Movie Review: Wrath of the Titans
For as long as I can remember, I have loved the films of stop-motion animator Ray Harryhausen. When it was announced in 2009 that the long-discussed remake of Harryhausen’s Clash of the Titans (1981) was finally going to be made, I was curious to see how it turned out. After the remake came out in 2010, I thought that it was a flawed but entertaining popcorn film that had some interesting spins on the material. So when I heard that a sequel to the remake was in the works, my curiosity was again piqued, but I had no idea what to expect. I’m happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the results. Wrath of the Titans may not be anything spectacular, but it is a fun, thrilling fantasy action film that easily surpasses its predecessor.
Ten years have passed since Perseus (Sam Worthington), the demigod son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), saved the kingdom of Argos from the Kraken. He now lives as a simple fisherman with his son Helius (John Bell). At the same time, the gods of Olympus have been dangerously weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, and are losing control of the Titans imprisoned in the underworld. The most fearsome of the Titans is Kronos, the demonic father of Zeus, Hades (Ralph Fiennes), and Poseidon (Danny Huston), who was overthrown by his sons eons ago and left to rot in the hellish depths. But when Hades and Ares (Édgar Ramírez), the god of war and another son of Zeus, join forces and capture Zeus to strike a deal with Kronos, Perseus can no longer ignore his destiny. As Zeus’ divine power is drained and the Titans become stronger, monsters are unleashed on the world of mortals. With the help of Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), Poseidon’s demigod son Agenor (Toby Kebbell), and the fallen god Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), Perseus must embark on a dangerous quest into the underworld to rescue Zeus, defeat the Titans, and save humanity.
The cast, both new and returning, does solid work across the board. Sam Worthington as Perseus still does a great job with the action, but the character also now has a sense of humor and a son to look after, which gets him away from the one-note anger that Perseus sometimes fell into in the first film. As Hades, Ralph Fiennes still has a great menacing presence, and thankfully he both has more varied material to play this time around and doesn’t use the somewhat annoying raspy voice he had in the first film. I’ve spoken before about my love of Liam Neeson and his work, and he is still a perfect fit for the role of Zeus, bringing real authority and gravitas to his scenes. And Danny Huston as Poseidon gets much more screen time than he did in the first film, with his one big scene being quite strong. As Ares, Édgar Ramírez makes a great villain and plays the Greek god of war as the hot-headed, vicious bastard he should be. Bill Nighy, who has long been one of my favorite character actors, is absolutely hilarious as Hephaestus, the fallen god of the forge. When Toby Kebbell’s Agenor was introduced, I was expecting him to be the annoying comic relief, but he turned out to be more capable, useful, and actually funny than anticipated. As the now-Queen Andromeda, Rosamund Pike, replacing Alexa Davalos from the first film, is an actress I like playing a decent character, but she’s also so different from who Andromeda was in Clash of the Titans that I wonder why the filmmakers didn’t just create a new character, especially since the two actresses do not look anything alike. And young John Bell, who plays Perseus’ son Helius, pulls off the difficult task of being a kid character in this type of film without being annoying. Probably the biggest factor in this is that Perseus and Helius have a good relationship; I greatly appreciated that the writers didn’t feel the need to have the son be rebellious and butt heads with his father.
Of course, like the Ray Harryhausen films of old, we’re here for the monsters. Unlike the first movie, the filmmakers here had to choose new beasts from classical mythology for their monsters, and I think they did a great job. All of the creatures have great designs and are excellently animated. My favorite was probably the two-headed, fire-breathing Chimera, whose battle in the fishing village with Perseus makes up the first big action set-piece of the film. I also really liked the Makhai, Kronos’ servants which are two human torsos nightmarishly mashed together on a single pair of legs. The rest of the monster scenes – the battle in the forest with the Cyclops, Perseus’ fight with the Minotaur, and of course the final battle with Kronos.
Unlike the first film, which was converted to 3D very late in post-production with eye-strainingly bad results, Wrath of the Titans was shot with 3D in mind, and it is used to good effect. It is used to create some impressive vista shots, but my favorite 3D moment in the film was a extended shot where the camera goes on a twisty path through the cavernous depths of the underworld. The only time I had problems with it was during the Chimera’s attack on the fishing village, where the combination of the 3D effect and the shaky-cam shot composition caused my eyes to ache a bit. Fortunately, this only happened during that one scene, and the 3D didn’t cause any other issues for me.
But as I said before, while I found the film very enjoyable, I would be lying if I said it didn’t have some notable flaws. The plot is extremely straightforward – what the heroes need to do is laid out fairly early on, and those events happen without really anything in the way of twists or curve balls. And while the cast are all good actors, none of the characters have tons of depth or complexity to them. I found the film entertaining despite these issues, but I can see how some people might not be able to look past them.
But if you’re in the right mindset, those flaws do not ruin the experience of the film. I admit I’m predisposed to like these kind of movies, but I really think that anyone can enjoy this as a ridiculous pre-summer popcorn film. If you are at all interested, I say you should go ahead and see Wrath of the Titans. It’s not great art or magnificent storytelling, but by the gods, I had a great time.