WRATH OF THE TITANS
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
APRIL 1, 2012
“For those with a burning curiosity to know how The Lord of the Rings as directed by Michael Bay might look, Wrath of the Titans provides an idea.”—ReelViews
You could ask for more from this sequel to “Clash of the Titans,” but why would you want to? “Wrath of the Titans” succeeds in entertaining on the most basic of levels. Much like my affinity for the continuing “Transformers” franchise, “Wrath” engulfs you in Greek mythology lore while producing an exquisite visual experience with creatures and battles not available anywhere else.
One critic described the film as “how The Lord of the Rings as directed by Michael Bay might look,” and his review is correct. The only difference between the reviewer’s intended meaning and my interpretation of that review is that I see that description as a positive. Sure, no one can deny Peter Jackson’s take on “The Lord of the Rings” is a masterpiece, but the world also needs its Michael Bay interpretations. Greek lore is all about the characters and their battles. Their trials and tribulations define them. “Wrath of the Titans” delivers all the warfare without the long journeys to get there.
Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Danny Huston reprise their roles from “Clash of the Titans” as the gods Zeus, Hades, and Poseidon, which helps this film immensely. All three men deliver great performances, with Ralph Fiennes continuing to be one of the greatest villain actors of all time. With the returning face of Sam Worthington as Perseus, “Wrath of the Titans” takes on a much grander appeal, not only matching back to the previous installment but making the film feel worthy of being a big-budget sequel.
The new faces also fit in perfectly. Toby Kebbell (“Rock’N’Rolla,” “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”) lends his talents as the high-profile comic relief, never going for the easy jabs and remaining entirely civil, adding the slightest bits of humor. Rosamund Pike is the sexy and powerful Queen Andromeda, who becomes the new love interest with Gemma Arterton out of the picture. Édgar Ramírez plays the latest villain, Ares, who steals the show with his performance as the god of war. And Bill Nighy delivers a predictably good performance as Hephaestus, the forger of the trident, pitch-fork, and lightning bolt.
“Wrath of the Titans” has several elements working in its favor. For one, none of the monsters from the first film are repeated, which keeps this film exciting and fresh. With new creatures come discoveries and original battles. Many sequels will play off some of the same animals, which is a rehash of the original. In “Wrath,” only Pegasus, Perseus’ flying horse, returns, with new lethal creatures like the Chimera, the Cyclops, the Minotaur, and the Makhai.
The infamous prison of the Underworld, Tartarus, is introduced, where Zeus and Hades’ father, Kronos, was forced for eternity. With Zeus banished to this prison, Perseus must endure the hell, fire, and brimstone that comes with traveling to the underworld and navigating through the shifting labyrinth designed by Hephaestus.
One of my favorite elements is the strategic construction of the battle scenes. Bash the poor writing all you want, but building an effective battle is harder than any dialogue or plot device. Take the disaster of “Spider-Man 3,” for example. None of the fightings in that film were correctly built, thus leaving the film flaccid and weak. However, in “Wrath of the Titans,” the battle between brothers Perseus and Ares is created throughout the film, with the audience knowing that they will eventually fight. The added notion that if anyone prays to the god of war, Ares, he will appear and fight them, makes his appearances unpredictable. Giving the audience small tastes of a fight to come is far better than blindsiding them with a one-and-done performance. Anticipation is what builds an epic battle.
As expected, the visual effects were superb. The cyclops tossing entire trees, the shifting rock walls of the labyrinth, and the pillar destruction between Perseus and Ares in their final fight are just a few examples of what the film accomplishes. Like the previous film, “Wrath” can bring these unimaginable experiences to life on the grandest of scales.
So yes, “Wrath of the Titans” is like a Michael Bay-directed action film, but nothing is wrong with that. Sure, we should expect the full-meal-deal when experiencing films, but what’s wrong with an action film that indulges us in visuals as long as it stays true to its characters and builds compelling battle scenes? Most audiences know Greek mythology stories already. All we want to do is see those characters in action. Much like a child playing with their favorite action figures, they usually do not go into substantial back stories or extensive character arcs while playing. They already have all those stories in their minds. They want to see those action figures “in action,” and that is what “Wrath of the Titans” does; it supplies us with the “action” for the icons that we’ve already come to know.
March 30, 2012
David Leslie Johnson
Greg Berlanti (story by)
by Beverley Cross
Warner Bros. Pictures
(for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action)
Polly Cohen Johnsen