drawing a new audience, it is unsurprising that it would get a sequel. It is equally unsurprising that the writers, directors, producers and the studio would do all they could to ensure the success of the sequel by mimicking the successful elements of the original. That is exactly what happens with Wrath Of The Titans.

Wrath Of The Titans is the sequel to the 2010 version of Clash Of The Titans (reviewed here!) and features only a handful of the original cast from that movie. Instead, Wrath Of The Titans progresses the story of the decline of the ancient Greek gods. More focused on Perseus, Wrath Of The Titans is very much a continuation of Clash Of The Titans and does not do much beyond what viewers have already seen before. The creatures are different, but they occupy the same essential niches, where the swarm of scorpions is replaced by Makhai, Medusa is replaced by the Cyclops's and instead of the Kraken, now there is Kronos. There is little that feels new in Wrath Of The Titans, even though it looks new and fresh.

The machinations of the gods continue a decade after Perseus slew the Kraken with Zeus and Hades vying for power over the Earth. The people of Earth have mostly given up on the gods; they no longer worship them enough to sustain the full strength of Zeus. As Zeus’s power wanes, Hades sees his opportunity to put an end to his brother’s reign. When Ares and Hades strike up an alliance, they imprison Zeus and set free the denizens of Tartarus.

Perseus, who has been living a quiet life raising his son, is drawn out. In order to save the world, he must stop Ares and fight his way through Tartarus to rescue Zeus. But even the combined might of Zeus, Perseus, Andromeda and weapons forged by the god Hephaestus himself, may not be enough to stop Kronos, Hades and Ares.

Wrath Of The Titans is fun, but it is not really much more than that. Thematically dark, Wrath Of The Titans explores the age old conflict between generations when the younger generation comes to overthrow the older one. In Greek mythology, that takes the form of Kronos being overthrown by Zeus when Kronos tries to eat all of his children. Zeus thwarts him and imprisons him in Tartarus. The idea that Hades is just bastardly enough to break Kronos out of Tartarus is a decent story idea. Hell, I’m just happy to see a movie where the writers were smart enough to know that Hades is the god, Tartarus is the place (i.e. Hades is not hell in Greek Mythology, Tartarus is!).

Beyond that, Wrath Of The Titans is a very straightforward fantasy quest movie and it is nothing viewers have not already seen in terms of plot, character and acting, before. On the plot front, the quest story feels very formulaic, because it is. Perseus gets his mission, assembles a small team of people he hopes can help him – most notably the recast Queen Andromeda -, acquires the tools needed to succeed in his mission and then overcomes obstacles to achieve his goal. It is, in the literal sense, classic. The story feels mundane, but director Jonathan Liebesman keeps Wrath Of The Titans moving at a pace where one does not truly ever stop to consider that fact.

On the character front, Wrath Of The Titans is pretty weak. For obvious reasons, Hades, Ares, and Zeus are archetypes more than well-rounded characters. Perseus is a powerful man whose motivations have more to do with him being a parent than they do with him wanting to be a hero and actually have the world. Andromeda does not quite rise to the level of being an action hero of the Xena: Warrior Princess ilk, though her costume is almost as cool. The result is that most of the movie is spent with the characters running around and the viewer not so much caring about the fate of the characters as they simply enjoy the spectacle.

As for the acting, it is fine, but it is no way extraordinary. Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Bill Nighy bring their usual a-games to the roles of Zeus, Hades and Hephaestus, without letting the make-up and costumes they wear overbear their performances. They are good, but when Neeson and Nighy start getting lifetime achievement awards in a few years, it is doubtful that there will be any clips of them from Wrath Of The Titans. Similarly, Sam Worthington proves once again that he has all the makings of an action hero. He does it again with Wrath Of The Titans and while he is good, he is playing within his established range now, as opposed to actually performing in a way that surprises the viewer at all.

As unsurprising as the idea that no one from Wrath Of The Titans will be nominated for an acting Oscar is the fact that the film looks incredible. Wrath Of The Titans is a big, special effects-driven film bursting with monsters that look more real than animated and better than they did in Clash Of The Titans. The 3-D effects are good and when the movie uses the effect, it uses it well, though there are several moments, especially in character interactions, where the 3-D is not truly noticeable. But for the shots designed to be epic 3-D battle shots, they look great, like they are supposed to.

In the end, Wrath Of The Titans is simply That Type Of Movie and I suspect that it was released now to beat the Summer Blockbuster Season rush because so many of the traditional popcorn movies this summer will have the heart, performances and compelling characters that this film lacks.

For other works with Rosamund Pike, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The Big Year
Pride and Prejudice
The Libertine
Die Another Day


For other movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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