Wrath Of The Titans Review By Adam
Hot on the heels of 2010’s underwhelming Clash of the Titans comes Wrath of the Titans, a sequel no one asked for. Wrath features all of the mistakes of its predecessor and zero improvements, and, most frustratingly, it still has a dead weight at its centre – the completely ineffectual Sam Worthlessington, sorry, Worthington. But despite its lameness, the original managed to bank close to half a billion dollars, so it was to be expected that we would see this franchise again. Unfortunately, this lame duck sequel has also broken the bank – a slightly less impressive, but still formidable $300 million. So, I guess that means I’ll have to sit through another one of these shitty movies in a year or two. Can’t wait.
Picking up ten years after the events of Clash, Wrath finds the widowed (Gemma Arterton wisely chose to sit this instalment out) Perseus (Worthington) living as a fisherman with son Helius (John Bell). Along with cultivating a mullet, Perseus has been working on his inner peace and has found comfort in a quaint seaside community. His peace is disrupted when he is confronted by his father, the god Zeus (Liam Neeson). Zeus claims that the power of the gods is waning due to a lapse in faith from humanity. This weakening extends to the walls of Tartarus, a prison that holds many monsters and Zeus’s pestilent father Kronos. After battling a Chimera that attacks his village, Perseus joins forces with Andromeda (Rosamund Pike) and Agenor (Toby Kebbell) and sets out to quell the source of the devastation.
Wrath straight away starts off on the wrong foot. Director Jonathan Liebesman fails to convincingly establish Perseus’s bond with his son. The recurring theme of Wrath is the bond between father and son, but Liebesman only spends five minutes (literally, I checked the timer) establishing Perseus and Helius’s connection. It stifles the dramatic core of this film. Worthington constantly declares he ‘wants to get back to his son’, but why? We, the audience, don’t give a solitary shit about his sprog.
Liebesman blows his load with the action early. Ten minutes in we are already assaulted by our first CGI abomination. As with his son, we don’t give a solitary fuck about Perseus’s village, as not a single member of its community has been established. I wouldn’t mind the lack of characterisation if the action was up to snuff, but this film is dripping with cheesy CGI and choppy editing. Liebesman’s cinematic technique is to throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. The result is a few cool shots, but film frequently lacks atmosphere and characters lose their spatial awareness. We often don’t know who is doing what or why.
Wrath often looks positively huge, but that is to be expected. This film has a $150 million price tag. Liebesman has all the trappings of big budget filmmaking: stunning locations, a plethora of computer effects and talented actors (with the exception of Worthington), but he lacks the skill to make any of it gel into an involving film. His previous film Battle: Los Angeles was a similar big scale abomination and, unfortunately, Wrath sees little improvement in his craft. It has no personal stamp: this film could have been directed by a robot; albeit, one with shaky hydraulics.
While Liebesman’s direction is problematic, it is positively inspired compared to this film’s leading man. Australians are often accused of having ‘tall poppy syndrome’, but I think in the case of Sam Worthington some criticism is completely warranted. He was handed the opportunity of a lifetime with Avatar and he has followed it up with a slew of god awful films. Every time one of his films comes out (and underwhelms) Worthington claims that he will do better and try harder. I know that it is a standard part of the publicity process, but he never delivers on his promise. Worthington might be a great guy to have a beer with, but watching him in the cinema is no fun at all – it would seem like he was inoculated against charisma as a child. His accent often grates and there is an utter lack of conviction in his line delivery. Wrath sees him at his absolute most unconvincing; he is meant to be a gruff man of action, but I didn’t buy it for a second. A hungover Russell Crowe could beat him up with both hands tied behind his back – his Perseus is a leaden anchor that weighs this film down.
Wrath features a phenomenal supporting cast. Ralph Fiennes, Liam Neeson, Danny Huston and Bill Nighy offer characteristically strong support but they can’t overcome this turgid material. The only scenes that feature some sort of dramatic life are the exchanges between Neeson and Fiennes. But then again, these guys could head a local council meeting and make it seem like Shakespeare rehearsal.
Rosamund Pike deserves better than this. She is a beautiful and talented actress but often the American films she stars in are seriously sub-par. Wrath joins Die Another Day, Doom and Surrogates as another big budget black mark on her resume. She looks fetching in her costume but her attempts to stir up some chemistry with the grim Worthington are completely fruitless –she might as well be romancing a clothing store mannequin. I should note that her romance with the portly, much older Paul Giamatti in the fantastic Barney’s Version was entirely more believable.
One of Wrath’s biggest problems is its tone. This should be a rollicking adventure flush with wonder and funny banter, but except from some average attempts at levity by Tony Kebbell and Bill Nighy, Wrath is completely dour. Worthington tries to crack a few wry lines e.g. ‘Here we go again!’ but they completely miss the mark and are more likely to elicit groans than laughs. Liebesman hopes that throwing enough pyrotechnics at the screen will constitute a good time, but with every other element sorely lacking he has the odds stacked against him. Seeing a man riding a Pegasus and engaging a lava-blooded titan should be flat-out rousing (see Robert Zemeckis’s dope Beowulf for proof), but Liebesman mangages to make it positively meh. I fear that despite this film’s poor critical reception, Liebesman will consider this film a success due to its box office. I’d argue that that is more a result of flashy bus stop posters than his talents behind the camera. Oh well, at least he is stretching himself for his next project: a reboot of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Yuck.
Wrath of the Titans is out on DVD and Blu-ray now.