Monday, April 2, 2012

Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Wrath of the Titans (2012)
Dir. Jonathan Liebesman

1.5 out of 5

In the grand tradition of unnecessary sequels that retroactively improve the reputation of their less-than-stellar predecessors, Wrath of the Titans operates with the philosophy that if it ain't broke, then the first guy simply wasn't trying hard enough. It essentially amounts to a desperate checklist of cosmetic changes to 2010's Clash of the Titans, itself a pigheaded remake of the similarly-titled 1981 family adventure flick. But whereas Clash's ideas were merely overdrawn, Wrath is creatively bankrupt. It's a bad sign when the hero's new shaggy coif is the only notable development in his character.

Sam Worthington returns as Perseus, the demigod who's now a single dad and a simple fisherman, his Kraken-slaying days long behind him. His life is interrupted again by the machinations of the god Hades (Ralph Fiennes), plotting with the traitorous Ares (Édgar Ramirez) to kidnap Zeus (Liam Neeson) and steal his godly mojo to unleash a slew of horrors on the puny mortals. To oppose them, Perseus recruits Andromeda (a re-cast Rosamund Pike), who has since transformed from damsel in distress to warrior queen, and Agenor (Toby Kebbell), a fellow demigod whose curdled Russell Brand impersonation is a fitting complement to Worthington's leaden sense of humor.

While Wrath promises a bigger and better spectacle, a quick-and-dirty vibe permeates almost every scene. The plot works backward from the action sequences, only serving to move the characters from battle A to monster B. A terrific dullness sets in and you begin to note the movie's curious compression of time and space. I thought the underworld was a very deep place, but it's established that Worthington and friends can access it in minutes via a labyrinth that begins high atop a cliff. Worthington is promptly separated from the group by the maze's shifting walls, yet he's somehow able to rendezvous with his friends right outside the threshold to Hades' lair. (Though not after a perfunctory battle sequence with a Minotaur that's improbably worse than the one in Your Highness.) Once there, they discover a massive lava monster who bursts out of a mountain in the film's climax. When standing, he towers over the entire landscape. How did he fit down there in the first place?

Wrath of the Titans registers as a disappointment even with severely diminished expectations as a sequel to a not especially beloved film. It's constantly laboring to provide entertainment value and whatever bright spots it does have are fleeting, such as Bill Nighy's movie-stealing cameo as Hephaestus, the armorer to the gods. Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles) fails to clear the already low bar set for brainless Hellenic action. He draws out the elaborate justifications for the film's ultimately pointless conflicts when he should just be getting down to brass tacks. All that's left for the Titans franchise is the dubious distinction of squandering a few millenia of storytelling potential in a combined three and a half hours.

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