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Bigger can be better. Wrath of the Titans is proof of that.
The sequel to 2010's Clash of the Titans, itself a remake of a 1981 film, is much grander and more of a monster epic than its predecessor. Even its featured creature, the titan Kronos, a mountain-sized beast of molten rock, is far more impressive on the big screen than its reptilian titan cousin, the Kraken, from Clash of the Titans.
But bigger and better does not mean good. Clash of the Titans was a waste of audience time and studio money. Saying Wrath of the Titans is an improvement over its predecessor isn't so much high praise as it is a Field Day ribbon for participation.
Like Clash of the Titans, Wrath of the Titans was filmed in 2-D and retro-fitted for 3-D. This time, however, the 3-D has a true depth onscreen and doesn't feel so much like a studio gimmick to charge extra money.
There just aren't enough of these beasties to go round, even in a film supposedly all about angry behemoths, and it only runs 99 minutes long. If the first film was too many clashes, there's not enough wrath in this one -- just a cumbersome, uninspired story about gods losing powers and all hell breaking loose on the mortal world.
Sam Worthington is back as half-man, half-god Perseus, the son of Zeus, who became a legend after slaying Medusa and killing the Kraken in the first movie.
The world savior celebrated his triumphs by retiring as a hero, and living the quiet life as a fisherman in a small village. It hasn't been easy for Perseus. He's a widower and a solo dad to young son Helius (John Bell). But he refuses to leave this simple life -- even when Zeus (Liam Neeson) warns him the world will perish without his help.
Father-son issues/conflict is the major motif of Wrath of the Titans.
While Perseus loves Zeus, his half-brother Ares (Edgar Ramirez), the god of war, harbors serious daddy issues with Zeus and resents Perseus for being the favored son. Even Kronos is part of this messy paternal version of the Oedipus complex -- he's the father of Zeus, and his brothers Hades (Ralph Fiennes) and Poseidon (Danny Huston). It's worth noting this is all loosely based on Greek mythology.
To strike back at his family, Ares has joined with Hades, god of the underworld, who also hates Zeus, to free Kronos from prison in Tartarus, and unleash the titan on the world and kill men and gods alike.
The gods are literally powerless to stop them. Since humans have quit praying to the gods, the Mount Olympus residents have been mostly drained of their supreme powers. Thus the world's fate is in the hands of Perseus, with help from Poseidon's son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), who is also half-man, and the beautiful but war-minded queen of the Greeks, Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, replacing actress Alexa Davalos from Clash of the Titans).
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Despite the soap-opera family drama, there was a good story in this mess somewhere -- certainly the ancient Greeks found it -- but Wrath of the Titans' writers, Greg Berlantim, David Johnson, Dan Mazeau, didn't find it. Perseus' quest boils down to the simple and oft-quoted tagline from the former NBC superhero drama Heroes, "save the cheerleader, save the world." Just substitute Zeus for cheerleader.
Director Jonathan Liebesman, who put together impressive man vs. alien war sequences in last year's here-and-gone Battle Los Angeles, stages some intense action sequences. But any excitement is drained as Wrath of the Titans meanders through its monotonous mythological world, shuffling characters from one location to the next.
Neeson has made a good living recently as window dressing in several tolerable to bad films. In Wrath of the Titans he serves the same purpose, playing a likable and Christ-like Zeus. For a god who caused so much angst and bitterness, he's suddenly full of apologies. And Fiennes, who has a decent amount of screen time, is obviously bored through much of it. It's worth remembering that both of these actors were Oscar nominated for their roles in Schindler's List. 1993 seems so long ago now.
As for Wrath of the Titans' star Worthington, I'm still not convinced he can carry a film. His only substantially successful movie is Avatar, which is best-remembered for its special effects and ground-breaking 3-D, and not its performances. Given the short shelf life of action heroes these days, how much longer can Worthington maintain his A-list status without another major hit?
Wrath of the Titans isn't likely to do him any favors.
WRATH OF THE TITANS
Directed by Jonathan Liebesman. Screemplay by David Johnson and Dan Mazeau. A Warner Brothers release, playing at Rave Franklin Park, Fallen Timbers, and Levis Commons. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action. Running time: 99 minutes.
Critic's rating: ** 1/2
Perseus ........... Sam Worthington
Zeus .......... Liam Neeson
Hades ........... Ralph Fiennes
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.