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April 1, 2012

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Capsule Movie Review – Wrath of the Titans (2012)

by HELEN GEIB

Wrath of the Titans reunites Perseus (Sam Worthington), Zeus (Liam Neeson), and Hades (Ralph Fiennes) for an abbreviated quest that plays second fiddle to a medley of fights with fearsome, hideous mythological creatures. Some 15 years after the events of Clash of the Titans (2010), Perseus is a widower with a young teenage son; Io’s absence from the picture permitting sparks to finally fly between the hero and Andromeda (Rosamund Pike), now warrior-queen of an imperiled nation. New to this installment are Ares (Edgar Ramirez), Hephaestus (Bill Nighy), and Agenor (Toby Kebbell), ne’er-do-well demigod son of Poseidon. Pegasus has a cameo. As before, the characters bear only a passing resemblance to their famous namesakes. However, where the script of Clash was nothing to write home about, the script of Wrath is downright bad. The plot is idiotic and the dialogue a broken record. Worst, all the actors’ hard work can’t salvage the characterization: the god of war is reduced to a petulant perpetual adolescent jealous of Zeus’s perceived partiality for half-human Perseus; half-mad comic relief Hephaestos excluded, the other principal male characters are similarly afflicted with modern pop psychology daddy issues; and poor Andromeda is a compendium of reaction shots. The movie’s good points- and they are really good- are the production design, special effects, and score. The showpiece is a splendid sequence of high adventure in Tartarus, creatively re-imagined as an enormous labyrinth made even deadlier by its unpredictable mutability.

1 1/2 stars

One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like: The grand ruins set of the Temple of the Gods. Women warriors who turn out to be useless in a fight.

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Commentary Track reviews of Clash of the Titans (2012) by Helen and Nir


8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Doc
    Apr 4 2012

    Wrath is a genre film that visually respects the conventions of fantasy adventure. You are entirely correct that the screenwriter had no idea what to do with the material. Neeson, Fiennes, and the other gods and demigods make a valiant effort to deliver their lines — but are probably thinking more about the paychecks than the myths. Still, the CGI is great (particularly the lava god); Tartarus is worth a visit; the pacing covers up a lot of the script mistakes; the visual humor is fun; and Nighy has a fine comic touch. Don’t pay extra for 3D, but do go.

  2. Apr 4 2012

    I agree with Doc about everything except for the story.

    “Wrath of the Titans” is a rare film that’s excited me throughout and made me feel melancholic because of its characters’ actions. I didn’t expect it to but its screenwriter (I’ll argue that the film actually had one – lol) utilizes the classic screenwriting technique of having the characters cause the actions – because characters create actions. In this film’s case Hades is angry because he’s afraid of non-existence (which many philosophers have contemplated committing suicide over) and blame the humans. And he’s right to do so because a God can’t exist (in those Greek Mythological instances) unless people believe in him/her/it and pray to him/her/it.

    At the film’s start we see that only six Gods remain on this planet: Zeus, Hades, Poseidon, Ares, Cronus, and Hephaestus (his Roman equivalent is Volcan *hint hint*). Cronus promises to Hades that if his strength is restored he’ll give Hades and Ares the power that they used to have in the past and Hades, afraid of eternal death, is willing to sacrifice his own brother, Zeus for the cause. That’s what fuels all of the action of the film. I wasn’t expecting there to be a speck of a story or even a character that can think straight but I got one from very early on and find that Hades’ frightened nature fuels the entire film; and I accept that.

    The special effects looking great is an understatement. :O) They were phenomenal! I honestly felt like I was there. And I also loved that the human army’s costumes slightly resembled those of Roman centurions. I interpret that a a visual cue for the beginning of the end. We had the Pagans (Romans) and the Jews, then we had the Christians, and eventually the Pagans died out.

    The film’s two themes are the beginning of the end and that family will always be there for you, and I found that the film worked on almost every level.

    Yes Helen and Doc, I was able to read that much into this film. :O)

  3. Apr 6 2012

    @Doc: The lava god is pretty cool. Definitely more impressive than the (2010 film’s) Kraken too, so there’s one point at least where the sequel outdoes its predecessor.

  4. Apr 6 2012

    @Nir: I agree that that there’s good material there, that’s practically guaranteed in any story based on Greek mythology, but the execution is botched. I don’t feel any active dislike for it, it just left me bored and wishing the production design- which is really fantastic- and effects had been in service of a better movie.

    I wasn’t exactly a fan of the script in the 2010 “Clash” so it feels weird to be holding it up as any kind of screenwriting model, but for purposes of comparison I’ll go for it. First to get it out of the way, the dopey “humans are stronger than the gods because they are” theme is the same in both, so neither film is better or worse in that regard. The conception of the gods as characters and the god/human relationships are also pretty much the same.

