The original 1981 Clash of the Titans is a kitschy piece of fantasy nostalgia that, while not necessarily having aged gracefully, at least manages to retain a certain amount of charm. The 2010 remake from Louis Leterrier did not have much charm to retain in the first place. Instead, its inadvertent legacy is more likely to be as the poster child for bad 3D post-conversion, and perhaps the birth of a short-lived Internet meme, which will not be “released” here. Still, it did good enough business to warrant a sequel, so here we are, this time with Jonathan Liebesman at the helm, to once again muck up what should have been a jolly good time playing in the sandbox with iconic figures and fantastical creatures from Greek mythology.
It’s ten years following the end of Clash, and Sam Worthington is back as the demigod Perseus, the son of Liam Neeson’s Zeus, who reigns on Mount Olympus as the leader of the gods. Having refused his father’s offer to rule by his side, Perseus and his wife, Io (Gemma Arterton in the previous film), chose to live their lives as humans in a humble fishing village by the sea. Io has since died and borne Perseus a son, Helius (John Bell).
Zeus appears to Perseus one night with a dire warning and a plea for help—humanity’s belief in the gods is waning, and with it their power and immortality. Zeus’ estranged brother, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), ruler of the underworld, has taken the opportunity to slowly break open Tartarus, prison of the mighty Titans, and release the mammoth lava giant, Kronos, father to both Zeus and Hades, as well as Poseidon. So Perseus must take up his sword once again to figure out how to break into Tartarus and stop Hades before all hell literally breaks loose. It’s a fine setup, so what went wrong? (Again?)
For one thing, Perseus and Zeus don’t share the warmest of family bonds, and Perseus’ son’s presence is so slight and brief that we forget he even exists until he’s held hostage in the final act. So, much like the previous film, there is zero emotional weight to any of the relationships; the stakes seem dreadfully low despite the fact that humanity itself is in danger. This is partially the script’s fault, but there’s also Sam Worthington who, while certainly athletic enough, still lacks the charisma and depth necessary for a leading man to carry the brief character moments afforded by a summer action spectacle. There is actually a romantic interest, but damned if the audience (or even the screenwriters) know it until the 11th hour. It’s flat-out ridiculous.
What’s even more damaging is that the film seems to have a great imbalance in how the budget was allocated. In this day and age, we’ve come to expect that the special effects for a film should be pretty good. And they are. The mountain-sized Kronos has an awesome sense of scale that’s rarely seen and pretty breathtaking, as it should be. But for every shot of the giant, for every impressive camera movement sweeping through the dark Underworld that is Hades’ domain, there’s a tight, non-FX closeup that was seemingly shot in the corner of a cheap soundstage. It almost feels like scenes from one great-looking movie and one crappy-looking one were spliced together, resulting in a disconnect that lands the film with a resounding thud right in the mediocre middle.
The lack of majesty and the overall been-there-seen-that feeling render Wrath of the Titans a textbook example of a disappointing cash-in—Making a Titans Movie for Dummies, if you will. As a final note, if you still must see it, the 3D this time around, while much improved, adds almost nothing to the proceedings, so save your money and just go for the 2D version.
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
Writers: David Leslie Johnson, Dan Mazeau
Starring: Sam Worthington, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes
Release Date: Mar. 30, 2012