“Wrath of the Titans” is the sequel to 2010’s “Clash of the Titans”, the remake that somehow, against all laws of nature, ended up making $500 million worldwide despite bad reviews and a nearly universal savaging for its shoddy post-3D conversion. The sequel jettisons director Louis Leterrier for Jonathan Liebesman, who last gave us the “Black Hawk Down” with aliens movie “Battle: Los Angeles”. With a new director on board, as well as a new story but mostly the same cast, you won’t be able to accuse “Wrath” of not trying to entertain you. Unless, of course, historically questionable fantasy epics with impressive CG creatures is not your thing. In which case, why’d you even bothered? In fact, the energy with which Liebesman and his entire cast hop with both feet into the script by Dan Mazeau and David Johnson is downright inspiring.
Ten movie years after he last clashed with those rascal Titans, Sam Worthington is back as Perseus (now sporting a new head of hair, natch). Io, Perseus’ Godly babe from the first movie (played by Gemma Arterton) has died in the intervening years, saddling Perseus with a little runt name Helius (John Bell). Perseus loves the little bugger just the same, and is content to live a peaceful life as an ordinary fishermen. Of course, he’s not ordinary. He’s a half-human, half-God badass and the son of Zeus (Liam Neeson) to boot. But while Perseus may not want to get back into that whole fighting Gods deal, he won’t have much of a choice. The Titans are back causing more royal mischief, and unless Perseus picks up a sword again and confront their wrath, all mankind will be doomed. What’s a half-human, half-God to do?
Without a doubt, “Wrath’s” biggest selling point with me is that it’s working entirely with original material. (Well, original-ish.) With Io (and Gemma Arterton nowhere to be seen), Perseus’ new love interest is Queen Andromeda (Rosamund Pike, taking over for Alexa Davalos from the first movie), who leads her troops into battle when the Gods make a mess of things (again). You see, Zeus has been captured by his exiled brother Hades (Ralph Fiennes), who has since teamed up with Zeus’ disloyal son Ares, the God of War (an intense — some might way, overly intense — Edgar Ramirez) to free Kronos, the biggest and baddest of all the Titans, who has been imprisoned inside a volcano. Obviously, Kronos escaping means the end of us all. What, you didn’t know that? Tired of depending on us humans for their strength, Hades and Ares would rather take us completely out of the equation.
Of course, those two troublemakers will have to do it over Perseus’ dead body. In order to travel down to Hell and free his father, Perseus recruits Andromeda and fellow demigod Agenor, played by a game Toby Kebbell, rolling with the punches and bringing the chuckles. The trio also encounter Hephaestus (a hilarious Bill Nighy), the weaponsmaker to the Gods, if you will. As with the first movie, there are plenty of fantastical CG monsters from Greek mythology to make this hero’s journey lively, allowing the film to feature a number of impressive battle sequences along the way. You’re never going to suddenly forget that you’re watching a big-budget Hollywood studio film, but Liebesman and company throw enough at you, and do it all well enough, that you probably won’t care too much.
There is a lot happening in “Wrath of the Titans”, but Mazeau and Johnson keep it all easy enough to understand. Props to Liebesman for allowing thespians like Ramirez to flex his muscles as the resentful God of War, while veterans Fiennes and Neeson are old shoe-comfortable as the film’s heavies. These two guys are consummate pros, and you wouldn’t expect anything less from them, even when they’re delivering the film’s clunky dialogue. (Yeah, yeah, I get it, you friggin’ Gods need a therapist. Sheesh. Family issues much?) Even Worthington seems to have step up his game. Not hard to do, given the blandness of his Perseus in the first movie. The addition of Kebbell and Pike is a nice touch, even if the chemistry between Andromeda and Perseus could use a little bit more spark. It’s curious that they swapped Pike for Davalos, and one of these days I’d love to know why that happened. But I’ve never been one to look a gift horse in the mouth, and the charmingly beautiful Rosamund Pike as a spunky Queen leading an army of men into battle is most definitely a gift from the cinematic Gods.
“Wrath of the Titans” is a big improvement over the first movie, not just because the CGI is vastly improved, but also because it has more going for it than plot points that I already knew coming in. Visually, the movie earns its production budget, and there’s just the right amount of gloss and grime to the sets to be appealing. Set pieces to look out for include the constantly shifting Tartarus labyrinth, as well as the (literally) mountain-sized Kronos, who makes for a pretty awesome Kraken-esque sight. “Wrath of the Titans” is rarely boring, and even when the pace threatens to flag, there’s a Chimera, a Minotaur, or a Cyclops or two just around the corner waiting to try to impale you. One of these days I would like someone to explain to me what kind of powers Perseus has exactly, but until then, I wouldn’t mind seeing him taking down more mischievous Titans in the future. But hey, maybe that’s just me. I’m a sucker for squabbling Gods, crazy Titans, and Rosamund Pike in combat armor swinging a sword in the middle of an epic battle.
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Jonathan Liebesman (director) / Dan Mazeau, David Johnson (screenplay)
CAST: Sam Worthington … Perseus
Liam Neeson … Zeus
Ralph Fiennes … Hades
Édgar Ramírez … Ares
Toby Kebbell … Agenor
Rosamund Pike … Andromeda
Bill Nighy … Hephaestus
Danny Huston … Poseidon
John Bell … Helius