    However, “Clash” had a stronger storyline (script credit goes to The Unknown Greek). “Wrath” is _very_ closely patterned on the first film in outline but doesn’t adequately justify the characters’ actions within that outline. For example, there was a reason Io was along for the quest in “Clash”. The only reason Andromeda is along is because she’s the sequel’s stand-in for Io. As queen she should be with her people, as general she should be with her army, she’s useless in a fight, and the only positive contribution she makes is sweet-talking Hephaestos, which wasn’t exactly part of the stated job description.

    Also, in “Clash” the quest took long enough to complete that the characters had time to get to know each other and the script made an effort to let us get to know the characters. Neither point holds true this time around. I didn’t care about the Perseus/Agenor friendship or the Perseus/Andromeda romance because they didn’t know much more about each other, and I didn’t know anything more about them, at the end of the two day quest than at the beginning. There’s zero attempt to develop “Wrath”‘s cannon-fodder soldiers, who are only in the movie at all because there were soldiers in the first film and one of them has to call Ares to the scene.

    This comment is already longer than my review so I think I should stop before I get started on the incredible goofiness of Andromeda’s army making a stand against Kronos. (Bambi Meets Godzilla, anyone?)

  5. Apr 6 2012

    for kicks :D

  6. Apr 6 2012

    Wow, I’ve never seen that before. I like that it’s short and straight to the point.

    Re Wrath, I don’t find that Agenor has any relationship with Andromeda at all; by the end of the film she still, kind of, dislikes him (she might just like him as a jester, though). And Agenor’s relationship with Perseus is nothing more “I can trust you now”; comradery is important enough when going into battle.

    Also, when Perseus meets Andromeda (was she in the first film?) and her army, he’s told that 300 soldiers had died fighting those double-torso goons and only managed to kill 4 of them. During the final battle with Cronus, we can see that happen again and Perseus told them: fight off Cronus as long as you can, that’s all I ask of you”. I was expecting a massacre and we got one. :O)

    And who’s Io? I don’t remember anything in the Clash remake (which I recommended as a rental only) except that Pegasus was black (and still is) and that everything happened at random (Pegasus just showed for no reason, characters came and went – who they were I had no idea, etc). I treat Wrath as a standalone film because it doesn’t try to recall specific passages or instances from the previous film; at least none that I’d noticed.

    I walked into this film knowing that it’ll be two things: an action film with a straight forward story and a spectacle. Even “Raiders of the Lost Ark” is a straight forward action film; it’s simply about archeology professor who needs to beat the Nazis to the Ark of the Covenant. That’s it. It’s 2 hours long and has spectacular and memorable action set-pieces. I find that Wrath has one spectacular (and surprisingly convincing) set-piece after another, a straight forward story that’s character driven (…a little bit) and I loved what I saw on screen.

    I don’t like shutting of my brain when going to the cinemas, which is why I barely watch films in theatres nowadays. But the trailer to Wrath excited me because Clash is utterly mediocre. To quote “Fight Club”, which quotes Buddha: “once you’ve lost everything you’re free to do anything”. Wrath couldn’t be worse than Clash as a result I find it superior to it in every aspect.

    Strangely and lastly, the one comparison that no one seems to make is between “Wrath of the Titans” and “Immortals”. I found “Immortals” to be ridiculously uninteresting and [mystifyingly] ugly (it’s a green-screen film and it looked like one at all times) but I found “Wrath of the Titans” involving, amazingly shot (because it went for “realism” while remaining sensationalist), and terrifically exciting. I honestly like that you’re on polar opposite ends with me on this. :O)

  7. Apr 7 2012

    If you diagram both films you end up with the exact same plot. Andromeda was in “Clash” (altho played by a different actress) but her part had been downgraded from central in the original myth to negligible. Io is the love interest and second most important character in the movie. However, I don’t hold it against you that you don’t remember much about the movie since it wasn’t all that good and pretty much alternated between action set-pieces and Perseus shouting at the gods.

  8. Apr 7 2012

    I love the original “Clash of the Titans”; I own it on Blu-ray and it has a terrific HD transfer. Everything that happened in that film made sense within its proper context and within that universe’s rules. I remember that the remake was all over the place. It followed the structure of the original film but everything happened at random; character came and went. without needing to be there and sometimes left when needed to remain; the action set-pieces were fine, which is why I recommended it on video; and I remember that it starred Sam Worthington (currently the most mediocre action star in the world) and Mads Mikkelsen.

    “Wrath of the Titans” is what the original Clash translates to today with our current technology in CGI and action set-pieces. I like that the action sequences in Wrath were, for the most part, not choppy and rapidly edited, that the camera stayed with the action and characters wherever they went, and I like that the story is short and straight to the point. The fact that I don’t remember the Clash remake or any of its characters, save for two, but love Wrath shows that I don’t see them as similar in any way because of the filmmaking, the story, and the overall excitement that I felt throughout. I love that I love it. :O)

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