Wrath of the Titans (review)

Wrath of the Titans Sam Worthington red light

Epically Awful

And now we learn the secret of that dreadful Clash of the Titans movie from a coupla years back. Its incoherence? Its soullessness? All by design. They meant to do that. We know this now because the sequel — which is wholly uncalled for and yet here it is being foisted upon us anyway — is just the same. Only worse. Of course there is no emotional passion whatsoever. Creative verve is nowhere to be found. But there is plenty of frenzied aural assault and random visual chaos. It’s the cinematic equivalent of those mobiles that get hung over babies’ cribs to distract new eyes and undeveloped brains. It’s the action fantasy version of Ass.

The franchise — because, the gods help us, by the time this is done they will have set up a third film, or so they think — has for this installment been handed over to director Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning), and he dials the obnoxious commotion up to 11. There’s some sort of familial feud between Zeus (Liam Neeson: The Grey, The Next Three Days) and his brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang), which ends up drawing Zeus’ half-human son Perseus (Sam Worthington: Man on a Ledge, Avatar) into the fray, and Perseus into his own familial feud with his half brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez: Che, The Bourne Ultimatum), also Zeus’ boy (who is also feuding with Zeus). And there’s something about Tartarus, the gods’ netherworld prison, to which big bad Kronos — divine dad to Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon (Danny Huston: The Conspirator, Robin Hood) — has been confined by his sons. There’s also a sham of a relationship between Perseus and his 10-year-old son, Helius (John Bell: Doctor Who), which appears to exist only to help paint some strained metaphors about fathers and sons. (Perseus’s wife has been removed from the story by convenient death, to make room for babe warrior queen Andromeda [Rosemund Pike: The Big Year, Johnny English Reborn], whom Perseus will attack with an entirely capricious kiss at one point, even though there has been no indication of the slightest bit of romantic attraction between them. At all.)

In some ways, it’s the same story as last year’s Immortals, except without the wonderful insanity and without the sense that anyone involved with making this movie had any reason to be here beyond collecting an entirely unearned paycheck.

Because, you see, Wrath is incompetent on the most basic levels. There’s no physical or narrative context for anything. Characters and creatures pop into and out of scenes apparently arbitrarily. Motivations for gods, demigods, and humans are nonexistent, so it hardly matters when they do a sudden 180. It’s impossible to tell what’s allegedly going on half the time, and the other half, we simply are given no reason to care about what’s going on. A fire-breathing monster suddenly blows itself up for some reason that, I presume, has something to do with something Perseus did to it, but I could not for the life of me tell you what that he did might be. And I could not for the life of me find a reason to even wonder: Perseus continues his whining from the first film about how he doesn’t wanna be here and he doesn’t wanna be doing that. He’s the least engaging, least poignant reluctant hero I’ve ever seen on film. Part of that is the fault of the screenwriters, but part of it is down to Worthington, who continues his streak of lifeless starring roles. How boring does this guy have to be in order to not get cast again?

Liebesman completely wastes the power of IMAX, avoiding all sense of scale or majesty and never bothering to make us feel like we’re in the middle of the action. (This may be because he has no idea where the middle of the action is.) The 3D is again headache inducing, as it was in the first film, tending to be wobbly and unfocused, and only bothers with a few moments of in-your-face gimmickry, so what’s the point of it? Beyond creating an excuse to jack up ticket prices, that is.

And yet, we are left with the sense that the whole endeavor thinks its striving for emotional grandeur. It comes nowhere close to earning that, of course. It only ever gasps to a bit of life when the always wonderful Bill Nighy (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Arthur Christmas) enters, as disgraced god Hephaestus, and brings some much-needed crazy for a few moments. Then he sadly exits again, and we are left with something at once both tediously earnest and nerve-wrackingly incomprehensible. So much so that, in the closing scene, as Perseus is telling his young son that they can’t go home again, and Andromeda is preparing to defend against another military attack, we literally have not the barest indication of a notion as to what they might be referring to. Why can’t Perseus go home? Who is about to attack? This situation is entirely contrary to what has passed for a resolution to the story.

It’s bewildering. It’s mind-boggling. It can only be the work of trickster gods attempting to drive us mad.

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