We review Wrath of the Titans – Exciting mythological action sold short by haphazard storytelling

6 min read
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In 2009 director Louis Letterier gave us Clash of the Titans, a modern retelling of Ray Harryhausen’s cheesy mythological classic, and despite its divine inspiration, it was an ungodly mess. Displaying less character development and plot coherency than a Greek fish shop menu, it tried to hide its faults behind flashy CGI and bad poster taglines (TITANS WILL CLASH!).

The film received a deserved critical lambasting and yet, like some cruel joke of the gods, made enough money to justify a sequel. Star Sam Worthington then indicated that this proposed sequel would fix the mistakes of the first and now that Wrath of the Titans is finally here, we can see if it actually lives up to that claim.

In short, yes it does, as it has corrected a number of mistakes. Unfortunately it then went and made all kinds of new ones.

I’ll be honest, the previous film left such a non-impression on me that I was really hoping for some sort of story recap to get things going. However, Liam Neeson’s introductory voiceover and accompanying animation offers up a mere one and a half lines of information, before being hastily chased off screen so quickly that I wouldn’t have been surprised to have seen a cartoon shepherd’s crook facilitating its hasty exit.

And it’s this impatience that sums up pretty much the biggest fault running throughout the film.

As he showed in Battle: LA, new director Jonathan Liebesmann knows how to stage exciting and visceral action sequences. He delivers on the big budget spectacle, while – for the most part – not allowing the impressive CGI of the mythological monsters and landscapes to become the focal point, as Letterier did.

Problem is though, that everything in between the big battles is treated like a picture slideshow, flitting from one scene to the next, never allowing the audience time to feel any connection with the characters and most importantly, the plot. Because the sad thing is that Wrath – unlike it’s predecessor, whose entire script was essentially “save the pretty princess by punching the monster in the mouth” – actually has one, complete with an interesting overarching theme of familial relationships. Very ancient Greek, if you ask me.

It’s been 10 years since Clash‘s Krakenpalooza, and Zeus (Neeson) and his godly kin are losing their divine mojo as a result of mortals no longer worshiping the Beard and Thunder Club. Unfortunately, with their power dwindling, all their godly works begin to unravel. Like Tartarus, the giant underground prison that houses all manner of ungodly nightmares, including Kronos, the walking “extinction level event” mountain sized proto-God, whose three sons Zeus, Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston) banished him there, claiming his power for their own. And with the prison walls coming down, the gods are starting to getting a bit antsy.

Still proud of the whole Kraken thing, Zeus turns to his demigod son Perseus (Worthington) – now a widower dad to son, Helius (John Bell) – for help once again. This despite the fact that he has another eagerly approval seeking and 100% godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramirez), and that the full extent of Perseus’ godly powers appears to simply be the ability to absorb violence to the face really well.

Some good ol’ fashioned backstabbing later and Zeus finds himself on the wrong side of an ill-timed heavenly coup, so now it’s up to Perseus to save his godly dad, protect his young son, fix his broken paternal family, stick all the nasties back in Tartarus and somehow stop Kronos’ return. Sjoe.

With that busy schedule, you would think that Perseus wouldn’t find time to get back into the dating scene, but luckily Rosamund Pike’s Queen Andromeda is giving him the goo goo eyes while preparing her army to repel the underworld invaders. And as good as the always classy Rosamund Pike looks in a leather skirt, this is a plot point that really served no purpose other than hamfistedly throwing in a romantic angle. This is ironic, as one of the criticisms of Clash was its removal of the romantic motivation that drove Perseus in the original story.

Toby Kebbel does what he does best as Argenon – daddy-issue plagued demigod son of Poseidon – as he plays the joker to Sam Worthington’s straight man, Perseus, as they battle their way through hillbilly cyclopses and angry gods and with the help of hilariously crackpot god of DIY, Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), straight through motion-sickness inducing moving mazes into the heart of fiery Tartarus. Worthington still comes across like a Russel Crowe/Gladiator cosplayer, but to be fair there’s not all that much asked from him except to look like a grizzled and reluctant warrior, and this he delivers ably. And in a film that sees a man in a skirt ride a winged horse, an even greater suspension of belief is required every time Worthington’s heavy Aussie accent raises its head.

Liam Neeson though was born to play Zeus, displaying equal amounts of his easy going regality and pure unbridled power. And while witnessing the King of the Gods walking the battlefield, dispensing violence, was a glorious sight, I’m mostly happy that they just took him out of that ridiculous shiny armour he wore in Clash. Zeus should be intimidating, not a fashion accessory.

Ralph Fiennes’ delightful turn as the malicious Hades – all threatening whispers and smoky visage – was one of the few highlights of Clash, so it’s fitting that his character sees the most development this time around. Unfortunately the rushed nature with which it unfolds causes his metamorphosis to ring extremely hollow, which is a shame as he is easily the most fully realized character in the film.

And that is really the problem throughout the film. The impressive and imaginative action sequences will certainly entertain, and there are hints of the epic film that it wants to be shining through everywhere, but the ADD style of filmmaking just doesn’t do it justice. And at only 99 minutes, it’s not as if Liebesmann could not have added some more time to allow the film’s interesting plot to unfold naturally, instead of being given this cue-cards edition. And like so many Greek stories, that really is a tragedy.

Last Updated: March 27, 2012

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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