Yep, they made another one. It should come as no surprise, right? It seems the “norm” in Hollywood these days is that if a flick makes money, whether it’s a good or bad one, a sequel is a dead lock. I’ve seen worse movies than the Clash of the Titans remake, but let’s face it, hardly anybody liked it. Opening at the start of Spring 2010, the film’s lead, Sam Worthington, was just coming off the success of Avatar and the 3D craze was about to begin. It was one of those movies that opened at just the right time – after the Oscars and before the Summer season. By the time audiences realized what a lackluster film it was, the picture had turned a hefty profit. Clash not only received criticism for it’s poorly written story and weak performances, but the fact that the studio made an eleventh hour decision to squeeze extra cash from audiences by authorizing perhaps the worst post 3D conversion job in history.
Let’s face it, the original Clash of the Titans from 1981 was no masterpiece either. Yes, it’s one of my favorite films from childhood, but one you get down to it, all that makes it a “classic” are some nice supporting work from veteran actors like Olivier, Smith and Meredith, along with Ray Harryhausen’s landmark stop-motion visual f/x. Yet the minds behind the remake had a nice and somewhat sturdy premise to work with and they still couldn’t get it right. Wrath of the Titans is most definitely a better film than its predecessor, but again, that’s not really saying much. For this new installment, it feels as if the powers that be actually tried harder to make a superior product and they’ve somewhat succeeded. Naturally, the film has a number of flaws, but they’re also forgivable and don’t really detract from your overall enjoyment of the picture.
Worthington, who recently admitted that he didn’t like the first installment either, nor his own performance, returns as Perseus, son of King of the Gods Zeus (Liam Neeson), who continues to live as a simple fisherman. Though the demi-god refused to take his place on Mount Olympus at his father’s side, ten years later it appears the two have developed a real relationship. Zeus watches from afar, passing through from time to time, as Perseus raises his son Helius (John Bell) as a fisherman, never letting the boy come in contact with a sword, a promise he made to his late wife. Since the events surrounding the destruction of the Kraken, mankind has lost their faith in the Gods, turning their backs on those who gave them life. Without the prayers of man to give them strength, the Gods have slowly begun to lose power and fade from existence. Zeus fully accepts that his time is ending, but fears that he will no longer be able to protect mortal men on Earth including Perseus.
“There is a calamity coming.” Zeus informs his son. “One which will affect both Gods and men.” In their weakened state, the Gods will not be able to resist the opposing forces of the creatures imprisoned in Mount Tartarus. Led by Zeus’ father the great Kronos, if those imprisoned in Tartarus break free, it could mean the end of all life on Earth. Choosing to remain out of the fight, Perseus, refuses to aid his father only to regret it when Zeus is captured by his fallen brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), King of the Underworld and betrayed by his son Ares (Edgar Ramirez), the God of war.
Unable to defeat his enemies with only the strength of a half-God, Perseus must seek out another like himself, Agenor (Toby Kebbel), the illegitmate son of Poseidon, a thief being held prisoner by his old friend Princess Andromeda (Rosamund Pike). Andromeda commands a legion ready to face the threat of the creatures breaking free from Tartarus that include Chimera and the battle hungry Makhai, but they aren’t enough. With Agenor guiding them, they must locate, “the Fallen One” the God Hephaestus (Bill Nighy) who once forged the unique weapons of Zeus, Poseidon and Hades that when combined allowed them to defeat and imprison their father Kronos.
With Wrath of the Titans, we once again find ourselves on a quest alongside Perseus, no longer an angry young man out for revenge, but a father trying to save his own. Worthington’s performance here is slightly better than in the first one, yet he still makes no attempt to stick with an American accent, often falling back on his native Aussie tone. I will say the actor does rock a mullet haircut quite nicely and there are moments where he tries to convey that Perseus isn’t the physically fit young man he once was. Where he does shine are his moments with Neeson. Over the last ten years, it seems that if some peace and understanding has developed between Perseus and Zeus, as if they’ve been making up for lost time. You get the sense that Zeus was once a young and irrational God who over the last several years has learned a great deal from his mortal son, making him all the more wiser. Neeson has that uncanny ability to make any bit of dialogue work. He could probably read from a fast food menu and make it sound as important as the Ten Commandments. He’s a much better and more noble Zeus in this one and the screen chemistry he shares with Worthington can also be seen with co-star Ralph Fiennes. Hades, just felt like a cardboard villain in the last film, but Greg Berlanti, David Leslie Johnson and Dan Mazeau’s story has appropriately made him into a sympathetic villain.. Unlike Zeus, Hades fears that the time of the Gods is ending, because death for them means oblivion. He feels he has no choice but to make a deal with their father Kronos, but his screentime with Neeson also brings to light old wounds that the brothers have inflicted upon one another. You get more of a sense of their backstory as you do with Ares, whose hatred for his father stems from jealousy for his relationship with mortal half-brother Perseus. Ramirez is a wonderful yet underrated actor and though Ares is very much a villain of the piece, he’s able to convey the character’s pent up anger and feelings of betrayal. The intertwined fathers, sons and brothers stories are truly the heart of the film and far more interesting than any action sequence.
Rosamund Pike makes a good replacement for Alexa Davelos as Queen Andromeda and even though she holds her own with the boys physically, in the end she’s just window dressing. Kebbel fairs better as the comic relief, a thief and scoundrel who like his cousin Perseus, must choose between answering the call to duty or ignoring it. As for Bill Nighy, here he’s yet another version of Davy Jones with a little bit of Love Actually’s Billy Mack thrown in, essentially playing a crack-pot inventor with more than a few screws loose. Surprisingly, I was fine with that. Even a little dose of Nighy treading on the familiar isn’t a bad thing and at times, it was the kick in the pants this film needed.
The action set-pieces in this picture are a step above the previous film, but not particularly memorable. Persesus does eventually get down and dirty with Ares in a knock-down, dragged-out fight that passionately incorporates a few wrestling moves. Though I didn’t care much for director Jonathan Liebesman’s last film Battle: Los Angeles, his use of long tracking shots across battle sequences works better here and gives this fantasy film a more “realistic” and gritty feel that fans of Saving Private Ryan may find familiar. When Kronos does show up, the God composed of lava and rock is indeed an impressive sight – very quickly though, his presence begins to feel like just another boss at the end of a long video game. You may find yourself looking in the top corners of the screen for a “high score” like I did.
The 3D presentation may be hit or miss for some audience members. I saw this film on IMAX 15 perf 70mm film and later digitally. The 1.85 to 1 aspect ratio is a tad hard on the eyes while watching it on an IMAX screen with a 1.44 to 1 aspect ratio. In Real D 3D or IMAX Digital 3D it works better and I was able to see more of the onscreen action. Liebesman plays with the 3D on more than one occasion with a few nicely done pop-out effects, the best being a zoom-in camera move showcasing the labyrinth design of Tartarus itself. Wrath of the Titans is no doubt being positioned as another step in a large franchise, although the story unfolds in a manner that suggests this could be a bookend to the first film. I don’t really care whether they make another or not, but I will say this sequel held my interest more than I expected it to and on more than one occasion had a few welcome surprises. Not bad for what’s basically another B-movie.