So a couple of years ago we were treated to Clash of the Titans, a remake of a cult favorite 1981 adventure film that was basically every Greek myth crammed together into mush. Starring then-hot Aussie superstar, Sam Worthington, still Pegasus high on Avatar’s mammoth success, it wasn’t a very good movie but at least it was memorable. Memorable in that we use its blurry, hastily prepared post-conversion 3D as the benchmark for technical inefficiency. Now we have Wrath of the Titans, a sequel which has been upgraded with better visuals, a better director in Jonathan Liebesman(Battle: Los Angeles), and a marginally better story.
It’s been ten years since Liam Neeson…er, Zeus screamed “Release the Kraken!!” and his son Perseus(Worthington) promptly slew the beast on his flying horse. Forsaking his divine lineage, Perseus has quietly led a life of boring safety alongside his young son. Of course it isn’t long before fate comes calling when Zeus knocks on the door with portents of doom and gloom. The people don’t give a care about the gods anymore, and without prayer the once powerful immortals are losing their strength. That turns out to be a big issue, because the Tartarus(you’ll hear this word ad nauseum in various inflections) prison holding the chaotic Titans is weakening. If it breaks, it’ll release a horde of monsters on the earth, but also Cronus, the father of the gods themselves.
Between this and the Percy Jackson franchise, it appears the gods don’t make very good parents. Perseus teams up with the estranged son of Poseidon, Agenor(Toby Kebbell), and Queen Andromeda(Rosamund Pike), the woman Perseus saved years before now turned some sort of She-Ra warrior woman. Their quest brings them to a mysterious island populated by a handful of angry cyclopes, and into the puzzling bowels of Tartarus itself where more deadly creatures lurk. They’re pursued by Perseus’s half-brother, Ares(Edgar Ramirez), who has his own share of daddy issues. These folks need counseling, not more lightning bolts.
Much like the previous film, it’s the fervid family squabbling of the deities that provides the most enjoyment, mainly thanks to the bellowing Neeson, while nobody does snide villainy better than Ralph Fiennes, returning as his duplicitous brother, Hades. Otherwise the story drags when left to Worthington alone to carry it with his woefully out of place accent. To its credit, the plot is much simpler than before, and the journey hops from point A to point B without a whole lot of clutter.
Nobody shows up to Wrath of the Titans to hear Worthington wax poetic on anything. It’s about the monsters, right? How do they look? They are bigger, louder, and far more inventive this time than before. With a hefty budget hovering around the $150M mark, you can tell where every penny was spent. Saying the effects are simply beautiful isn’t enough, as what is most captivating is the sense of scope, best realized in the explosive final battle against a surging Cronus. The epic intensity is only heightened by the 3D effect, making up for the earlier disaster in a big way.
Clash of the Titans made a lot of coin, even though most would consider it a major failure critically. It seems that Warner Brothers, Liebesman, and even the cast, have simply decided to stop trying to appease those looking for more than fiery explosions, battle cries, and clanging swords. Wrath of the Titans is certainly superior to its predecessor, but that’s an easy bar to overtake.