Directed by: Jonathan Liebesman
Premise: A sequel to 2010’s Clash of the Titans. Greek hero Perseus (Sam Worthington) must travel into the underworld to rescue Greek god Zeus (Liam Neeson) and prevent the release of Cronos.
What Works: Wrath of the Titans is a better film than its predecessor. To start, this film is primarily intended to be an audio-visual spectacle and the special effects and action scenes of Wrath of the Titans are very impressive. The creatures and settings are convincing and the physical elements meld well with the live actors; although quite a bit of this film was probably done with computer graphics the film does not have the sterile texture that digital effects often suffer from. Also supporting Wrath of the Titans’ showmanship is its humor. There are just enough laughs in this film to make it amusing but maintain a serious tone and the comedy is effectively delivered by Bill Nighy as the eccentric Hephaestus and Toby Kebbell as demigod Agenor. Wrath of the Titans also steps up from the previous film with its ideas. Clash of the Titans introduced a compelling idea: that the power of the gods is directly related to whether or not people pray to them. In Wrath of the Titans that idea is taken further and although it isn’t fully developed it has a lot of implications that are interesting and give the events of the film some deeper meaning. For one, this device solves the problem of having godly characters involved in the plot. If the characters are able to perform miracles then it is hard to create credible obstacles for them to overcome, thereby making drama impossible and the whole story quickly falls flat. But by making the gods vulnerable, the story put more at stake. The implication of vulnerable gods is also interesting for thematic reasons. Although Wrath of the Titans is no grand statement on humanity and religion, there is something to be made about a film in which the power and influence of the supernatural is decaying, especially when it is released at time when the culture is entering a post-religious phase.
What Doesn’t: Although Wrath of the Titans is a better movie than Clash it still isn’t a great piece of filmmaking. There are a lot of plot holes and other inconsistencies. Characters or beasts often show up in the story for no particular reason and then fight the hero in what is little more than a conspicuous special effect. The film also plays fast and loose with its credibility such as scenes in which Perseus rides Pegasus through a shower of molten lava and neither he nor the horse get burned. But Wrath of the Titans suffers most from underwriting its characters. The film fails to develop individual characters and their relationships to one another are often indistinct if they are addressed at all. Quite a few supporting characters are introduced as though the viewer should automatically recognize them either from the previous film or from common knowledge about Greek mythology. That is asking too much of the audience and it makes the film confusing. Because Wrath of the Titans does not do much to develop its characters much of the movie comes across dramatically flat. In Clash, Perseus and Zeus came to a new understanding about themselves and each other and there were some interesting political plot twists among the gods. But in Wrath everything is laid out right away and when the film tries to incorporate reversals there is no proper build up to that reversal and so it comes out of nowhere and carries little dramatic significance.
Bottom Line: Wrath of the Titans is intended to be a big budget Hollywood potboiler and appreciated that way it is entertaining. Viewers should enjoy it, provided that their expectations are set low enough.
Episode: #383 (April 8, 2012)